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How I missed Codemash 2014 and still learned something

I have to stop having kids around Codemash time, or rather, roughly 9 months before Codemash time.

Every year I attend I usually write a follow up blog post saying how it rejuvenates my love for the profession each year.  I have missed 2 incarnations of Codemash in its history due to my 2 beautiful daughters being born within months of the event (read: WORTH IT), but this year was a little different.  This time I wasn’t able to attend, but I still had that same fire ignited inside me as the years that I was there.

What happened?  Well two things.

1.  I was able to send a young and talented developer in my place that had never been.

2.  The twitter feed.

Let’s start with #1.  I found that ”prepping” someone that was as excited to go as I was the first time made me feel like I was there again.  Make sure you do this, listen to this speaker he/she is great, participate in an open space, eat lots of bacon (he was paleo, so he liked this part), MEET PEOPLE, etc. etc.  In the week upcoming the event, we talked about it everyday.

Secondly, I probably have never used twitter as much as that week, trying to follow along with the events.  Since I was home with the baby and up a lot, I was spending a lot of time at night working on the website for my new business.  I was challenging myself to step out of my .NET comfort zone and build something solely with HTML and JavaScript (maybe it was Codemash from a distance inspiring me).  The problem that I was having was that my first cut at it had a lot of HTML that I was repeating across pages (navigation bar, header, footer, images, etc.) , and I thought there has to be a better way .  My first thought was MVC to deliver a base layout and render a body dynamically, but that broke my rule of trying something new, so that was out.  In comes the Codemash twitter feed where I was hearing a lot about AngularJS, specifically from my friend that went in my place who had attended a class on it and was tweeting about it.  The lights went on.  That will handle my situation AND be something new (but still kinda comfortable since I was used to the controller concept of MVC!).  A couple of nights of reading and doing and viola!, Holeshot Software was finally out there.  Is it spectacular? not really, but it was something I had been wanting to do, it challenged me, and I succeeded, and my business has a landing page with my contact information.

So, all of the reasons that love Codemash so much were still present, even in its absence, including the interaction with the most important  part, the people (only this time it was strictly via Twitter).

Unless something happens around April again, I will see you all next year!

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Codemash 2012, Is there anything else like it?

I bet there is not.  If there is, I want to see it.

Seriously, Codemash is a “down-home/local” conference that isn’t “down-home” or “local” and one that brings the likes of Scott Hanselman (@shanselman),  and other big names in the industry, just to give an hour long talk, not to mention the excellent key notes that are always good.  When I got home and started to read the twitter feeds on #codemash, the general consensus was HUGS!!!  I may be wrong here, but the twitter feed from #build did not give the aura of love.  Codemash is also a small world.  Not only did I run into a few buddies from college that I haven’t seen in years (Bruce Hubbard. @brucehubbard and Wes Grollmus, @wesg92), I found out that Jon Kruger (@jonkruger) is married to one of my wife’s friends that I shared a locker with for 4 years in high school.  You walk out of this conference thinking that what was once just twitter handles are now actual friends.

With all of that touchy feely stuff aside, the content is just downright amazing.  Codemash has “the law of two feet”, which translates to: If you aren’t learning or contributing….leave without recourse.  Well, not once the whole 3 days did I feel that way.

If you been to the conference but haven’t attended the precompiler, please make an effort to do so.  I actually think it is the most important day of the week.  As I have said before in previous Codemash posts, the people are what make Codemash special, and the precompiler is probably the best place to do that in a semi-professional setting (as opposed to room parties, of course).

/* if you want to read about how I spent my time at this event

This Codemash was slightly different for me this year.  As my work is embarking on some technology that isn’t as familiar to me as what I have been doing for the past 10 years in .NET.  I tried to go sessions where I wasn’t very familiar with the subject matter.  That, of course, is the whole premise of this conference, but I have always spent most of my time strengthening the things I knew, instead of exploring things I didn’t.  This year I spend the morning session of the precompiler with Leon Gersing  (@rubybuddha) and Scott Walker (@pragma_tech) as they walked us through what was essentially 53 examples of JavaScript gotchas.  They were, in fact, proponents of the language, but wanted to point out some of the nuances that would otherwise not seem to make sense to someone like me, and that was extremely helpful.  The afternoon session I spent with Clark Sell (@csell5) and Brandon Satrum (@BrandonSatrom) while they walked us through where HTML5 is, and gave us a wealth of labs and experiments to try stuff on our own.  This class was great, my only complaint was that it should have been a full day, there was so much good content and the 2 speakers spent quite a bit of time putting together these labs.  Four hours just wasn’t enough.  I explained this to Clark and he agreed, but I would have come on Tuesday if I knew I could have had that much hands on stuff to go through.

