When I first started getting this post out of my head I began it with "My whirlwind recount of an amazing 5 days in Denmark". Then I got a little carried away and it kept growing. So with that in mind, I hope you enjoy my musings around what I feel is one of the best developer conferences around.
It’s 4am in the morning and I’m blurry eyed, having just woken up to begin my journey to Denmark to take part in the biggest Umbraco Developer Conference / Festival of the year. Am I tired? A little bit. Am I bothered? Hell no.
This is the 4th time I’ve been fortunate enough to experience CodeGarden in all its splendour, and the simple thought that soon I’ll be reunited with my friends from all over the world has me buzzing. By the time I left the airport in Copenhagen I’ve already joined up with a small flock of fellow Umbracians.
As I took an early flight this year, I had some time to kill and decided to make it a mission to finally go to Warpigs for lunch. Having only heard great things about it, it felt like the right thing to do and thankfully it met all expectations. A perfect start for the week ahead.
Fed and watered, our blessing of Umbracians (did you know a group of unicorns is called a blessing?) hopped on the train to Odense so everyone could get checked in to their various accommodations, grab some food from the wonderful Storm Pakhus and head over to the CodeGarden pre-party at Umbraco HQ. Greeted with high fives, buckets of drinks both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, a magnificent glitter ball and a multitude of friendly faces, the feeling of community instantly washed over me. It was lovely to finally meet some of the new friends that I’ve made online since the last CodeGarden, and was also delightful to see the branded car that the folks from the Dutch Umbraco User Group drove over in.
Day 1 & 2
Alongside the visit to Warpigs, I had a number of other achievements I wanted to unlock this year, including attending CGRunners. As someone who doesn’t run, I’ve been trying to push myself into going more often when the opportunity arises, and having run at the Umbraco UK Festival and CODECABIN I decided that I’d squeeze my trainers into my bag to get involved once again. Starting at 7am, and with a fantastic turn out, it proved to be a brilliant way to begin the day. We did a 4.5km (ish) route that took us alongside the beautiful canal and I also managed to have a good conversation with Rachel Andrew around the work she does. As someone who’s followed her work for many years it was quite a treat. After that it was a quick stop back at my Airbnb to have a shower and I was off to DOK 5000 to register and pick up my name badge for the next few days.
This year, Umbraco had scheduled a pre-keynote session for the first timers to CodeGarden. Led by the ever encouraging Umbraco community members Carole Logan and Doug Robar, newcomers were treated to an insightful introduction to the Festival, being told about what to expect, things that have happened in the past that have become a meme and more. It was a brilliant way to get everyone really introduced into what it means to be at CodeGarden.
After the introduction session it was time for the keynote. Starting off with the signature Level 5 Good Morning, there were loads of interesting announcements to be made. Here are just a few of the things that were mentioned.
- Automated CDN and Cloud Indexes
- The start of a Roadmap
- Plans to update the Rich Text editor
- Request for Contributions (RFCs)
- A rethinking of the grid editor
- A migration tool for Umbraco 7 to Umbraco 8
- And more
We also got something else new for this year, a few minutes of breathing exercises by Kris Demnick to get everyone energised. I thought introducing the mindfulness sessions to all 700+ attendees at the start was a fantastic idea.
Alongside the news from HQ we also got to see some highlights from Nathan Wolfes’ Preflight content app which looks like the perfect tool for editors to refine their content. It was also great to see recognition to the numerous community efforts, from CODECABIN and Umbraco Virtual to the UPractitioners and the work we’ve been doing in the Accessibility Team.
Every year Umbraco HQ also nominates and selects people in the community who have added "extraordinary value to the project" and award them an MVP (Most Valuable People) award. This year I was incredibly humbled to be presented with one of the awards, along with 13 other amazing Umbracians who have contributed in so many different ways, from helping other people via the forums, submitting pull-requests, creating packages, organising meetups and much more. It was an amazing way to start the conference and the good feelings stuck with me throughout.
With the keynote finished, I headed over to the Barn to get started with the uBuddy program, in which 26 volunteers from the Umbraco community could help introduce some first timers to CodeGarden, helping to answer any questions, and providing a friendly face should they need it (you’d be hard pressed to find a non-friendly face in the Umbraco community to be fair). Meeting new people and bringing them into the world of Umbraco is such a rewarding thing to do, twitter handles were exchanged and we caught up throughout the conference (we even encouraged one of the uBuddies to get their nails painted with the CG colours, thanks to Emma Bustov for that).
