This past weekend I once again made the trip to Knoxville, TN for the CodeStock conference. This conference, run by Michael Neel, has, in only a few short years, become one of the more respected US East Coast technical conferences. Version 2010 moved to a new home (the University of Tennessee Conference Center) and added more tracks that really made it the conference with something for everyone.
I had submitted a proposal for a Beginning Android talk and was honored to have it chosen as one of the top five vote getters. Since I drive down from New Jersey and based on last year’s experience, I headed down on Wednesday instead of Thursday. I planned on using the extra day down there to tweak my session.
A few people asked me why I drive down to Tennessee from New Jersey instead of flying. I’m not afraid to fly and enjoy the experience of getting into a giant metal can in one location and, a few hours later, getting out in a completely different location. What I no longer enjoy is the process of getting to that giant metal can. I hate parking at the airport and getting raked over the coals in parking fees. I hate getting poked and prodded by security at the airport and definitely don’t like these full-body scanners nor what passes as security policies these days (I’ll spare you my political views but if you know me at all you can probably guess.) But what I detest the most is queuing in excruciatingly long lines that don’t move. It really makes me crazed just standing there waiting, doing nothing. Since I like to drive just give me a few podcasts and my satellite radio and I’m all set. I was actually surprised at the number of speakers this year that drove instead of flying.
It’s not very interesting going into a minute-by-minute rundown of my time there but I’ll just call out a few high points:
- First high point was Thursday morning. I was sitting in the open spaces area when Kevin Griffin (at least I think it was him; I may be mis-remembering) came in and asked me if I wanted to join in with the Community Megaphone podcast that was being recorded on “Speaker Horror Stories.” What most people at CodeStock didn’t realize is that this was my first time speaking at a conference and my first time speaking on Android. I’ve spoken at small user groups in the past but the last one was almost five years ago. As the podcast unfolded we went around the room introducing ourselves and relating our stories. When the microphone got to me I said I really didn’t have any horror stories because I was a “conference-speaker newb.” The other speakers in the room burst out in applause and really made me feel welcome to the speaker community. Thanks guys. It really boosted my confidence and made me glad I took the plunge. I will definitely do it again.
- Second high point was my actual talk. Being so concerned with running out of material I badly misjudged the time and had way more material than I could use. That had to be the fastest 70 minutes of my life. I don’t have the official count of people in my session but it looked like a full house and not many people left before the time was up. My thanks to those of you that came to hear me and especially the ones who gave up part of their dinner time to see the OData demo.
- Third high point was Friday night in the room the hotel set-aside for us to socialize and play guitars. My friend Wendy was playing with a Lego Mindstorm robot and the Microsoft Robotics studio and was having problems getting her program to work correctly. There were a few other people at the same table so here are four professional software developers with probably three or four decades experience combined sitting there trying to make this program work but it wouldn’t go. Then Wendy’s 16 year old son (who was with her at the conference) sits down at the laptop, removes a few components then replaces them, and the whole thing started working. Total time expended by the professionals: at least an hour with no progress. Total time expended by the 16 year old: probably about 2 minutes with total success. Guess we all need to go find new careers. (As a side note it was quite a treat to see a mother and her 16 year old son pair programming. That’s a combination you don’t see every day.)
- Final high point was Saturday night. I was planning on just taking a pizza back to my room, watching a movie, and calling it an early night cause I knew I had a long drive home Sunday. But I went down to the bar anyway and found the DevExpress gang; Gary Short (@garyshort), Plip Winstanley (@plip; who isn’t actually part of DevExpress) and Rachel Hawley (@rachelhawley; one of the famous Rachii) along with Seth Juarez (@sethjuarez; who did a double session on machine learning that I’m really sorry I missed.) We spent the next few hours discussing everything from software development to the geo-political state of the world. If you ever want a really eye-opening experience speak to people from another country (Gary, Plip, and Rachel are from the UK) about their views on your country. Definitely food-for thought. Conversation continued on the patio with Miguel Castro (@miguelcastro67) and John Petersen (@johnvpetersen.) I now know a lot more about 18 and 25 year old Scotch whiskey than I did before.
Next year’s CodeStock conference isn’t scheduled yet but will probably be sometime near the middle to end of June. If you’re on the East Coast (or even if you’re not) you really need to consider adding this one to your conference schedule. I’ll be getting the slides and code from my talk to Michael within the next day or two so be sure to watch your email for his blast. I’ll also post them here and tweet/blog when they’re up.