Thursday was equally as informative.  I actually had so many sessions I wanted to see, it was HARD to narrow down which to go to.  On the contrary, for the morning session, I knew I was going to see Scott Hanselman’s (@shanselman) talk on the Web Stack of Love.  There is a reason this guy is a sought after speaker, and there is a reason there is standing room only in his talks.  He is that good.  Next, Rich Dudley (@rj_dudley) showed us about building applications in Windows 8 with HTML.  He was very energetic (which I am told is baseline) and fun and informative.   Glenn Block’s (@glock) talk on Node.js and Azure was next, and man, Node is pretty cool.  The talk seemed to be more about Node than Azure, which was fine with me given that the likelihood of my current work involving Azure is small, but cool nonetheless.  The rest of the day I learned about CoffeeScript from Brandon Satrum (@BrandonSatrom) and Roslyn from Dustin Campbell (@dcampbell) .  CoffeeScript was very intriguing to me as someone who doesn’t write a lot of JavaScript.  The language seemed to make more sense to me, and it guards you from some of the gotchas that I learned about on Wednesday.  While CoffeeScript is not a replacement for learning JavaScript, I can see it as a valuable tool in doing so.  The Roslyn stuff was also pretty awesome.  It left me wondering if something like this will improve such things as Resharper, or make it harder for them to provide value if a lot of what they do is baked in to Visual Studio…

Friday.  The bittersweet last day of Codemash.  The day you have a “hung over eagerness”to continue from what you learned earlier in the week.  Thankfully, the content was still just as good as ever, and I actually had up to 4 classes per session that I wanted to attend.  Phil Japiske (@skimedic) gave a talk using JustMock that I think I can apply to my current work, and that is always exciting.  Next I attended another Scott Hanselman (@shanselman) talk on Dealing with Information Overload.  This was basically a class on lessons learned by Scott on managing your life and your work.  The biggest takeaway from this sessions was “if there is something in your life that isnt improving it or making you money, delete it”.  He talked about how a large amount of developers have trouble sleeping (myself included) and that is because we are doing a for loop in our heads of the things we didn’t get done and the things we want to do.  The second takeaway was that (paraphrasing here) “every developer should have a blog, I don’t care how mundane the content”.  Every year Codemash reignites my writing in this blog, and this year was no different.  Lastly, I attended a class from Bill Wagner (@billwagner) entitled “C# Stunt Coding”.   Caching the expression tree of a reflection call and compiling it on the fly for subsequent calls to eliminate the performance hit!  Oh my!

*/

I just cant say enough good things about this event.  It is truly that good.  My company sent 10 developers this year, and to quote Michael Letterle (@mletterle) in reference to his company sending just as many: “#thatishowyoudoit”.   I’m already counting down to next year.  Big thanks to the organizers and attendees that make it awesome.

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CodeMash 2010, the Ocarina of Time

Well, CodeMash 2010 is in the books, and once again it was an awesome experience.  I find that throughout the whole conference I come up with tons of ideas to write about, I mean itching to write about, and then when I get home, and the whirlwind of reality hits me at work, here I am a week later and I haven’t written a thing…  Boo on me.

I arrived at the Kalahari Tuesday evening to avoid having to get up while it was still dark outside, and hope that I will be awake enough to be interactive in the “highly interactive precompiler sessions”.  I am starting to think that the precompiler portion of this conference is the most important day to attend.  I started off in the End To End Coaching session with Steve Harman and David Laribee.  Much like the similar session I attended last year with Dave Donaldson, both Steve and David were cool, down to earth dudes and the session was entertaining, educating, and fun.  The reason I think sessions like this are so important before the conference starts is that you are practically forced into meeting and talking to people.  I know, it’s kinda touchy feely hippie stuff, but the first exercise we had to do was interview a person and report our findings to the group.  I met a guy named Mike Wood (@mikewo) and found out that he once was very interested in law enforcement and was a cop in his former life.  I thought that was a pretty interesting story at a code conference.  Basically, because of this session, I had made a handful of friends that I found myself waving to or stopping to talk to in the halls throughout the rest of the week.

The second half of the day I attended Mary Poppendieck’s session on Competency and Leadership in Software development where she went into topics about expertise and team dynamics.  The one major thing I took away from the session was that she validated what I thought the characteristics of a highly efficient team were.  I was part of a team once that I felt she was describing as if she was there.  That made me feel good that my feelings about our now defunct team weren’t being pulled from thin air.  The other main highlight of this session was that I spilt @CharlieSears coffee all over himself when I punched him the in shoulder (unbeknownst to me that he was holding a freshly poured scalding hot cup of coffee).  After I hit him (lightly, he is kinda fragile-ish looking), he turned around with fury in his eyes ready to cuss out whoever it was that left a Gorbachev-style burn on his leg, to say “Holy shit, Lucas, what’s up?!?!”.  I told him that what this meant was that I was once again going to have to refer to him in my CodeMash post mortem post, so there you go.  Sorry about the coffee Charlie……

Thursday I woke up with the same excitement and exuberance that I have every year at this conference.  There was so much interesting content this year that I was actually having trouble deciding what to do all day.  I got to learn about Silverlight, Powershell, compete in a coding contest, multithreading and parallel solutions, and the Prism and Unity frameworks.  Friday I learned how to hack USB devices with F#, more Silverlight, and even attended a session that used concepts from World Of Warcraft to convey how to build good applications.