Now introduced to some friendly new Umbracians, it was straight on to the next session. Pretty much every single session left me with a serious dilemma. There were simply too many talks that I wanted to see that overlapped throughout whole conference. There are definitely worse problems to have and I can do nothing but applaud Umbraco and the team who organised CodeGarden for creating such a stellar lineup.
Every year the variety of topics seems to get more and more diverse, from frontend focused talks such as Rachel Andrew's Grids All The Way Down, and Tim Kadlec's The Long Tail of Performance to people centric subjects such as Accessibility is for Everyone by Tiffany Prosser, Developing Talent by Emma Burstow and Empathy in Tech by Carole Logan.
Of course there were many Umbraco and backend related talks too, with Lars-Erik Aabech educating us on Automated Testing with Umbraco, Sebastiaan Janssen, Jan Skorvaard and Kenn Jacobson encouraging contribution in Building Umbraco - With a little help from our friends, and an inspirational look into Jeffrey Schoemaker's Dreams about Umbraco 8.x. This doesn’t even begin to cover the multitude of talks that I missed due to clashes.
Thankfully all of the talks are recorded so I’m looking forward to catching up when the videos are released. Beyond Copy + Paste: Interactive documentation by Maria Naggaga, You don't know GIT by Damiaan Peeters and Enhancing the Umbraco Experience using machine learning with Steve Temple are just a few of the talks I’d like to check off the list.
One of the other reasons for missing some of the talks was due to spending some time in the Dream Corner, a new introduction to CodeGarden this year where people could bring their ideas for Umbraco to the table, get help with PRs or find out more about starting a meetup with help from Umbraco HQ friends Ilham Boulghallat, Niels Lyngsø and Sebastiaan Janssen. Although I only managed to spend a small amount of time in the space, it felt like a brilliant initiative. I can’t wait to see some of the ideas come to fruition in the future.
Another part of CodeGarden is the Umbraco Awards. In 2017, Yoyo were nominated in the Jury’s Award category, and with one submission put forward for this year I attended once again with my fingers crossed. We were up against some fantastic submissions so I was absolutely thrilled when they called out that we had won Best Designed Site for the website astoryabouttrusts.co.uk. Then just as the shakes of nervousness and excitement were starting to wear off, we were awarded with Best Certified Partner Solution. Myself and the rest of the team at Yoyo are ecstatic.
Another highlight for me this year was finally meeting some of the people in the Accessibility Team that I have been working with for the past few months. It felt like our efforts to raise awareness around accessibility, both in general and in regards to the Umbraco backoffice have been noticed. The subject was raised in many of the talks and I had some great conversations with a number of people throughout the conference.
As is tradition, the first two jam packed days of talks are followed by the infamous Umbraco Bingo. It is said that the reason it’s so hard to describe is simply because it’s such a bizarre and entertaining event, explaining it to someone tends to result in a confused or bewildered expression. I figured I’d try and let the photos try to tell some of the story here.
I ended up waking fairly early on the third day of CodeGarden, and thought I’d help wake myself up by going for a swim in the open air pool that is on the way to DOK 5000. The water was beautifully refreshing and cool, and sauna afterwards put me in a fantastic mood. After the swim I headed over to the venue for a morning session of mindfulness and some tasty energy snacks.
The final day of CodeGarden is all about the Open Circles. For those who don’t know, the open circle concept provides all members of the community with the opportunity to open up a discussion around something they are passionate about in the Umbraco ecosystem. The ideas get fed around the community and can be incredibly influential into the future of Umbraco.
This year the ideas and discussions formed in the retreat helped to provide a focus for the open circles, and lead to a lot of great sessions focused around backend and frontend development, the editor experience, community and more.
With the end of the 3rd day came the inevitable goodbyes, with hugs and high fives all round. I came away from this years CodeGarden feeling recharged and enthusiastic. The conference/festival feels like it’s constantly improving, evolving and maturing and this year was no exception. Umbraco have managed to find a brilliant balance between fun, friendliness, community, sharing of knowledge, support and zaniness among all the other things that make CodeGarden stand out from other conferences.
In particular, their dedication to making the event a more diverse and welcoming place for all always shines through. Last year, for example, the male to female speaker ratio was 8:1, this year it was 4:1. Obviously it’s not perfect, but it shows another step in the right direction. It’s also been really inspiring to see the number of women attending CodeGarden increase year after year in the 4 years I've been attending. Just looking at the comparison between then and now.
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to become friends with so many people in the Umbraco community, many of which are in the photos above. All of them have helped form the way I think about my role as a developer, from technical ability to viewing the world with a greater level of empathy and beyond. So I’d like to finish up by thanking all of those people and of course Umbraco for creating something that goes beyond a CMS.
High Five You Rock Umbraco community.