Owain is an Umbraco MVP, an Umbraco certified master and works on Umbraco projects on a daily basis. When not coding, he enjoys running, spending time with his wife and building lego!
2 years ago, I was a newbie to the Umbraco community. I was only just starting to play around with the Umbraco CMS and my mentor at the time, Barry O'Kane, suggested that I applied to CodeCabin 2017. I did but I really didn't know what to expect. I had only been using Umbraco for 3 or 4 months and even then it was just a personal blogging website.
As it happened, I applied and I was invited to CodeCabin 2017. This was the start of a crazy year or two for me. Even now I can't believe how things have gone. I have been organising the Edinburgh Umbraco Meetups for about 2 years, I've been awarded Umbraco MVP status 2 years running, I've had PRs accepted in to the core CMS code base and I've landed a dream job as an Umbraco developer at LEWIS.
I have a lot to thank CodeCabin for. I really do believe that without that first weekend at CC17, I wouldn't be where I am today. The attendees of CC17 probably didn't know who I was but I knew who they were. I recognised many of the names and I was so excited to meet them all. They were all super friendly and kind, a characteristic I now know to be what makes the Umbraco Community special.
What is CodeCabin?
It's probably easier to say was CodeCabin isn't. It's not a conference, it's not an event, it's not a holiday, it's not elitist. It is an invite only, 3 day experience. A chance for like minded Umbraco developers of all skill levels to come together and chat, code, socialise in a safe and comfortable environment. You aren't judged. You aren't look down on for asking a silly question. It's open to all and everyone is encouraged to apply, whether like me in 2017 you are new to Umbraco or you have been part of the Community since the early days, you're encouraged to apply. Lucy & Matt Brailsford and Lee Kelleher are the organisers and they are the hosts for the weekend. Everyone stays on site in a large self catering house in the Peak District and a schedule is agreed by everyone prior to arriving for the weekend.
This year, I almost didn't apply! I didn't think I could get the time off work and it wasn't until the final day of application submissions that I spoke to my boss and asked whether I could go. To my surprise, he said yes and so I had a day to write my application and submit it! I owe a massive thank you to my wife, Mandy, as she proof read my application multiple times! With about 30 minutes to spare, I submitted my application and waited.
The day came, an email dropped in to my inbox. I'd been successful! I was going to CC19.
A private slack channel was setup by the Lucy, Matt and Lee so that all the attendees could get to chat virtually before meeting in person at the weekend. I love this as it means you know everyone in some way before the weekend kicks off. You can start to chat about things and it gets rid of any awkwardness that might occur. It also gives you a chance to remember everyone's name prior to the weekend.
We quickly found out that there were people attending from all over the world this year. USA, Dubai, France, Belgium, UK, Denmark, Ukraine. A real mix of people and also experience.
Before we knew it, the weekend had arrived and we all headed to the Cabin for around 5pm. I had caught the train from Edinburgh to Preston where I would then meet Ismail who kindly offered me a lift to the Cabin. We arrived about 6:15.
Friday evening is a chance for everyone to chat, socialise and relax after travelling from all over. We had a couple of games of CodeCabin Guess Who, which was made by Lotte. She had printed off all of our Slack avatars and made them in to the game Guess Who. Brilliant fun and a great ice breaker.
Lucy had made a massive pot of chilli which was served up and the chatting and socialising continued in to the evening. I had headed to bed at an early-ish time as I had mentioned to others that I'd lead a 5k run in the morning and I wanted a clear head.
The topics we covered on the first day were:
- Umbraco Best Practices
- Self Development
- Hosting and Deployments
- The Future of CMS
Followed by some downtime before dinner was served. I found the talks really insightful and I learned tons.
Saturday night we were treated to a quiz by Kyle which was very entertaining. Some really tough questions in there, saying that, the questions are only tough if you don't know the answers and considering the team I was in came second last, we found it tough.