These days go by so fast because these people aren’t here because their bosses made them, and they aren’t here for the free swag, or to get away from work.  They are here because they want to be here, they begged their companies to send them, or they even paid there own way.  CodeMash is a “Uber-User Conference”, and that is another aspect that makes it so special.  It is one of the only places where I am up way too late, and can’t wait to get up the next morning, hangover and all.  I am pretty sure that the race track and days that I am home brewing are the only other days like that for me.

The other thing that makes this conference unique (and there are a lot of them), as I recounted in last year’s recap (In summary, CodeMash 2009, the Hands of Fate), are the people you meet.  So, this year I tried a new method of doing that:  I’m not hanging out in the bars at Kalahari anymore, at least not when there are a few brave souls that have invited everyone to their rooms to hang out.  A good portion of the #codemash twitter feed was merely room numbers used as code to make the Kalahari a bonified CodeMash Around-The-World party.  Thursday night we hung out with some of the SRT crew, and a bunch of others.  Brian Genisio was sharing his homebrew (there are a lot of geek home brewers out there), and I got have a bunch of fun conversations about beer, making beer, code, writing code, etc, etc…  I found something in common with Phil Japiske (@skimedic) in that we were both in a fraternity in college and we reminisced on those days, all while mixing in geeky topics, and how we can be better speakers for the community.  Keith Elder welcomed us the next night, and I had a total blast partying with everyone.  I am amazed at how good these people are at remembering names and faces.  Many of the people I had met just once last year became fresh in each of our memories once I saw them again this year, it must be drunk recall.

All in all, I wish CodeMash lasted a lot longer, and it was another great year.

I will end this with the obligatory CodeMash blog post ending, “Can’t wait till next year!”

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Twas the Night Before CodeMash…

OK, I know I don’t update this blog nearly as much as I should.  To the point where it can barely be considered a “log” of anything.  It could be because of my insecurities that I will write about something that is new and challenging to me, that the rest of the world thinks is archaic and easy as pie. Or it could be because nobody actually reads this, but I digress 🙂

Then again, there are nights like this one, nights before CodeMash, where I am yet again rejuvenated.  As you recall, my first real post ever (CodeMash 2009, the Hands of Fate)…or you can just scroll down, there isn’t that much content on here, I’ll wait.  OK, as you recall in that post, I chronicled my last trip to CodeMash and it was the lone catalyst for me to start this blog.  Not only because it is a super conference, but I get to meet people from all expertise levels, talk to them, learn from them, learn what not to do from them, network with them, teach them.  These conferences aren’t as much about the content (which is top notch, don’t get me wrong) for me as it is about the people.

On that note, I was packing my bag tonight and I thought of something.  A topic that came across the Google Group today was, “Dress Code for CodeMash, what should I wear?”.  Now, I am no fashionista, actually I am the exact opposite, so this isn’t that kind of advice.  As my wife says, “how is it that you can be a snob about everything but clothes???”.  Anyway, one thing that I like to keep in mind when I am going to be in a large group of people is, wear a conversation starter.  Wear something that represents you.  It could be a hat from your home team to a t-shirt of your alma mater to short sleeves that expose your Horde tattoo (no Alliance please).  Remember CodeMash 2008 when Brian Prince dyed his hair blue?  I’m guessing he was thinking of the same concept.

Let me give you an example from my own experience.  When I know I am going to be in an airport I always like to wear a hat that has my fraternity letters on it (Sigma Tau Gamma, Alpha Alpha, Miami University if you were wondering).  One day, low and behold, a fellow Sig Tau from Texas walked up to me and introduced himself.  Those of you that partook in the Greek system know that if you were in the same fraternity you were family, and that was pretty cool to find one from halfway across the country.  We chatted for a few minutes and we were on our way.  Not that this had any major impact on my life, but that would have never happened if I hadn’t decided to put that particular hat on for that exact reason.  Plus, there is nothing better than living in Brownstown and hearing someone yell “WHO DEY!!!” (I know, they lost, I don’t want to talk about it) across the grocery store because they saw your Chad “pre-Ochocinco” Johnson jersey you were wearing.

