Java developers will want to check out the jGuru home page, where you’ll find links to news and articles from developerWorks, Wired News, Slashdot, Sun Java Developer Connection (JDC) and other member-submitted sources. Although the articles and news items are not always Java specific, they are usually interesting and at least indirectly related to Java or development in general.

You’ll also see a selected list of recent forum questions. Sign up for a free jGuru account, and you can customize the content displayed on the home page—for example, you might exclude posts from a particular forum or links from a particular news or article provider. In addition, you’ll have the opportunity to set up a personal biography page and sign up for periodic news, article, or forum summary e-mails. Members can also contribute news item links to the site’s Peerscope section.

Feeling out the forums
The aforementioned forums prove most interesting. jGuru has 44 question-and-answer forums at the time of this writing, each devoted to a particular aspect of Java development. The list of topics includes:

  • Applet and Servlet development.
  • Certification.
  • IDE-specific questions for JBuilder and VisualAge.
  • AWT and Swing programming.
  • Database access and JDBC.
  • General Java language.
  • JavaBeans and Enterprise JavaBeans development.
  • Operating system-specific questions for Linux and Mac programmers.

When browsing a forum, it’s easy to filter the questions to include only unanswered questions, answered questions, recently posted questions, or questions with the most replies. You can even view posts broken out by their author.

Each forum is moderated by a “guru” and so remains fairly clear of trolls and other noise. The gurus are usually accomplished programmers, authors, or otherwise-proven Java experts. Each guru has a bio page listing a little personal information, along with his or her professional accomplishments.

There is also an FAQ list associated with each forum consisting of answered questions selected by the forum’s guru as having some value to the Java development community as a whole. Members of the site can comment on an answered question, submit new questions for the FAQ list, and provide an alternative answer for an existing question. Searching the FAQ list for an answer to your question before posting to the forum is, of course, encouraged.

The only gripe I have about the forums is that there’s no “go to next question” or “go to previous question” functionality available. When reading a question, the only way to read the next one appears to be to go back to the forum’s question list and click on it. But since I expect most people come to jGuru to find help on a specific topic, this unfriendliness toward question browsers is forgivable.

It is possible to perform a full-text search of all posts on the jGuru site for a particular phrase or keyword if you know exactly what you’re looking for. Happily, jGuru’s search engine is pretty capable and seems neither overly exclusive nor overly inclusive when it comes to forum content. It will also return results from developerWorks and SDC, effectively giving you an additional two chances at finding something relevant to your search, although the external search can generate some unintentional matches.

You’ve got questions…
Asking a question is easy; each page of the site has an Ask A Question button prominently displayed near the top. What about the quality of the answers you’ll receive? Since anyone reading your question may answer it, there’s of course no guarantee that the answerer will actually know what he or she is talking about. Presumably, the honor system would prevent most incidences of phony or misguided responses, and it appears that forum gurus have the ability to reject or remove nonsensical answers. While browsing the forums and FAQs in preparation for this review, I did not see any situations where a question poster seemed clearly unhappy with a posted answer, and most answers seemed thorough and well considered.

You may find that you need more background information on a topic to be able to make use of the answers you receive to your burning questions. If that’s the case, you can take advantage of jGuru’s links to some of JDC’s free, online training documents covering basic Java, client-side, and server-side topics.

There’s something at jGuru for Java developers of all stripes, and it should be part of your Web reference library.