In case you don’t know what it is. Codemash is a conference put together by volunteers. It has been running for four years now. The conference happens at the Kalahari Resorts and Convention Center that has reportedly the biggest indoor water park in North America. That is in Sandusky, Ohio.
I only have one world for it, spectacular. You come in and once you register you get your welcome package, a tag and a marker to write down your name, nickname, handler or however you want to be identified. (I saw one tag that only have a big E in it. And that is cool). A lot of attendees (me included) choose to add their twitter handle. If you think about it, at the end of the day a lot of us talk to each other or read each other on twitter so that makes sense. After that your only problem in the world is try to get to as many sessions or open spaces as possible.
Multiple technologies and practices are been represented at Codemash. Ruby, Java and JVM languages, .NET and CLR/DLR languages, Python, Iron*, C. Functional and OO. SOLID, BDD, TDD, Lean, Leadership, Coaching, Patterns. Iphone, Rails, WebForms, Silverlight, WPF, Tapestry and more development platforms, etc. And if you can’t find what you want, you still have the open spaces, so go ahead and create your own conference. I bet people will join you.
There is content at the Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced levels. I could like to see a few more 400 level talks but if you think that the idea of the conference is to try to get you out of your comfort zone that may not be very wise. Let me explain.
The idea is to try to go to talks that are not about the same technologies that you use every day. For example I choose to attend some F#, Ruby, Python and Clojure talks. My level of familiarity varies so I was able to follow and take some good information from the sessions since they were at the intermediate/beginner level.
Sessions and open spaces I enjoyed.
The keynotes by Mary Poppendieck’s The Five Habits of Succesful Lean Development and Andy Hunt’s The Mother of all Bugs
Some of the sessions/Open spaces: Presentation Patterns. What makes ruby different. Open space about FubuMVC. NoSQL: Death to relational DB’s. Introduction to Cucumber. Testing ASP.NET applications using Ruby. Being and evil genius with F#. 0-60 with Fluent NHibernate. Building webapps with Compojure. IronPython with ASP.NET.
Perfect. I think that the venue is part of the magic that make this Conference so special. Imagine that you are in this African themed hotel, where people wearing sandals and T-shirts around you will be checking their emails or updating their twitter timeline from their smart phones. Imagine going to a water park after the last session of the day, or just go and play mini golf with your son. That makes for a very relaxed vibe and you feel it and see it at the conference.
The staff at the hotel is great, friendly and professional and all interaction (from the moment I made my reservation on the phone) was very pleasant.
Ok. This is something I’m really surprised. You pay $175 for the 2 days of conference + $150 for the extra Precompiler day. That’s a grand total of $325 for a 3 day conference. So, you may expect to have some scarcity on the food supply, specially when you consider that you have breakfast and lunch all of three days and dinner on one of the days.
Well, let me tell you something. There was not such thing. The food was good and plentiful. Actually It was fantastic. I went to conferences where I paid $2000 for the same number of days and all I got was a wrap or a sandwich that was prepared 12 hours before.
On top of that there was coffee and pops (coke and sprite cans) available during the day to keep you going.
What I will change
Nothing from the conference, maybe extended to 3+1 days?
My recommendations for new attendants.
If you have a family take them with you, specially if you have kids. My only mistake (and seems to be a common theme among first timers) was to go along. The organization even has a KidsMash going on where the kids can play and be ask geeks as their parents when they are tired of the water park.
Try to study the list of sessions in advance but relax and make sure you scan the Open spaces regularly and keep an eye on that twitter timeline. If you are not getting the most of the session you are in move to another one, just try not to disrupt
And like in most conferences take a power cord (a long one if possible) with you.
I’m already impatiently waiting for next year Codemash. I can only say a big thank you to all the people that works to make such a great experienced for all of us.