So, for the same reason I stared this, ehem, “blog”, I write again in anticipation for CodeMash 2010 (and hopefully I can put away my insecurities and keep it going for a little longer this time).

I am likely to be wearing a blue BMW hat or a Bengals hat, so come up and say hello.  See you there!!!

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In summary, CodeMash 2009, the Hands of Fate

I have only been to 2 technology type conferences in my relatively short career, BOTH of them have been CodeMash.

CodeMash 2008 was when I came home and said to myself, “I’m gonna start a blog”.  CodeMash 2009 was when I did it.

I cant begin to explain how cool of a conference this is.  I would love to know about another conference where I can see this:

    1. a keynoter in socks talking about pointy haired bosses
    2. a discussion panel and .NET rocks recording where the attendees get half blazed on a bottle of Makers Mark, throw the discussion topic out the window (sort of), and argue about JavaScript versus Silverlight
    3. a giant slide that says “SHIT!!! we built it wrong”
    4. me laughing out loud during a session because @fallenrouge was making faces through the window behind the speakers back
    5. a slide of the Icy Hot Stuntaz on repeat in what we called “the dining hall” (do you remember these guys?)

But the truth is, the reason CodeMash is so cool is because of the community.  It is awesome to be surrounded by others who have the same if not more passion for the craft than you do.  To be able to walk up to anyone, introduce yourself, and get immersed in a conversation that interests you both is priceless.  The sessions, the information, the sponsors, are all top notch, but CodeMash is about the people you meet and the connections that you form.  Because man, let me tell you, these are some of the smartest yet down-to-earth dudes I have ever met, and getting them all in one building so that I can talk to them is pretty amazing.

Short of talking about every session that I went to, I do want to highlight a few things:

I got up early Wednesday morning and headed out to the Kalahari in Sandusky, OH to attend the precompiler.  The precompiler was a new concept this year in that they would have some longer, more hands on sessions that you could break out of your shell a bit and explore areas that you were not comfortable with.  I spent the morning learning about Groovy, and the speaker said we could put that on our resume now 🙂

After lunch, I went to the “Turning the Ship” session with Dave Donaldson.  I have to hand it to Dave on this one.  He had spent the previous night in the hospital due to a car accident on the way to the conference.  Just the fact that he showed up and did his thing was cool, but it was an awesome session on top of that.  He ran it with an laid back attitude, but it was highly interactive, so the conversation was not only pertinent, it was fun.  Dave is an extremely cool dude, and I was glad to meet him.

That night was the panel discussion/.NET Rocks taping on RIAs.  Not only was it informative, it was entertaining as hell (see #2 above).  It hasn’t been posted yet, but be sure to check back here if you missed it (http://www.dotnetrocks.com/)

Thursday started off with a wave of excitement for me.  I had been looking forward to this for a long time.  The morning began with Venkat giving his keynote of the facts and fallacies of software development.  I had not previously heard Venkat talk before, and he was impressive.  There is a talent in speakers that keep you entertained while giving you technical information, and he has it.  Venkat spoke first because of some keynote scheduling problems (he was scheduled for the afternoon) and that turned out to be a good thing.  His speech was, well…energizing and inspiring; a great way to kick off the event.

Brian Prince is another one of those speakers that has the ability to make an hour session feel like 15 minutes.  I have heard a lot of praise of his “Soft Skillz” speech since he first gave it a while back, but I have never been able to see it.  At CodeMash 2009, I did, and it was worth it.  My only criticism is that I wish we had more time.  It would have been a great 4 hour session for the precompiler.

Friday I attended a session on MS Robotics vs. the Antique Robot.  No, the Antique Robot was not the speaker, Andy Craze, but in this case a Hero 1 from 1982 (Andy is a good friend and colleague of mine, so I can make jokes like that).  I was 2 years old when this robot came out, and the session was using code from the current MS Robotics studio to manipulate the robot.  Hats off to Andy for bringing a unique but relevant topic to the CodeMash arena, and congrats on the session.  If you were to gauge success by the amount of smiling faces when that robot started to move via a Bluetooth serial adapter, then it was a raging success.

Lastly, I attended a very cool session given by Joe Kuemerle about reverse engineering applications.  I am quite familiar with .NET reflector, but I was still able to learn some things about the other ways of reverse engineering code, as well as some plugins to Reflector that I was unaware of.  It was cool to see a session that wasn’t “here is how you do this”, but rather “here is how they do this”.  I overheard someone in the class say, “Holy crap!  I need to go back to work right now!”

I couldn’t possibly write about every session without being at the keyboard for a few days, but those are the highlights that I felt like mentioning.

So, in summary, CodeMash 2009 rocked the catbox, and I have already started my countdown for next year.

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