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Codegarden 2023: Return to Codegarden


Written by EB

Been a wild few years, hasn’t it? 

Since the last time I attended Codegarden, I moved out of London, went traveling, got trapped on the other side of the world at the start of a pandemic, accidentally spent two years in Aotearoa New Zealand, changed jobs three times, then moved back to Shoreditch and returned to work for the company I was working with before all this happened. 

We’ve all been through some significant changes in the past few years - our workplaces have found new ways of connecting in an era of remote teams, conversations around sustainability have come to the forefront of our work practices as concern for the environment rises, and every day, news alerts on twitter test our reserves of patience and credulity concerning the latest shenanigans of billionaires. But amongst all this, there’s one thing you can always count on:

Whether it’s your first or fifth or eleventh time, Codegarden will always be there to welcome you back.

An image of a group of Umbraco Codegarden attendees gathered on a stage. They have their hands raised, waving, and there is a sign behind them saying "Welcome to Codegarden".
Kicking off Codegarden 2023


This year, we were lucky enough to be gifted with an incredible three days of sunshine, along with a free t-shirt, delicious food, a fascinating selection of talks, and the opportunity, as always, to connect with and get inspired by Umbracians from across the world. 

A group of six people from the Crumpled Dog team sitting in the sun around a picnic table, eating lunch. The walls in the background have graffiti on them, giving the impression of a festival.
LR - Marc Goodson, Christian Stanley, Eleonore Beahan (EB), Simon Napper, Jeavon Leopold, George West


Within minutes of landing at Copenhagen airport and making our way to the train platform, the Crumpled Dog contingent had already bumped into faces old and new - including friend of the team, Canterbury-based Laura Weatherhead, and Codegarden first-timer, Ishraq Al Fataftah, who’d had to take a circuitous and lengthy route to Denmark all the way from Jordan via Norway for a visa. The effort and commitment to traveling over twelve hours to Odense to present a talk on composable architecture for her first Codegarden experience certainly put our own grumblings about a half-hour train delay into perspective. 

The conference itself was a brilliantly-run event, a festival-like friendmaking (not networking!) experience with a range of talks all helpfully tagged within the Codegarden app with its relevance for attendees (technical, DevOps, designers, general). With three different stages, we were also provided with location reminders, and useful timing alerts for those of us getting a little too distracted by playing hammerschlagen in the garden (a mysterious log-and-nails based sport, which can be played as a fast and loose bashing game if you've got no patience for rules, or played with all the precision of a professional, as explained by our own Marc Goodson in this video.)

A picture of two people from Crumpled Dog sitting in the sun on a bench in the Codegarden outdoor section, next to a blue paddling pool with colourful inflatables. They are wearing sunglasses and smiling.
Not pictured: background hammerschlagen tournament


For those of us less technically-minded (but very competent in our own field and not at all prone to feeling inadequate because we can’t do magic code stuff…) there were some great, thoughtful talks this year, with some very useful takeaways. 

Image of a stationary caravan inside a conference hall. There is a danish flag next to it, and it says "Partners Paradise" on the front.

An alternative meeting room

Laura Weatherhead’s talk on the compassionate developer was a good reminder to make space for different working styles across projects, as well as a fascinating look into the science and psychology (and she knows what she’s talking about - she’s got like, three masters’ degrees) behind how these differences manifest. 

Danny Lancaster and Molly Watt’s talk on fixing the six key common accessibility mistakes in website-building was a revelatory person-first insight into the reasons why these changes need to be implemented, and a good way to refresh our commitment to putting accessibility at the forefront of our projects, both for business reasons, but also as a form of empathetic understanding for the range of user types interacting with our work. 

Another brilliant talk (well-scheduled on Thursday afternoon, just in time to liven us all back up after lunch) was Jason Wodicka’s presentation on the brilliance of not being brilliant. These types of talks are not always as well-attended as others at Codegarden, as the emphasis is, understandably, on tech talks for developers, and with three stages to choose from, there will inevitably be a spread of audiences. 

However, this talk was a great reminder that, although technical presentations are important to expand technical skillsets, every developer is still a human person who works with other human people (until the AI bots take over…) and the ways in which we work together and interact as teams is a vitally important aspect of our daily lives. Jason’s emphasis on fostering environments in which a brilliant (and often the simplest and most obvious) solution is able to emerge, rather than focusing on individual cleverness, left us all with some healthy food for thought. 

And speaking of food - once again a huge congratulations has to go to the catering team at Codegarden for always providing such a range of tasty (and fancy!) meals and snacks for everyone (including vegan for our MD). The candy corner with multi-cultural Danish liquorice and Belgian chocolate was also very appreciated. 

A picture of a conference hall filled with banquet-style seating.
Getting ready for the Thursday night dinner


Aside from talks and nutritious lunches, the social aspect of Codegarden was also in full swing. The annual pre-party (free beer and the opportunity to catch up with all those Umbraco buddies you only get to see once a year) was a friendly (if muggy) kickstarter to the event, and the legendary Thursday night celebrations brought us an unprecedented amount of drama in the form of an Olympic-level Jenga game. You haven’t really experienced that Codegarden magic until you’ve watched hundreds of developers waiting with bated breath suddenly leap to their feet in excitement because some guy just pulled off a risky boardgame manoeuver live onstage. 

A picture of four team members from Crumpled Dog sitting at a dinner table. Two of them have face-painted designs, and one of them is wearing a sports-style sweatband.
Facepaint and UmbracOlympics


That’s the thing about Codegarden - it’s a fantastic way to build memories, to share moments with other people who share the same interests and values, and to create a sense of community. Umbraco has always been the friendly CMS, but it seemed to me that this year especially, after my three-year absence, with the ever-improving presence of women at Codegarden, the inclusion of gender minority speakers, and a commitment to increased diversity across the event, the sense of community is only getting stronger. 

For me, coming back to Codegarden this year was a fantastic way to immerse myself back in the waters of open source development, to get the updates from the front lines on what’s been happening at Umbraco HQ, and to reconnect with my team, with faces old and new. 

Image of two team members from Crumpled Dog, both wearing sports-style sweatbands. One of them is making the shape of scissors with his hands, and the other is making a rock shape, for a game of rock, paper, scissors.
Participating in an Olympic-level game of rock, paper, scissors.


A massive High Five, You Rock (H5YR!) to the Codegarden team for once again pulling off an incredible event, for providing an opportunity to learn, engage, and connect with people from across the world, and for being a stalwart presence in the work calendar for us all to look forward to every year. See you at Codegarden 2024!

Image of a sailboat in the foreground on a canal, with the sun setting behind a row of houses and trees in the background

Crumpled Dog are proud sponsors of

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