This year’s Codegarden fell slightly earlier in the year compared to previous years. I was looking forward to going, of course, but I’d be lying if I said the majority of my focus in the lead-up wasn’t almost entirely on exactly how cold and wet Denmark was going to be in the middle of May.
Our own Emma Burstow, Crumpled Dog developer and 2018 Umbraco MVP, along with our technical director and five-time MVP(!), Jeavon Leopold, had already left a few days prior for the Codegarden Retreat. Pictures were sent to our group Slack channel – photos of developers on laptops hard at work, as well as some scenic shots of what seemed to be gloriously sunny weather. I was informed Odense was surprisingly warm. “Do you mean ACTUAL-Warm or Jeavon-Warm?” I asked, suspicious, and prepared to disbelieve either answer anyway.
We set out on Tuesday, suitcases (my suitcase) full of just-in-case jumpers, and two Codegarden newbies among our ranks, arriving in Odense several hours later delighted to discover it was, in fact, Actual-Warm. Thankfully, the free Umbraco t-shirt (a really great design for this year’s event) would come in handy to tide me over the next few days of unseasonably toasty sunshine.
The event kicked off on Wednesday morning with the Keynote speech, which was, as it was last year, a positive and inspiring introduction to Codegarden. The main takeaway this year was continuing to encourage and foster an open-minded approach to the open-source project that is Umbraco.
This was interesting to me, from a project manager’s perspective, as it’s very easy – no matter the relationship you have with your team – to create divides between developers, project managers, and clients, with the assumption that everyone, separately, knows what’s best for their particular area of a project. The speech from Niels Hartvig (the Chief Unicorn), was a reminder that multiple perspectives from different sides can create a much more fruitful dialogue.
The friendly community spirit was in full swing this year at Codegarden. We managed to reconnect with Codegardeners from previous years, make friends with first-timers, have frank and productive discussions about accessibility and diversity in the community with a variety of people, and – a personal triumph – finally started putting names to faces amongst the who’s who of Umbraco.
For someone like me who has trouble retaining these details (especially when so many of the faces in question were very similar in the facial hair area), I have a solution for improving the Codegarden experience next year, as well as the name-retention rate, and it is this: more adventurous beards.
Photo: Greg Anderson
There was also a strong message of health and happiness in the workplace this year – Kris Deminick led some fantastic early-morning Mindfulness sessions to get you set up for the day, as well as a few yoga sessions for those of us that needed a good stretch after all the sitting and listening. It was great to see people turn up for these sessions, and a really great endorsement of the overarching attitude to workplace wellness in the Umbraco community.
There were several interesting talks to attend across the three days. For me, the most illuminating presentations focused on what we can do to make the back-office quicker, lighter, and more friendly to content-editors. Both Marc Goodson and Lee Kelleher’s talk on Atomic Design, and Pete Duncanson’s talk on Back Office speed hacks were helpful in emphasising the idea that, as a company that uses Umbraco, a key part of the development process should be the editing experience.
We often do a lot to minimise loading times on our websites, but could consider better ways of streamlining the content-entry process for the editors who might sometimes use the CMS for hours a day. Some great food for thought there that I will be bringing back to London.
Speaking of great food… a massive high five, you rock to the caterers at Codegarden who outdid themselves again this year. Considering the amount of hungry attendees needing to be fed, the process was incredibly efficient, and the food served was outstanding. The planning and management skills needed, particularly serving a three-course sit-down dinner on Thursday’s bingo night deserve a great deal of praise.
Bingo night this year was also a tour-de-force. Niels’ great sense of humour was on point MC-ing the evening, and there was some great entertainment on the bill, including a powerful rendition of GDPR policy through the medium of interpretive dance, an excellent Umbraco parody of Taylor Dane’s “Tell it to My Heart” with choreography demonstrated by Umbraco backing dancers in animal masks, and some truly joyful (and mostly useless) prizes that were collected by a suspiciously high number of Scandinavians.
The evening was rounded off by a Danish rapper and DJ who brought a fantastic energy to the crowd, followed by Cogworks’ resident DJ Adam Shallcross, who got everyone dancing until the early hours.
The final day gave us the opportunity to go to a variety of open space sessions. Crumpled Dog was represented by Emma leading a session on Umbraco’s ‘Our’ and how to improve it, and Jeavon led a session about the ongoing Umbraco documentation project. A great deal of productive discussion happened – the open space sessions are always a great opportunity to get a conversation started and enable people to speak up in smaller groups.
On returning to London, I asked some of our team to share some words about their experience this year, so here are our Codegarden newbies, Iulia and Jeric, and the Crumpled Dog resident MVP of 2018, Emma, on how Codegarden was for them:
Codegarden has been a very nice experience for me. I am very fortunate that I got the chance to attend this year. Everyone was very friendly and as we share similar interests it made it even easier to talk to one another. The conferences were very good as well and I feel they enriched me as a developer. Really hope to attend Codegarden again next year.
It's amazing to see and to listen to people from around the world at Codegarden which you normally only see them in the Umbraco forum. I loved every bit of the conference – from the Keynotes, the future of V8, the CgRunners morning run, the yoga sessions, the food, the sharing and all the positive vibes of the good communities.
This year's Codegarden was, for me, the best yet. Engaging talks, by community members and well-known speakers, a diverse range of sessions suited to the range of backgrounds of the ever-increasing attendees and, of course, the chance to spend time with other Umbraco community members and share ideas. I'm one of many who will have returned with that Codegarden buzz, full of ideas and ready to work.
As always, Codegarden was a fantastic event this year – smoothly-run, and filled to the brim with opportunities to learn, engage, and discuss with a variety of people in a friendly, open space. The Umbraco community is all about sharing work and contributing to a project that is made better by the participation of others, and it’s great for everyone to come together once a year in this spirit. Bring on Codegarden 2019!