Codemash in Review

Finally returned to Chicago today after spending party of the week attending Codemash 2013.  Wow what a time, hats off to Brian Prince, Jim Holmes, Jason Follas, the .NET Rocks guys, and everyone who else who helped organize it, it seems to get better every year I go.

This Codemash was special for me mainly because it allowed me to see many of the people who I dont get to see as much anymore since moving from Michigan to Chicago.  Guys like Mike Eaton, Dennis Burton, Rob Gibbens, Chris Woodruff, David Girard and many more.  Conversations with them and the chance to hang out are simply special.

I really tried to stay away from sessions this year regarding Windows 8 or Windows Phone mainly because I have had so much exposure to it, that its not really something I can learn much more about.  Instead I focused on things like SignalR and AngularJS.  I even got to meet the legendary Jon Skeet in a session that made the members of the Microsoft language team who were present cringe, some of the craziest stuff done with .NET that I have ever seen.  And I got to meet one of the guys who I look up to tremendously, Richard Campbell of .NET Rocks.  The sessions were just so amazing and I loved the people and the parties.  Codemash quite simply rocked, nothing else need be said.

One of the other reasons that Codemash was exciting for me this year was my app.  I decided to take a different approach to writing a conference app this year.  In the past at conferences I have seen the shortcomings of apps designed on a “get info” model, where the user has to get or refresh the data.  This ends up being a problem due to the poor network connectivity at these conferences.  I decided to copy the Codemash REST API and provide an additional API to get changes to the schedule.  Users of my apps would then get notified when changes exist via Push.  While the changes would still have to be downloaded via the network, it would me much smaller and more targeted, thus be a much lighter request.

The result of this pilot was immense, people absolutely loved the idea.  So much that, though I screwed up the scrolling on the app due to a XAML mistake, people were downloading it and keeping it simply to know when stuff changed.  I think if the app had been A) released on time and B) not had the scrolling problem it would’ve received many more downloads.

But it being a pilot there were still problems.  Two times updates to the Codemash schedule (especially around Open Spaces) caused the change update process to crash.  This revealed to me that the applying of changes needed to be hardened so as not to bring down the entire app when a problem occurred, even though the problem was born external to the system.  But this is a relatively easy fix to make and it will be made for the next conference.

Speaking of conferences, I participated in a great open spaces section with Rob Gibbens, the masters of the Codemash REST API, and the organizing leaders for the St. Louis Day of .NET and Codeapolouza.  Their insights were very helpful and appreciated in helping us forge our idea to create a system whereby conference data APIs could be standardized.  I think this needs to happens, most geeks have smartphones, why should people be using a book to view session data.  The amount of things you could do with such a tool are limitless both to attendees and organizers.  Really cant wait to work more on the idea.

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