CodeMash 2009 was worth the time

Thumbs up and highly recommended

It has been several years since I took the time to attend any kind of extended technical conference. Often when conferences would finish, I would wonder whether it was worth the investment of time. Even when I wasn’t sure if the answer was “yes”, I would either rationalize or convince myself that it was.

CodeMash was different, it was very much worth my time. I took the opportunity to meet people I would not normally have met, try some languages and techniques I have not tried before, and listen to sessions that I would not have heard otherwise. I was surrounded by people who were knowledgeable, yet still eager to share and learn new things. It was pretty cool.

Short version, if you are a developer who wants to grow, this conference is for you. Even if you do not directly use most of what you hear and learn, it will still have a positive influence on the work you do.

Precompiler Day

I attended the precompiler day, where extended sessions were offered (many conferences do this sort of early training day). It was good to be able to spend an entire morning doing one thing, then an entire afternoon something different.

Morning — Ruby 101

I have had Ruby on my list of interests for awhile now, but never quite taken the time to dive in. The whole day “Ruby 101” session caught my eye, and I was glad I attended during the morning. Jim Weirich and Joe O’Brien led us through a series of programming koans designed to gradually introduce us to key Ruby features and uses. I thought it was a very useful technique — we mostly proceeded at our own pace, but Jim and Joe were on call to answer some of the “why would Ruby do it this way” sorts of questions. Going back and forth between simple exercises that built on the previous ones, some Q&A with experts, and some rabbit trail type experiments was a great way to begin learning Ruby.

The session continued into the afternoon, but I chose to continue my koans on my own so I could attend something different that afternoon.

Afternoon — iPhone Development 101

Chris Adamson, one of the co-authors of the Pragmatic Programmer’s book on iPhone development, led this session. I had already started learning and writing some simple iPhone apps, so was familiar with the basics, but the session was still very useful for me.

Chris took us through the steps of creating a simple web browser as a native app, then through a series of refinements. Along the way, he explained and demonstrated several points of iPhone development that I had missed or where I had a very sketchy understanding. The most useful thing I gained from the session was a better understanding of who nib/xib files and custom classes work together. That by itself was worth the afternoon.

Keynotes and sessions

The themes I picked up from the week were the emphasis on agility and on getting out of your comfort zone.

I really enjoyed and learned from almost all the keynotes and sessions I attended, but I found the most value in those that encouraged me to think differently (and hopefully better) about who uses what I write, design, and testing.

I may write some followup entries on some individual sessions, but overall I was pleased with those I chose to attend. There were a couple I regretted not being able to attend, but by Friday afternoon my new idea tank was rapidly filling up.

Meeting people

One of the biggest benefits of any conference was in meeting people and actually talking to them. I’ve been to conferences or training events where the meet part happened, but real conversations lagged. CodeMash was great in that everyone I met, no matter where, was eager to talk and discuss a wide range of topics.

I loved the interaction with people outside my normal professional circle, and outside my areas of expertise. If for no other reason, I have already put CodeMash v2.0.1.0 on my schedule for next year (Jan 12-15, 2010). Hope to see you there.