CodeMash 2011 Round-Up

Despite a mini-snowpocalypse turning a 6-1/2 hour drive into an 8 hour drive, I made it to CodeMash last week at the superamazingfantastic Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, OH. I had my long-suffering wife and two girls with me and they enjoyed themselves at the water park (okay, I liked it too) and the arcade and the dry-land park. In the meantime, I got my geek-on at the conference.

CodeMash was probably the largest conference I've ever been at, with between 700 and 1000 people attending based on comments from other people) and I'm also used to conferences that have a pretty narrow focus. In this case, it appeared to me to be about 50% .Net stuff and 30% Ruby, the rest being things like a smattering of PHP and Python.

On the Wednesday night, there was a meet-and-greet for the speakers and sponsors in the hotel. I went, ran into Keith Casey, had a few drinks and went back to the room. Why? Well, ever been to a party where everybody knew everyone else but you knew nobody? That's what it felt like to me. This isn't the fault of the conference organizers, more a reflection on how I like to interact with my fellow speakers. Noisy bars aren't my favourite place to meet-and-greet people, and not knowing ANYONE there made me pause as I tried to figure out who to speak to etc.

But once the conference got going, I warmed up to the idea and spent a lot of time speaking to people sitting at the same table as me for breakfast and lunch, as well as those near me in the talks I attended. Due to the distraction of the kiddies ("Daddy, come to the water park with us!!!") I didn't get to see all the talks I wanted to do, but that was the price that had to be paid. I thoroughly enjoyed Chad Fowler and Scott Chacon's keynotes, which got me thinking about my career and my current employer, and the steps required for happiness in said career.

I attended a talk about 3d printers (it was awesome, wish I had the $2K needed to buy one and all the tools required to keep it up and running), a talk on high-performance javascript (very informative, introduced me to the concept of non-blocking Javascript loading), a talk on the "modern open source development environment" (very disappointing, didn't cover anything that I was expecting to see about using Vim + Python|Ruby, more like a criticism of slow-running tests and using GUI editing tools), and I saw about 20 minutes of Keith's unit testing talk before a phone call from wife about car trouble took me away (it was nothing major, car was fine).

My talk went okay. I covered all my material, had a good pace...but was about 10 minutes short. Next time I give the talk I know exactly where I need to add more material. Not too many questions during the talk itself, but some great questions AFTER the talk. Again, more content for the talk itself. For those who couldn't attend, you can find the slides here and for those who don't mind hearing me talk (and drop a few swear-words) you can view a screencast in a wide variety of formats here

I will definitely be submitting again next year and will be making sure to venture out of my comfort zone and view some talks dealing with technology I don't really use much. Also, I'll be sure to check out some of the ad-hoc open sessions if I don't happen to like the talks being offered being the conventional tracks. Upon reflection, those would've been a perfect chance to expand my mind.

I want to personally thank Jason Gilmore, one of the organizers of the conference (and the publisher of my CakePHP book) for treating me exceptionally well, and for taking time out of his super-busy schedule to talk about a joint strategy for 2011 for some projects we had been casually talking about.

In short, I encourage people to check out CodeMash next year, I don't think you will be disappointed you went.