CodeMash 2.0.1.2: There and back again

CodeMash this year was my first. I had a wonderful time learning, splashing around at the water park, playing dominion, meeting new people, and of course eating the food.

Precompilers

Ruby on Rails

Jeff Casimir - @j3

This precompiler was a great introduction to Ruby on Rails. The time was well spent with a good balance between instruction and on-your-own coding. The week prior to CodeMash, I had spent quite a bit of time learning Ruby using the koans, but I hadn't played with Rails yet, so this session was a perfect fit. I came out of the precompiler with a good understanding of Rails basics, a working demo on my machine, and lots of good resources to continue learning.

Resources: http://tutorials.jumpstartlab.com/

Creative Problem Solving

Jessie Shternshus - @TheImprovEffect

This was an extremely stretching, challenging, and fun precompiler. I'm so glad that I went to it despite any misgivings I had at the time towards improv. I'm just not that fond of doing those sorts of things, but Jessie structured the time such that everyone eventually felt comfortable enough to really get into the activities. I learned about myself (I need be okay with 'failing' or not looking perfect, and I need to speak up more). I also have a deeper insight into the discussions that we have at work. Too often, our conversations are being derailed by "no, but" type responses and the few outspoken people often dominate conversations. Hopefully, we can work on this.

Sessions

Introducing iOS Programming

####Gun Makinabakan

I enjoyed this session. It was a good introduction with a lot of good tips throughout. Gun had a lot of good tips and it was very apparent that he knew what he was talking about. He has seen the various improvements to developing iOS overtime and he can rightly appreciate how much easier it is now. I'm excited to try my hand at an app or two to play around, and I think I'm well equipped to start now.

Building Windows 8 Applications with HTML5 and jQuery]

####Rich Dudley - @rj_dudley

There was a lot of content in this talk. Rich is a good speaker and was very passionate about what he was saying which made it an entertaining talk. I do, however, feel like I didn't get a whole lot out of this talk. The biggest thing I learned, was that Microsoft is going to make it difficult to write these apps because they have disabled things like the inspection tool. Seriously, that's one of the best things about HTML/js development. So, I wish I would have gone to Vagrant: Virtualized Development Environments Made simple. I definitely will be looking into Vagrant on my own.

Cooking Up Environments with Chef

####Colin Gemmell - @colin_gemmell

This was a short, to-the-point talk on Chef. It was a good overview of Chef's capabilities. He didn't leave Windows out of the fun and had a few suggestions for Windows, but acknowledged it's definitely not completely there yet. Chef definitely has a lot of potential and I hope to use it in some manner to streamline environment building.

Blazing Fast Backend Services using Node.js and MongoDB

####Mark Gustetic - @markgustetic

This was not a great talk. Unfortunately, I stayed for a while, hoping he would have some great insight, but it never came. The demo was bland and nodejs and mongoDb are just too big to cover in a significant way for a beginner talk. Perhaps my expectations were just too high or I was mislead by the title/abstract. I'm excited about these technologies, but I did not learn anything useful from this talk.

Effective Data Visualization: The Ideas of Edward Tufte

####David Giard - http://www.davidgiard.com/

This was a beautiful presentation. We examined many examples of both good and bad data visualizations while David explained the whys and why-nots of each one. I learned a lot that I hope to apply to our reporting and analytics features at Softek. The only problem that he could not address was how to have data-integrity with dynamically generated charts. I'm going to have to play with that one.

####Bruce Eckel - http://www.bruceeckel.com/

There were a lot of good thoughts in this presentation. Bruce is a good speaker and very knowledgeable. The idea is to not optimize early and use the best tool for the job. I think at Softek, it has been easy to merely stick to the tools we have. We are a .NET shop... how can we even think to use something else? But we really need to be aware of what else is out there that could help us to be more effective at our job.

Dealing with Information Overload

####Scott Hanselman - @shanselman

Scott is a very good presenter. Very good. This talk was very applicable right now. All of us struggle with being busy and with having too many things to do in some way or another. This talk really helped me to evaluate what's important and how to handle what isn't important. I got a lot out of this and may be able to write another post about the action items I gathered from it.

Resources: hanselman.com (A lot of the tools and ideas Scott mentioned are on his blog)

CI++: Going Beyond Continuous Integration

####Alex Papadimoulis - @apapadimoulis

I liked this talk. Alex had a lot of insight into CI related things. Our CI at Softek is pretty good, but I definitely have realized that our configuration is way too complicated. We could do a better job at seeing a build through the various stages of a release (staging -> test -> production). We do pretty good with database changes, but it still could be better.

Capability vs Suitability

####Gary Bernhardt - @garybernhardt

Gary took us through the history of programming examining transitions in capability and suitability, expansions and contractions, and activity and progress. I really enjoyed this talk. I never really thought of the transitions between languages and paradigms in this way. Gary proposed that we are entering a contraction/suitability phase. It'll be interesting to see how things play out in the years to come.

Final Thoughts

I didn't make it to any Open Spaces conversation, although I wish I had. I either didn't see any that interested me at the time or I missed seeing them. It'd be cool if next year, those were a little more visible and accessible throughout the conference.

The best talks seemed to be ones where it was obvious that the speaker had a good understanding of the topic and the topic went beyond a mere intro/demo. Talks that examined ideas, pushed me to think and evaluate, were the best ones.

It was hard to for me to decide what sessions to go to, and I often had to make a decision on the spot. I did plan it out ahead, though. I just have broad interests. I will definitely be looking into resources/videos of the talks that I couldn't make it to. The learning doesn't stop once you leave CodeMash--it's only the beginning.