Twin Cities Code Camp Recap

(I know I promised this over a week ago, but hey, it's not like I get paid for this...)

The first Code Camp went off well, and Jason Bock deserves big props for setting it up and running the show. The event was well attended. I heard there were about 200 people there. And there were some great prizes (including two XBox 360s and two iPod Nanos) from the sponsors.

I went in knowing that it was highly .NET/Microsoft centric, and it was. Probably 80% of the people there were .NET developers. They even had Windows laptops! It was amusing to see the "different" (but, really, more typical) Dells, IBM, Sony, and HP laptops.

What about the content? When I first heard about Code Camp, I wondered how it would differ from BarCamp. I wrote at the time, "The difference from BarCamp seems to be more structure and a code-only focus." That turned out to be true. BarCamp is very ad hoc and diverse. Code Camp was more structured and more narrowly focused. Also, due to the venue, there wasn't a whole lot of room for social interaction, which is one of the best parts about conference. Indeed, the BarCamp model is to take the between sessions conversations and stretch them out to the whole conference.

My take on Code Camp is much like Jon Dahl's constructive criticism. In the future, I'd like to see more varied types of presentations and separate tracks for different technologies. It sucked getting stacked against Charles Nutter's JRuby demo. It'd be cool if there was room for everyone to socialize at lunch and during breaks. And some of the rooms didn't have projectors, but instead everyone got a monitor that mirrored the "instructor's". This was awkward because everyone is looking down instead of at you. (But having done some venue-hunting for MinneDemo I know that finding a place that accommodates all needs is murder).

That said, I think my perspective is a little different as a speaker. We had our own room for decompressing and socializing. I had a good long talk with Nathaniel T. Shutta (who I will just call "Nate" from now on to save typing...), catching up from RailsConf in Chicago, and finally met erstwhile Ruby developer Jake Good, who promises he'll come to a Ruby Users of Minnesota meeting real soon now. After my talk, Jinesh Varia from Amazon and I talked in more detail about REST versus SOAP. The speakers were also treated to an after-conference beer at a nearby sports bar.

But wait, presenters shouldn't have a different, better experience than attendees, the BarCamper says. Everyone should be a participant!

That's the biggest problem with the presenter/audience format. On the plus side, the content is more central, which leads to learning more.

The Talks

I attended Jinesh Varia's Amazon Web Services presentation, Cory Smith's XBoxFriends talk, Nate Schutta's Foundations of Ajax, and of course my own session on REST. Here's some thoughts on those.

Jinesh Varia, Build Innovative Applications Using Amazon Web Services

I figured I had to go to this because I was talking about Web Services, too. Jinesh talked primarily about Amazon S3 and EC2, which I was familiar with. However, he really opened my eyes to the possibilities here. For example, I didn't know that Smug Mug is now hosting all their photos on S3, and saving a bundle on bandwidth, too. I also learned that developers can create EC2 machine images (like a VMWare image) that can be loaded (and unloaded) on new virtual machines on demand...that's pretty cool.

Cory Smith, XboxFriends...Under The Covers

XBox Friends is a AIM-like application that tells you (from your PC) which of your XBox buddies are online, and what they're playing. So if they break out the Gears of War, you can join them. Being neither an XBox owner nor a .NET developer, this talk didn't hold much for me. I went because Jake Good told me to go to Cory's talk instead of his. :)

However, I will say that it was an entertaining talk, and Cory did a great job of presenting in a PowerPoint-less manner. He showed us real code, examples from his program, and talked about the challenges of getting XBox Friends to work (screen scraping, yeck!).

Nate Schutta, Foundations of Ajax

Nate's written a couple of books on Ajax, so I didn't want to miss this one. It was primarily a compression of the Ajax overview that he gives for the No Fluff Just Stuff tour, and as such was pretty polished. He gave a similar presentation at MinneBar in May, but this one had updated content as the state of Ajax has matured quite a bit since then.

Luke Francl, REST and Its Discontents

My own talk was mixed. I tried to talk about the advantages and disadvantages of REST versus SOAP, but my understanding of SOAP is somewhat feeble as I've never used it in a real project. I could have done a much stronger job explaining why the audience should care about REST.

I also was about 5-10 minutes short on material and didn't have a class handout sheet, which I like to do, but I didn't devote enough time to the presentation to finish these things. I think if I gave the talk again it would be much stronger.