CodeStock 2019 Thoughts


I thought the Codestock conference was pretty smooth this year. I’m glad the free sodas made a return (last year, a can of soda cost more than a Starbucks latte, though that wasn’t the conference’s choice). I wish there was a little more variety in talks – everything is still web/.NET/soft skills. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of good talks – there are – but I keep hoping to see more Ruby/Python/Mobile/XR/etc type of talks so you have a more diverse (from a technical background) audience. It was hosted at the Knoxville Convention Center in downtown Knoxville, TN again this year. It’s a great space with plenty of room.

If you’ve never been, it’s a good deal if you’re anywhere close to Knoxville. Ticket prices vary each year, but it’s usually in the $125-$200 range if you get in at the “early bird” pricing. For that, you get two days of talks, lunch provided both days, a social event at the conference on Friday, and an after party later on Friday (though the after party doesn’t happen every year), and a nice conference T-shirt. It’s a great value overall.

I ended up having to skip Saturday due to illness, but here are the talks I attended on Friday.

Keynote: A Tale of Short Links

By Jeremy Likness

I enjoyed this talk, though it was a little different than previous keynotes. It was half about Jeremy’s history and half how he used Azure to solve a specific problem he had. I think the point of the talk was to point out how new tools are always becoming available that will save you time and/or money, so it’s important to stay on top of them.

Introducing .NET Core 3

By Jeffrey T. Fritz

This was a great overview/demo of .NET Core 3’s support for desktop apps. Jeff did a live demo where he converted a WinForms app over to .NET Core 3 without much trouble. He pointed out it was obviously a simple app and a production app would certainly take longer and have more fixes needed, but it works. The migration progress was a little clunky, but it sounds like that’s only because .NET Core 3 is still a few months out from being released – so all of the VS tooling is in flux or flat out missing at the moment.

Terraform: Everything as Code

By Andy Cowell

This was my first introduction to Terraform. I always had the impression it was similar in concept to a Dockerfile – not that it used Docker or any of that, but the same types of things you did in a Dockerfile would be what you did in Terraform…you were just targeting a physical server/VM instead of a container. My take away from this talk was Terraform wasn’t anything like that and it sounded like it was more trouble than it was worth. I came away from the talk wondering why you would actually use Terraform given how limited it sounded. Maybe it was just the introductory nature of the talk that a lot of important details were skipped, but from what I saw, I wasn’t encouraged to try Terraform.

Goodbye REST APIs. Hello GraphQL!

By Cory House
Slides & Resources

This was a pretty eye opening talk about GraphQL. I’ve heard of it and seen a few examples, but I didn’t understand how the backend was implemented. Cory didn’t get a chance to go into too much detail on the backend side of things, but he gave enough info in the talk to get a feel for what is going on. I can see why it’s a powerful technology and it’s something I think I’ll experiment with in the future. His suggestion was to wrap your existing REST APIs with GraphQL so you can use both depending on which one made sense in a given situation. I believe I’ll try to implement this in one of my personal projects to see how it works. I do wish we had more time to go through filtering/paging/security in the talk.

Drawing: How to be a Superhuman Communicator

By David Neal
Slides & Resources

This was another great talk. I always enjoy David’s talks because they are a bit different from the usual tech talks. I was familiar with the tools David talked about – basically using an iPad Pro + Apple pencil + Sketches Pro, but, I enjoyed seeing his live drawing demos just to get a feel for his process. I really want to try this type of sketching/illustration and his talk was a good motivator.

The Highs and Woes of Innovation on a Small and Highly Effective Team

By Branden Schwartz

This talk was about Branden’s experience building & working on a small team within a larger organization. There were some interesting tidbits of what worked/didn’t work for them. I was hoping to find some action items that might help my current team, but I can see the tips working better in a larger company vs a smaller company. I used to work for a giant 60,000+ employee company and I could see these tips being handy there. I still had a few takeaways for my own small team at a smaller company.

Jeff Fritz’s Live Twitch Stream

This wasn’t officially part of Codestock per se, but Jeff does lots of live coding on Twitch and was able to setup a Codestock twitch stream. He talked to the Codestock organizers, quite a few speakers, and a few sponsors. I hope he’ll make this a part of the yearly conference since.

Full Schedule

If you’re curious what types of talks are at Codestock, see this PDF built by Cody Lambert from KnoxDevs. The schedule always changes just a bit due to cancellations/travel issues/etc, but that’ll give you an idea of what you’ll likely see at Codestock.