CodeMash 2015 After Action Report


I was fortunate enough to attend CodeMash about a month ago. Overall I thought it was worthwhile. I wanted to share my notes in case anybody is considering attending and as a snapshot of the development landscape in early 2015.

Elixir talk

Background & Logistics

CodeMash is a software development conference in Sandusky, Ohio at the Kalahari water park / family resort. Held annually in January, it's widely known for copious amounts of bacon (of which there was none this year). The conference is officially technology-agnostic, but I found it to be roughly 50 / 50 between Microsoft-focused and non-Microsoft-focused.

The best way to experience this conference is by staying at the resort but this year unfortunately all the rooms were quickly sold out. Many attendees, myself included, needed to stay in nearby hotels. This isn't much of a big deal except when there's a -22°F wind chill and a threat of snow. The organizers provided free and swanky transportation to all the area hotels which was very nice, they even had a "shuttle tracker" google maps page to satisfy any OCD that may have ensued.

Aside from needing to stay off-site, the conference was comfortable and well-run. If you're considering attending CodeMash, just go ahead and do it. It's a good conference for the money. It's also great for families but only if you get a room at the resort.

Functional Programming

I attended a few talks on functional languages and really enjoyed them.

The F# talks were the most-attended. One of them was a re-implementation of WebAPI, which is a great example since it's ultimately HttpRequest -> HttpResponse. TypeProviders were also used to demonstrate generating Types by interrogating a SQL database.

F# isn't new but it's gaining momentum. There are a lot of good reasons to consider it as your general-purpose language. I heard it said more than once that shops are embracing F# primarily as a recruiting tool, for better or worse.

Elixir was fascinating. Imagine the power of the Erlang VM with a much more usable, ruby-inspired functional language. I saw a demo where the speaker spawned 250,000 processes in three seconds. I expect it to be widely popular with Rubyists who want alternatives for scaling backend software and are interested in FP.

Elm is a new functional reactive client-focused language which compiles to JavaScript. It's heavily inspired by Brett Victor's talk and the concept of immutable data flows which can be replayed. The talk I saw was a very impressive from-scratch implementation of the classic "snake" game in about 20 minutes. I don't think Elm is ready for prime time yet but it's fun to check out, especially if you're into FRP and games. Also check out PureScript if you dig this idea.

Hardware

The Oculus Rift was fun but not life-changing or the Next Big Thing™, IMO. It's just not for everyone. Pickpockets will LOVE it. I think the killer app will be immersive movies where the only interaction you need to do is move your head a little. Fast motion with complex interaction might never break out of the hardcore gaming niche.

There are many well-funded "Internet of Things" vendors these days and it's definitely at the top of hype cycle. There's a lot of opportunity there for companies large and small but it's very nascent. Until standards and APIs shake out, I think most mainstream developers will just have fun tinkering and programming robots to battle each other using JavaScript.

I saw a talk on Bluetooth Low Energy Beacons which was very interesting. They are very cheap (<$20) transmitters you can use in conjunction with receivers (smartphone, PC, other BT device) to do some pretty cool things like proximity-based marketing and tracking equipment. Great for large events, retail, airports, hotels, etc. This technology is mature and the beacons run for years on a watch battery.

3D printing was also a big thing, unsurprisingly. Here's somebody playing a 3D-printed violin:

JavaScript

Talks on JS frameworks like Angular were heavily-attended. The only one I went to was a talk about how one company went from Backbone to Ember but ran into problems and went back to Backbone. I left halfway through it because everything the speaker was saying about Ember was sadly already out-of-date. That's the problem with JS talks: they can get stale quickly.

I had a lot of conversations about JavaScript with other attendees. People were not excited to be writing so much of it, not having fun maintaining it, and stressed out from trying to stay current. Almost all of them didn't write any JS unit tests...

Other Stuff

There were a bunch of Xamarin talks which is to be expected. Overall, I think 2015 will be another big year for Xamarin and there are many others are entering this space this year.

Jimmy Bogard's talk on conventions was excellent. Don't miss a chance to see him speak about .NET architecture.

Graph databases are extremely cool if you deal in those sorts of data structures. Definitely check them out if you have not yet.

I attended several code-free talks on business, security, agile, UX and other topics. Overall these were very good and worth the price of admission but not worth describing here.

Conclusion

I got a lot out of CodeMash and would consider attending again if I get the chance. Here were the highlights:

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