As i put close to day 1 of CodeMash, I’m certainly glad I made the trip. I’ve met lots of very smart guys (and girls) and, I may have said this before, but its great to see such a vibrant community of vendor agnostic, language neutral people getting together – ok the ruby guys do seem to somewhat dominate conversations, but everyone here seems to have legitimate, genuine interest in promoting the community, for the sake of technology and beaking down barriers. It’s now cool again to be a .net developer (not that I ever thought it wasnt) as people from all backgrounds are mixing and “mashing” their favorite flavor, based on their assessment of what the right technology to use is, which to me is huge. We’ve long known every application/requirement is different, yet many shops (admittingly ours to some degree) default to an existing language, partially due to comfort, partially due to standards, but also partially due to lack of knowledge about alternatives. This conference aims to change that, atleast the last one. Here, everyone is treated equally and encouraged to experiment with something new, seek best practices (e.g. AGILE), and get informed! Its a very non-threatening environment with something for everyone.
In the past, at other conferences, you were an outcast if you were a microsoft (or java) guy trying to talk about edge technologies, or more specifically, dynamic languages. The open-source advocates on “the coasts” tend to shy away from .net/java, my guess is primarily because the reps attending the conferences (which, respectfully very smart cats) aren’t working on large enterprise class applications, such as financial banking systems, SAP, PeopleSoft or manufactoring supply chain – which are the challenges facing most of us MidWesterners. That said, the “coasts” also tend to have access to more innovate businesses models, whether its the latestest web 2.0 application featured on TechCrunch, digg or just the latest widget from Google, Yahoo or AOL. Yet, that doesnt mean there isnt a time and place for .net/java – or more specifically, their respective platforms.
Either way, these “un-conference” style events is clearly gaining momentum. I did find it almost shocking at dinner, where I had the liberty of sitting with several of the conference organizers (Dianne Marsh, Bruce Eckel, Bill Wagner & Dick Wall to name a few) that they were not familiar with some of the other “un-conferences” i have attended the past couple years. They are nearly identical, however with all due respect to the others, I believe CodeMash does raise the bar, the conference has a very polished feel, yet NOT AT ALL stuffy, dull or unproductive. It’s very much designed by devs for devs, with minimal if any corporate koolaid. I would like to see more energy around Open Spaces, while available, i dont know that the midwest is familiar with this format yet, as to-date most conference attendees are used to paying big ticket prices and having formal tracks or session paths – Open Spaces builds on the community appeal, turning the focus to attendess (with content actually provided by attendees). Am sure it will continue to get more popular as people become familiar with it, and everyone realizes they have the opportunity to customize the event into something that is potentially more meaningful for them. That said, i personally do enjoy some sense of structure and pre-canned sessions, particularly from the industry vets here.
Lots of great stuff in day 1, my only regret is that I wasnt able to attend all the sessions i wanted, as some overlap existed and I tend to want to learn more than one should in a given day. Time to recharge the batteries for day two, physically and mentally.