Saturday, January 19, 2013

CodeMash 2013 is in the books. A record 1500 people attended this conference and many (including me) left with their brains and bellies full.

This community event has swelled to 1500 attendees - almost the size of many commercial conferences that charge many times the $280 price tag. It also attracts many of the same speakers as these larger and more expensive events.

As a result, you get to hear great presentations from top technical people; and a chance to interact with these speakers, asking technical questions of industry experts and finding out how they are applying technology on their projects.

Attendees had their choice of about 200 presentations on a wide range of topics. Presentations covered development platforms, such as .NET, Java, Ruby, JavaScript, and Scala; as well as development concepts such as Testing, Agile methodologies, Application Lifecycle Management, and User Experience.

CodeMash also included an area for open spaces. In these sessions, the attendees picked a topic and discussed it as a group, rather than listening to a lecturer. I found these to be better suited to my learning style because I could ask specific questions of the most knowledgeable people and draw on the experiences of more than one person in the session.

In addition, CodeMash offered a few things I did not take advantage of:

  • Coding Dojos allowed users to get hands-on experience practicing their coding skills by solving defined algorithms.
  • KidzMash was a mini-conference aimed at teaching software to children. (The waterpark makes this an ideal conference to bring your family to)
  • At the Thursday evening Jam Session, musicians could bring their instrument and play together.
  • Carl Franklin and Richard Campbell recorded an episode of their popular .NET Rocks podcast in front of a live audience.
  • Customer obligations kept me from much of the "Pre-Compiler" sessions. These are half-day sessions that either dive in-depth to a topic or provide attendees a chance to try out a set of technologies and skills as they learn them. In particular, I would have like to attend the speaker workshop, because I'm hoping to organize something similar in Michigan.

Here are a few things I learned at CodeMash

  • I learned a new technique for redirecting old links when migrating a web site. This is important for Search Engine Optimization.
  • I learned the difference between JavaScript and CoffeeScript.
  • I learned the strengths and weaknesses of Backbone.js and Knockout.js. (Backbone is better at interacting with server data; Knockout is better at automatically updating visual elements in response to model changes)
  • I saw examples of how to build robotics using Arduino and Netduino microcontrollers.
  • I learned the advantages of using KendoUI controls and learned the basics of adding them to a web site.

CodeMash takes place at the Kalahari Conference Center in Sandusky, OH - a venue most famous for housing "America's Largest Indoor Waterpark". Conference activities always keep me occupied during the hours that the water park is open; fortunately, the CodeMash organizers negotiated one evening when the park re-opened for a few hours for the conference attendees.

This was my 6th consecutive year attending CodeMash (of the 7 total). For the second consecutive year, I was honored to be selected to speak at CodeMash. My presentation was titled "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love jQuery" and focused on how jQuery made client-side JavaScript coding much easier.

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