During January 8-11 I was one of the lucky thousands of developers, designers, and business software types to attend CodeMash at the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio. 2013 was the 7th year for CodeMash and it drew in technical types from all around North America (that's right, even Canada). When tickets went on sale back in October the conference sold out in less than a minute, almost unheard of among development conferences. I was lucky enough to grab tickets for myself and a former colleague for our first CodeMash adventure.
The CodeMash presentations are planned like most other conferences; at any given time there are around ten different canonical sessions, typically focused around different topics. In addition to the scheduled presentations there were a number of “Open Spaces” that could be used for impromptu discussions, presentations, or work sessions. There are also two days of “Pre-compiler Sessions” in the days leading up to the main conference which are more workshop-oriented with a smaller audience. Since the focus of the conference is rather broad there are no official “tracks” – attendees were free to jump from Ruby to Android, .NET to Arduino, or any other combination of languages/technologies.
After dinner on Thursday the main CodeMash party kicked off in the halls and indoor water park at Kalahari. At the beginning of the party was a CodeMash tradition called “PechaKucha” in which a presenter will give a talk on any topic using a deck that he or she has prepared with exactly twenty slides. The slides will auto-advance every twenty seconds, forcing the presenter to be thoughtful and concise in their presentation. Stand-out PechaKuchas from this year included “Everything I know about API design, I learned from the Spice Girls” by Jon Skeet and “Geeks, Freaks, Nerds, & Programmers” by Jessica Kerr but the one that had everyone talking (and using English accents) was Jeff Yates' “The Dog's Bollocks” (mostly SFW unless you're in the UK):
One of the best parts about CodeMash is the people who you get to hang out with and learn from. I was able to spend some time with the team from Sparkbox (the company who runs the Build Responsively workshop that Tony and I attended over the summer), attended an Open Space session with Brad Colbow, and ate lunch with Leon Gersing. CodeMash advocates collaboration and respect; as a result there isn't the typical social division between the senior-level, professional speakers and the audience.
If you ever find yourself with an opportunity to attend CodeMash, I'd implore you to do so. It's not all waterslides and bacon bars – you will leave exhausted – but it's a great opportunity to network with like-minded geeks, pick up more vendor pens than you'll ever use, and learn a ton in the process.