CodeStock From Afar

I did not attend CodStock 2013, for reasons I choose not to detail here. CodeStock is a software developer conference which takes place in Knoxville, where I live. For the life of the event I have been involved in some fashion with the event and the social activities surrounding it. Because of my decision, I planned to be out of town during the event. I felt that integrity demanded that I be absent while attendees were in town for CodeStock.

My plan was to take my children to my parents’ house for their annual summer visit. I would visit for the weekend then come home after the conference concluded. This is where things began to go awry. My first mistake: I made plans with my parents. I should know better, but hope springs eternal. Mom and dad decided they wanted the kids to stay an extra week this year and they came the weekend before CodeStock to pick them up.

This left me in an uncomfortable situation. I could find some other excuse to duck out of town, or hide inside my house for three days with no external contact like a carrier of the plague. Ultimately, I decided to remain in Knoxville and go about my affairs as normal or what passes for normal in my affairs. I would simply live my life and ignore the conference activities. The conference occurs downtown in the culturally rich area of Knoxville. I live in the quiet, lifeless suburbs, far from disruptive and unpredictable things like culture. In short, there was little reason to expect my path to cross that of conference activities.

The next spanner in the works for my plans resulted from my previous actions. Shortly after CodeStock 2012, I invited my friend Julie Lerman to keynote CodeStock 2013. She was hesitant at first but I convinced her that she had something unique to share and she accepted the invitation. A few weeks before the event, Julie asked if she could stay at our house. Previously, my wife and I were Julie’s guests during a trip to Vermont. My wife and I were thrilled to return the favor. I was also relieved because I hadn’t seen Julie for years and hated to miss her while we were both in town.

After those plans were made, I was contacted by my wonderful friend and beautiful mess, Rachel Reese. Rachel brings joy and enthusiasm wherever she goes. She just tends to go before she remembers to make plans. She asked to stay with us as well. Because my two children were away, we had an open bedroom to offer Rachel and gladly invited her to stay in our home.

I enthusiastically awaited the arrival of our two house guests while retaining my sense of integrity, since none of these developments, all of which happened to work in my favor, were of my creation.

Another coincidence made my presence in town during the conference fortuitous. Several local developers and I get together bi-weekly on Thursday evenings for what has come to be known as Dev Beers. The latest gathering fell on Thursday evening as CodeStock attendees arrived in town. I participated in the meet up as usual, reminding regular participants of the time and location via twitter without actively promoting the event to CodeStock attendees.

Naturally, some attendees answered this open invitation and joined us for beers. Other friends asked if we could to get together while they were in town and I invited them to join us as well. It was a wonderful evening and, again, my conscience was clear as I made no steps to take advantage of the presence of the conference. I did not, however, venture into downtown Knoxville to socialize with CodeStock attendees. Given my position, the thought of participating in the social activities surrounding CodeStock felt disingenuous.

Friday morning began well over coffee with Julie, Rachel and my wife, Michele. Afterward, Julie and Rachel left for the conference and I began my workday. I was very busy the week before CodeStock and I spent Friday working diligently. By the time I finished working, the conference was finished for the day. I met a local friend for a beer, returned home and didn’t leave the house again. Julie and Rachel came back around 8:30pm giving us plenty of time to visit before bed. Julie and I stayed up later than the others watching stupid YouTube videos and laughing hysterically.

Saturday morning, we had coffee with Julie before Michele drove her to the conference center. Rachel awoke a few hours later and we had an engaging conversation around the kitchen table. She asked me to help here perform her first pull request on GitHub and I gladly obliged. I love the open collaboration that GitHub enables and I’m always happy to help people participate.

Due to poor, or utter lack of, planning, the beautiful mess Rachel had to leave after lunch on Saturday to make a long drive. Julie returned to our house in the late afternoon to share the delicious dinner Michele prepared. The night after a conference concludes is one of my favorite social atmospheres. Julie had no further obligations and we talked and laughed and enjoyed each others company in casual nonchalance. After dinner, I played my guitar and sang a few songs for Julie’s entertainment which she politely pretended to enjoy.

Thursday evening, I told those present at the Dev Beers that they were welcome to join me Saturday evening at my home. Chapman Smith contacted me Saturday afternoon via Twitter to inform me that he had a bottle of Bourbon and ask if the invitation was still open. I assured him it most definitely was and suggested he stop by around 8:00pm.

Just as Julie and Michele settled down to watch the fantastic Wes Anderson film, Moonlight Kingdom, Chapman arrived with Spede Bryan, Srinu Tulluri and the aforementioned bottle of Kentucky’s finest export. We settled on the porch and proceeded to pass the next few hours sipping our beverages laughing and shooting our mouths off. Julie joined us briefly before going to bed. The bottle eventually ran dry and my new friends departed bringing the wonderful evening to a close.

Whenever I leave home to attend a conference, my wife says to me, “Don’t get sick.” I love going to conferences and seeing friends and making new friends. The downside is that I spend all my energy while I’m away from home and return exhausted, with a weak immune system. Predictably, I fall ill shortly after my return. During CodeStock this year, I had a great time seeing friends and making new ones without overtaxing my system.

Sunday morning was lazy and included pancakes, coffee and “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me”. Julie asked for a quick git tutorial and I helped set up her laptop with Chocolatey NuGet and configured ssh keys for her BitBucket and GitHub accounts. After a quick walkthrough of the basic git workflow, it was time for her to leave signaling the end of one of my favorite CodeStocks.

My decision not to attend CodeStock 2013 was unpopular with some and unintelligible to others but as Paul Anka wrote for Frank Sinatra:

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows and did it my way!