Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Richmond Code Camp - A look back

Over the past year, I've been getting more involved in the software development user community. I've become an active member and presenter at the Rockville .NET user group, presented at Microsoft TechDays 2008, and presented a few topics at the Northern Virginia Code Camp, including *shameless plug* an upcoming introduction to SketchFlow this Saturday, Oct. 10.

A few days ago, I attended the Richmond Code Camp, but as an attendee instead of a presenter. Though I'm still kicking myself for not signing up to speak there, I must admit that the Richmond Code Camp was a very valuable experience to me. In case you're on the fence about attending a Code Camp in your area, let me share a few of my takeaways and (possibly) sway your decision.

For the community, by the community
Code Camps are free for attendees. And the content is presented by volunteers. At RCC, speaker experience varied from first-timer to seasoned MVP. Some were local, some came from hundreds of miles away. Some showed slides, some cranked code. Regardless, these presenters took time to build some great learning material, posted samples on their blogs, and made themselves available for Q&A during (and even after) their sessions.

If you've been trying to meet some people who are knowledgeable (or experts) in a particular area, Code Camps are great for that. At RCC, there were experts in so many area: XNA, presentation patterns, .NET memory management, CLR and DLR inner workings, LINQ and expression trees, ORM, git... the list goes on and on. It was very easy to meet people, exchange contact info (twitter seemed to be the most popular way), find out about user groups, even inquire about possible career opportunities. I'm now following a slew of people I met at RCC, and it's great seeing the contributions they make to the developer community.

Not just for beginners
You might think Code Camps are more beginner-oriented. While there are beginner sessions (many, in fact), there are definitely advanced topics as well. At RCC, some of the more advanced topics covered expression trees and in-memory lambda compilation; C# garbage collection algorithms and performance issues; app dev with XML databases; and Cloud Computing with Azure, just to name a few.

Looking back
When I signed up for RCC, I was content just being an attendee. As soon as I showed up, though, I was kicking myself for not preparing a talk! This was a great group of people, and there was definitely a level of excitement buzzing through the halls (and on Twitter - just check out #RicCC). This was a great venue for sharing.

The Fall Season of Code Camps is upon us. Several are coming up soon, including Philadelpha PA, Charlotte NC, Columbia MD, and Reston VA just to name a few. If you have the time, I urge you to visit one, either as an attendee or as a presenter. If you've ever wanted to do a tech talk, but find the crowds intimidating, Code Camps are very relaxed and casual, with sometimes no more than 10-15 people in a classroom. And... people tend to be very understanding if things don't go exactly to plan (projector woes, lost slides, crashing code... "it" happens...).

More info
To find out about the Code Camps and user group meetings in your area, check out Community Megaphone, a great resource built by G. Andrew Duthie, a Microsoft Developer Evangelist in the Northern Virginia area.

Did I sway you?

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