Last Tuesday, I left work early to head out to the Kalahari resort in beautiful Sandusky, Ohio. Although “resort” may make you think of fun in the sun, this was definitely not the case.

Fun in the sun at Kalahari

We had fun in the Nia conference center there, at CodeMash v2.0.0.9.

CodeJam and the other Precompiler (Day 0) Events

CodeMash started on Wednesday with the Precompiler, also known as Day 0. I was part of the team that facilitated the CodeJam, so I spent a lot of the day in the CodeJam room.

We originally had an app set up for people to interact with, but that idea didn’t seem to take off well. However, we had people float in, code, and talk about their experiences. So although it didn’t go as expected, the CodeJam was still a success in one form.

I talked with Corey Haines, and he has some ideas for structuring it differently for next year.

CodeJam in Action

In my break, I did look around to see where some of the other precompiler events were. The Ruby Precompiler event with Joe O’Brien and Jim Weirich seemed well attended.

Ruby Precompiler with Jim Weirich

I would have loved to learn Ruby from those guys or even check out Groovy and Grails or Value Mapping. I heard a lot of attendees speak very well of those sessions.

So overall – loved the idea of the Precompiler, but I wish I would’ve had more time to check out the other sessions. So next year, as long as the Precompiler comes back, I hope to only be an attendee so that I can float more and see more of the awesome offerings.

Day 1

On Day 1, I had a rough start to the day. I made it downstairs in time to catch some of the Open Spaces opening circle. This year’s theme was Techniques *NOT* Tools!, and there were some interesting topics proposed – including community building, getting started speaking, mentoring, pair programming, personal branding, IronPython Tools, effective knowledge sharing, green practices, what is an architect, and pragmatic thinking and learning.

From opening circle, I headed over to room F, to catch the end of Leon Gersing‘s talk on Scriptaculous and Prototype. Once he was finished, then it was time for me to give my talk on IronPython. Some people have heard me talk of IronPython from the Windows realm, but with CodeMash being cross-platform, I ended up taking a different approach. My demos were run from an Ubuntu 8.10 virtual machine. I was able to show how Mono works, and although MonoDevelop was mentioned, it currently supports C#, and there’s nothing in it yet for IronPython. For me, the weirdest part so far about talking about IronPython in a non-Windows environment is seeing Windows Forms working. Although I had a small turnout, I did have an interactive group, and I did talk with some throughout the conference.

After my talk, I got to meet up with some of the women who were attending.

Impromptu WiT Gathering at CodeMash

They’ve told familiar stories, which were interesting to hear.

From there, I floated around, getting some pics of the event. I spent more time wandering and talking with people that afternoon, and I came out learning quite a bit.

Day 2

On Day 2, I started out by talking with John Kellar about my IronPython presentation, for his Edge of Dev series.

From there, I checked out the Open Spaces board to see what the day had in store, as there was one session I had to catch but it wouldn’t be until after lunch.

Open Spaces on “Getting Started on Speaking”

The first Open Space I caught was Alan Barber‘s topic of “Getting Started on Speaking”. Having been speaking for awhile – currently in my second life as a speaker, having been a speaker almost a decade ago for a short time – I figured it’d be interesting to see who else shows up and what words of wisdom we could share with him.

Getting Started Speaking Open Space

Some of the key questions that came out of that Open Space include:

  • How do you decide what to present on? Do you go with what you know or what you want to learn?
  • How do you become aware of events looking for speakers?
  • How do you get started?

Some key points that came out include:

  • Toastmasters can help for getting started in giving presentations.
  • It all comes full-circle to your passion. If you aren’t passionate about a topic, your audience can pick up on that, and that wouldn’t make a good impression of the topic.
  • It’s not about money. As a speaker, you may or may not be compensated for your time. Some things we’ve found to help bring the cost of speaking down include carpooling and couch surfing.
  • The speaker community is always looking for new blood – it gets stale, and with new blood comes new perspective and new topics.
  • Definitely try to find someone who’s already speaking to help guide you through the process and get you into the community. Find a mentor.

After that session, I was introduced to someone who has had many years in the field and has spoken at other events but hasn’t figured out how to get involved in the technical arena. In a case like that, you need to identify a need (which our community definitely has) and then figure out how to get in (like when calls of talks open for local events).

Overall, it seemed like a lot of questions and points were hit upon. However, if anyone has questions on this, I’m always up for talking more about getting into speaking.

Open Spaces on Mentoring

After the Open Space on speaking, I headed over to Rick Kierner‘s “Being and Choosing a Mentor” open space. Over the past few months, I’ve been contemplating joining MentorNet and reading up on mentor/mentee relationships. So when I saw this open space listed, I figured I’d check it out.

Open Space on Mentoring

Some of the guys kept mentioning company-assigned mentor/mentee relationships and how those sometimes work. Although I’ve never worked for a company that has a formal mentoring program, I do see the flaw in having one. There has to be a certain chemistry there for a mentor/mentee relationship to work – if it isn’t there, the relationship is destined to fail. Company-assigned mentor/mentee relationships don’t always have a way of seeing whether the people involved will work well. It’s almost as if they need their own mentoring matchmaker.

One of the guys asked about having multiple mentors, and I had to chime in and mention that one person may not fill all of their needs, so multiple mentors would be needed to do the trick. Of course, I had to mention Brian Prince‘s “Soft Skillz” talk, because he does mention that point as well.

A Programmer’s Guide to User Experience

The one session I absolutely wanted to see was thankfully not scheduled up against my own. I was able to check out Josh Walsh‘s “A Programmer’s Guide to User Experience” after lunch. He talked of wireframes, drawing UIs on paper, and typography, amongst many other aspects involved in developing with a mind for user experience. It was great to see this presentation, as it reminds me that there are other UX people out there and that my way of thinking isn’t as skewed as I think it is.

Final Thoughts

Closing Giveaway

From what I heard about past events, I’m glad that the user IDs weren’t GUIDs. However, even though they used regular numbers as identifiers, they used random.org to generate the winners, and some numbers were called 2-3 times. Our lottery babes prize guys didn’t seem phased by that. Rumor has it that Jay Farrell wrote a program for them to use next year.

Special Thanks

Special thanks to the CodeMash team for putting together an amazing conference – this includes Jeff Blankenburg, Jason Follas, Jason Gilmore, Darrell Hawley, Jim Holmes, Josh Holmes, John Hopkins, Melissa Insko, Dianne Marsh, Brian Prince, Chris Woodruff, and Scott Zischerk.

I went in with an open mind, attended this “larger than life” conference, and came out with an overload of information and many new contacts. I look forward to CodeMash 2010!