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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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