Tuesday, April 08, 2008 8:10 AM
What Code Camp gets right
So, Rick, Jacob, Adam and Elaine have all given their impressions. I guess I should chime in.
The thing that struck me about Code Camp is that with a couple of people organizing, some sponsors and volunteer speakers, you can put on a technical conference that just blows away what's out there. Sure, the food could be better (how would you feed 500+ people on a budget? Pizza!), and everyone sure would want access to wifi, but here's what I think Code Camp gets right.
1. Free. For someone who has to manage a budget, this makes the decision easy. We put up five developers in a hotel in Boston and took them out to dinner, and it still cost less than sending just one developer to a standard conference.
2. Hardly any vendor presentations (if any). The Code Camp manifesto makes it very hard (all code must be free). I gave a presentation on writing cmdlets in Powershell. To do that, I needed some interesting .NET objects to wrap, so I chose DotImage -- however, I don't think anyone would think I was hawking DotImage -- but, just to make sure, we gave away free copies of DotImage Photo so that all of the people that came to the talk can run my code. (fully functioning copies, not evals). Ok, I guess showing MS tools and API's are vendor presentations, but most of that is available for free too.
Vendors need to be very careful about just giving demos at conferences -- look at what Bruce Eckels had to say about the last Pycon:
I believe that this year's Pycon organizers suffered from inexperience and naivete, because they didn't know that some vendors will ask for anything just to see how far they can push it. And that it's a negotiation, that you must push back rather than give in just because the conference might get some money for it. More importantly, that the imperative to grow Pycon does not mean "at all costs." I've already spoken to more than one vendor who was dismayed by the state of things, so we are not talking about all vendors here by any means.
At first the morning plenary sessions -- where the entire conference audience was in a single room -- just seemed a bit commercial. But then I slowly figured out that the so-called "diamond keynotes" were actually sold to vendors. It must have sounded great to some vendors: you get to pitch to everyone and nothing else is going on so the audience is trapped.
From what I saw at AjaxWorld last year and heard from this year's -- they are also leaning more towards vendor presentations. Code Camp presentations (even by vendors or authors selling books) were full of useful content -- I never felt like I was being sold to.
3. Very developer centric -- all attendees were invited to give presentations -- this is the perfect place to get some practice giving talks. Most presentations showed code and built something in the time allotted. I saw a game built in XNA, an IronPyton extension added to a .NET application, a bunch of useful HTTP Handlers and modules built from scratch, and a lot more.
4. Access to experts -- I have pages of notes for ideas for how to improve our product and process at Atalasoft. Michael Cummings told me about InternalsVisibleTo, which alone was worth spending the weekend in Waltham. I got a chance to talk to Edwin Ames after seeing his presentation on TDD, Behavior Driven Development and mocking frameworks, and he told me more about NMock2 and Rhino. I got some info on FileSystem fields in SQL Server 2008 from Matthew Roche.