Software development madness returned to Louisville, KY last week by way of the third annual CodePaLOUsa (April 25-27, 2013). I attended last year, so I knew what to expect and was once again impressed. The conference provided the usual mix of technical sessions, food and refreshments, and plenty of opportunities to socialize and visit vendor booths.

The keynote

Richard Campbell, co-host of the popular .NET Rocks! talk show, delivered the keynote. I was intrigued by his discussion about Humanitarian Toolbox, which is basically an open source initiative to build software for disaster relief. I heard the phrase “when disaster strikes, code saves lives” — the key being disaster relief needs software for its efforts. The initiative utilizes Geeks Without Bounds. Helping others in a crisis is not a new concept, but giving back with respect to IT skills is new to me.

Sessions about tech and soft skills

A large portion of the conference’s content was focused on Microsoft and .NET, but there were also sessions about developing for mobile platforms, web user interface and accessibility, Ruby, Java, development methodologies, and testing. One methodology referenced numerous times was continuous delivery (i.e, rolling out code updates as available). I haven’t used this approach as it seems prone to introduce bugs, but I suppose it can work for certain organizations, specifically smaller shops.

I loved the session that dove into F# code, which was presented alongside its C# equivalent. The F# syntax is a different beast, and the idea of returning to functional programming is intriguing.

It may be my mentality this year or my age, but I found the more general topics useful. A good example from Friday’s lineup was Navigating the Open Source Legal Waters. I use a lot of open source tools daily, so learning more about the community and license issues for using other tools as well as developing my own was beneficial. While the term “free” is often thrown around with respect to open source software, there are certain guidelines to follow. The session provided a lively discussion on open source license options, and how what is used depends on the situation.

While Ernie Miller is a Ruby and GitHub zealot, his The Most Important Optimization: Happiness talk was a pleasant surprise; I especially liked the discussion about working remotely. Miller said money should not be the end-all for developers (which drew mixed reactions from the crowd) and work should not be your only source for friends.

The sessions and discussions were lively, and I found them much more useful than straightforward how to do specific things in code. The open source and happiness types of talks are often lacking at other conferences I attend, but hopefully this will change, because being a developer is about much more than digging into code.

An intimate environment to talk and network

Smaller conferences are often cozy environments to meet new people and to have extended conversations with other attendees and presenters. CodePaLOUsa designated a few rooms across from the vendor exposition hall setup for such discussions. This gave me the opportunity to catch up with some former colleagues with whom I had lost touch over the years.

In addition, I heard speakers and others advertising a need for good developers. If you’re looking for a job in the Louisville area, this conference is a great networking opportunity.

A good investment

CodePaLOUsa is relatively inexpensive when compared with other conferences (it’s very affordable if you live in the area). If you live in the general area or are looking for a quality alternative to pricier options, plan to attend CodePaLOUsa in 2014. (I’ll update the post when the 2014 dates are announced.) We would love for you to visit our fine city.

What developer conferences are your favorites? Post your recommendations in the discussion.

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