My Experience at CodeMash 2024

So I actually went to a developer conference with the express goal of trying to network a bit more. I largely achieved that, but also got a lot more out of it!

Given when I am writing this, you may be wondering why it took me so long to write my experiences from it. Well for that answer, see my Reckoner update. The TLDR is that I had a lot of Reckoner fixes to make especially since I am using it for my personal financial tracking!

General Thoughts

It was interesting coming to the 17th CodeMash, named CodeMash Prime. In a lot of way I was outside of some of the in-jokes made by Brian and some of the other organizers on the stage. With that said, they were very transparent and include information on their financials and why they made certain decisions. I applaud the transparency and openness to their community.

One of the driving decisions I made for this conference was the affordability of the conference. In my case, I had to pay for myself and took unpaid time off. I’m a contractor with no PTO ☹️. So it was a double whamy for me financially. I do appreciate how they try to keep the conference costs as low as possible.

The other driving decision to attend this conference was the fact that it was reasonably close to me (within one day drive) and had more sessions which I found myself drawn to. I found a list of midwest tech conferences from this LinkedIn article and started to filter them by the topics and session. In addition to having a bigger variety of sessions, it was earlier in the year and longer than the other conferences.

I only attended the second half of the conference. CodeMash is divided into two pieces: workshop focused sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday where you work on and build something and then shorter 1 hour conference sessions on Thursday and Friday. In addition to the financial constraints I listed above, I didn’t see a workshop I was particularly motivated to attend this year. I heard a lot of people sing the praises of these session, so I’ll look to see if there’s a workshop I really want to attend next year.

People and Fun Events at CodeMash

The majority of the people at CodeMash were there sponsored by they work. I met a few other people who were self-funded like myself. The plurality came from the cities of Cleveland/Toledo, but there were plenty of people from adjoining states to Ohio and even further afeild. I happened to talk to and meet people from Sherwin Williams and made a few LinkedIn friends from the encounter. Everyone was plenty friendly and polite.

The Thursday night festivities were quite good. First, there was a desert bar with all of the diabetes inducing foods you wanted to partake in. Then there were a variety of activites to choose from ranging from laser tag, to Smash Bros tournament, a casino event, and board gaming among others. I decided to start in the casino event.

I enjoyed burning all of my gratis poker chips at the casino event. At the casino, you were handed “$25” in tokens and could partake in other gambling events like roulette and black jack. Actual money COULD NOT be used and you could trade in your chips for raffle tickets at $10 in tokens a pop. I just enjoyed playing the games and gambling all of my funny money away.

After the casino, I went to the board game room and found some more people to game with. I actually enjoyed this more than the casino area as it is one of my favorite activities to do with people. I stayed up waaay to late, but enjoyed it.

Valuable Sessions

I won’t go into every session I attended. Instead, I’m going to highlight the sessions that held particular value for me.

Verbs, Not Nouns: Writing Documentation Users Want to Read

This was presented by Brian MacDonald. It was the first session on Thursday and really highlighted all the things I was doing wrong in the Reckoner documentation! I took plenty of notes and know where to look at to find good example documentation to emulate. I have not yet made the changes as I’ve been doing code fixes for Reckoner this month.

Take Back Control - Introducing Veilid

This was a very interesting talk to me! Not only that, but I changed my schedule at the last minute! It was presented by Bill Sempf and provided a brief introduction to the Veilid network and application layer. In short, Veilid is providing a new network stack to provide peer-to-peer communication at the application layer with end-to-end encryption. This exactly solves the issue I had in the August Reckoner update where I gave up on peer-to-peer device synchronization. Not only that, but Veilid is target Flutter as the application framework with first-class support!

A better match couldn’t be made! I just haven’t had the time to explore integrating this into the app as I have been squashing bugs and trying to make Reckoner more available in application stores. It’s definitely on my list to do exploration of Veilid, but that will need to happen after improving the documentation and making Reckoner more widely available.

I was so excited by the prospect of integrating this into Reckoner that I couldn’t focus on the following session I had about AI security. That didn’t mean it wasn’t a good talk, but my mind was racing about some of the problems Veilid might solve for Reckoner!

Networking for Introverts: Build, Maintain, and Use Networks Without Being Creepy

This was another talk by Brian MacDonald about how to approach and grow relationships. One of the big takeaways I got from this which I have been terrible at following up on is that “not every post needs to be targeted at growing your network” and “relationships take work and cultivation”. I’m generally a poor person at creating the relationship building meetings with others. I intend to post more to Fosstodon about random topics of interest, but tend to be distracted by deep work.

Multithreaded Income: How Developers Can Achieve Parallel Success

This was a talk by Kevin Griffin who has a podcast by the same name. I have added his podcast to my rotation. He also comes from a FIRE (Financial Independence and Retire Early) background. It wasn’t so much the speech presentation itself, but the fact that he is interviewing other people who are pursuing side gigs to supplement/replace their main gig. I have been passively looking at the job opportunities in tech and noted a particular decline in the quality of offers being presented to me. So taking on a side gig would be a better way to grow my income.

You Are the Pilot: Getting Better with Code Gen AI Tools

There were soo many AI talks which I largely decided not to attend. Right now I think generative AI still hasn’t hit the peak of inflated expectations on the Gartner hype cycle. This was a talk by Sean Wedig and his goal wasn’t to sell me on using or not using generative, but to go over the trade-offs and how he manages to make it useful. My big takeaway is that the terms for generative AI are waaay to lenient on copyright and how they use your prompts to help train the AI (unless you’re paying a lot more as a business). It might be able to save time, but I’m waiting for locally runnable AI code generation helpers before I ever turn something like that on.

Final Thoughts

The big takeaway I took from this conference is that attending a conference is a time for you to expose yourself to other people and ideas which you wouldn’t normally have. I’m glad I went and plan to attend this in the future. I may look at a going to one or two of the other conferences, but if there aren’t sessions I’m interested in attending, then I’m probably better off not going. Not only would I not be getting anything from the sessions, but wouldn’t meet other people with a similar interest of some sort.

With that said I highly encourage you, dear reader, to look up conferences of interest to you! You never know what ideas you get from there will do for your personal or professional life. In a future article, I may detail how my time attending an ACES conference did help me get into my work in a previous company!