After the quiz the board games came out but I decided to try and get some more coding done as I had my eye on a Github issue for the Umbraco CMS repo that I wanted to submit for Hacktoberfest. While doing this, I was also helping Kieron submit his first Pull Request to an issue he had submitted. I really enjoyed helping him get started with contributing to the core.
I gave up trying to solve my own issue at around midnight and went to bed. I had arranged to meet a friend who lives close to the cabin for a long run on Sunday morning so I needed to get some sleep but I'd taken in to account that the clocks were to go back so midnight was actually only 11pm.
I woke up at 6am, met my friend at 6:15 and we enjoyed 2 hours of running some amazing trails near the venue. It was great catching up with him and seeing some of the beautiful trails that he has available to him. We caught the sunrise and almost ran in to a group of deers minding their own business. Stunning and I was set for the day ahead. Some others had only got to bed at 5:30am but giving credit where it's due, they were all up and ready for the first session of the day! I couldn't have managed that and was very pleased I went to bed when I did.
Sunday's topics were:
- Going Freelance / Running a business
- Package Development
- Commercial Umbraco Opportunities
- Web Performance and Optimisation
I had less to contribute to these talks but I sat on my laptop and Sven offered me some help on the Github Issue I was trying to solve. After 30 mins or so it turned out that the bug wasn't actually an Umbraco issue and it wasn't possible to fix it! You can read more about the issue on Github.
With this now settled I tried to setup Azure DevOps so that I could create a package that I can reuse as a baseline project. It's a work in progress but after chatting with Callum and Matt, I think I'm on the right route.
I also had a really good chat with Laura about her upcoming Umbraco UKFest talk and if you are attending UkFest next week, I highly recommend you head along to listen to Laura's topic. I'll be there for sure.
Throughout the day other mini groups were also chatting and learning from each other. Some were doing Mob programming, some were demo'ing projects they have worked on, others were launching new packages out in to the community and others were just relaxing and heading out for walks and some fresh air.
This is one of the great things about CodeCabin, there is no pressure to be part of every talk. If you don't find it relevant to you, then you don't need to go. For example, there were a couple of talks about being self employed or a freelancer, I don't have plans to do this any time soon so I just did my own thing.
After another amazing evening meal it was time for movie night. We all sat down and watched a movie (Mean Girls) together. I didn't last much longer after the end of the film so headed to bed.
I had planned to go for a run but my trainers were still wet from Sunday's run but I also woke up to find that a frost had come down over night and I didn't fancy slipping and sliding my way around a run just for the sake of it. I headed down for breakfast and then everyone chips together to tidy the accommodation. By 10am everyone had left and another CodeCabin was over for another year.
It's always sad to say cheerio to anyone from the Umbraco Community, whether they are new friends or friends you've known for years. I don't think there is a finer bunch of people out there.
If you are unsure about whether you should or shouldn't apply for CC20, don't think about it, just apply. No matter what your experience is, you'll get something out of the weekend. Whether it's learning a new skill or networking and making new friends. I doubt there is one person from this weekend who will feel it was a wasted weekend.
Follow CodeCabin on twitter and watch out for 2020 announcements for when applications open. I'll be reapplying.
In the meantime, I will be heading to UkFest next week, giving a talk at Edinbuug later in November about CodeCabin and Ukfest and I hope to be attending CodeGarden next year so feel free to speak to me if you have any questions about CodeCabin. You can also drop me a DM on Twitter
Finally, I'd just like to thank some people:
Thanks to LEWIS for allowing me to attend this event and covering the costs of my ticket and travel.
Thanks to the class of CC17 for persuading me to apply this year.
Thanks to Ismail for collecting me from the train station and driving me to and from the event.
Thanks to all the attendees of CC19, you were all so nice, friendly, helpful and fun to be with and last but by no means least, a massive #h5yr and massive thank you to Lucy, Matt and Lee for a fantastic weekend. You are all amazing people and it was an honour to be part of the class of 2019!
I can't wait to see some of you again at UKFest.