Thank Goodness for Video Calls. Even though I'm at CodeMash in Ohio, I got to see the family over Skype at a sprightly 640x480 fullscreen video and Z loves it.
I hate traveling away from the family, but it is nice to be welcomed when I do travel. The folks at CodeMash have been very welcoming and they put on a very unique conference out here.
It's a cross-platform, cross-cultural, cross-language conference with a very positive vibe. The "vibe" or general feel of a conference matters more than you might think. I started out asking folks "are you a Ruby person or a .NET person?" but soon I got with the program and started asking folks "what are you working on?"
Everyone is using everything, every tool, every IDE, every platform, doing whatever they can do get the job done. Folks might do C# for their day job, but play with Scala on the side. They might work on Python for a day job but use Linq and VB for a church website.
It was such a positive attitude, it was extremely inclusive. People were encouraged to avoid talks about technologies they were already familiar with, with .NET folks checking out things like Dojo and Groovy on Grails. Never heard of these techs? You would at a conference like CodeMash or the ALT.NET Conference.
I came to hear talks and give a talk, but my goal was to meet and talk to as many people as possible. I tried just wandering around and chatting with folks, but found that after the organizers put up a "Rock Band" kiosk, that hanging out there was the best way to meet everyone! It was a gravity well, pulling in virtually the whole conference. I can't play Guitar to save my life, but I can play drums (and cowbell) on The Blue Oyster Cult's Don't Fear The Reaper. A young lady from Pakistan had never heard of ANY of the songs (I had only heard of 2, since there was no "Kool Moe Dee" option) but with some coaxing tried the drums and was soon jamming away and having a blast and we had a fine conversation about her projects. If you're putting on a conference, nothing brings a sorts of people together like a game like this.
I gave a talk on IIS7 and PHP using Mike Volodarsky's great MSDN article as a jumping off point and it went very well, although I did have one programmatic OutputCaching demo not work, so I used declarative instead and it worked great. I'll post-mortem later. You never know with these things, it could have been something as simple as not resetting IIS. I also got a chance to do about 20 minutes of "Programmer Standup Comedy" which was, happily, well-received. I'm often silly in talks, to be clear, but it's been a while since I've done standup, and while some silliness I did at the recent PNPSummit did OK, the energy of the CodeMash conference was so upbeat that I felt comfortable doing the first chunk of my talk as schtick. Conferences and their endless presentations can get dull and since this was a lunch keynote it seemed well-timed and helped wake people up.
All in all, a great time was had by all. I hope more conferences start "mashing" it up. It's no fun to be away from home, but it's much more tolerable when topics are so varied as these and the environment is positive and inclusive.