Umbraco Codegarden 2023

Hey there! Last week, something truly amazing happened in Odense, Denmark. It was the highly anticipated Codegarden 2023, Umbraco's main event of the year. If you're an Umbraco fan, this is the place to be. People from all corners of the world packed their laptops and made their way to Odense for three action-packed days filled with lively conversations, informative talks, inspiring keynotes, and of course, a fabulous Thursday evening dinner.

The Magic of Being There: Now, let me confess something—I missed out on last year's Codegarden, and boy, did I feel the void. Sure, I attended virtually when it couldn't be held in person, but trust me, nothing compares to the real deal. Being physically present at Codegarden is an experience like no other. The energy, the excitement, the sheer buzz of the Umbraco community is something you have to witness firsthand to truly appreciate.

The Welcoming Umbraco Community: You know how some tech conferences can feel a bit formal and impersonal? Well, forget all that when it comes to Codegarden. The Umbraco community is a breath of fresh air. From the moment I set foot in the venue, I was met with warm smiles and high fives! It's like being part of a big, happy family. Everyone is incredibly friendly, always ready to lend a helping hand, and genuinely interested in making connections. Whether you're a seasoned Umbraco pro or a first-time attendee, you'll feel right at home.

Inspiring Talks that Expand Your Mind: Let's talk about the talks at Codegarden 2023. They were phenomenal! Experts from various corners of the Umbraco ecosystem shared their wisdom, insights, and personal experiences. Each session was an opportunity to hear more about specific topics, gain fresh perspectives, and walk away with practical takeaways. Now, I could go on and on about each individual talk, but this time, I want to share something different that made this year's event a bit different for me.

Loniness: When I was travelling back from Odense to Edinburgh it struck me that I spent quite a lot of my time feeling lost, lonely and a bit down so I thought I'd put a twitter thread together about how I felt on the last day of the event.

Here is the thread that I posted on twitter:

Post 1- "So I found myself a number of times wandering around the venue at #codegarden this year feeling a bit lost. I know lots of people, lots of people know me, but yet I still felt alone at times. I couldn't find conversations or groups I felt I could join. I thought maybe... Cont."

Post 2 - "it was just me. Out of practice at big events but during today I spoke to 3 others and they all felt the same. It's odd feeling alone in one of the friendliest places I know. I can't put my finger on why it happened but I'm interested to... Cont."

Post 3 - "hear if others felt the same. If others did then I'd love to chat more about it, maybe over on discord. See if this is maybe due to some thing in particular. #codegarden"

The response has blown me away. A lot of well known Umbracians came forward on twitter / discord / mastodon and LinkedIn and said they felt the same. Some put it down to them just being introvert and they feel this way at all conferences while others said this was the first time they had felt like this too.

Day 0

Before the Umbraco HQ Pre-Party I headed to Storms (a big food hall with every type of food you could ever want), met up with others and had a fantastic time, catching up with people and then heading over to Umbraco HQ.

It was my first time at the new Umbraco HQ, and let me tell you, the building was absolutely fantastic. The atmosphere was buzzing with anticipation as old and new faces gathered, creating a sense of community that instantly made me feel at home.

The place was alive with energy, laughter, and the unmistakable feeling of being part of something special—the Umbraco community. While I was thrilled to reconnect with familiar faces, I was equally excited to meet new people, some of whom recognized me from social media interactions.

What made the pre-party even more memorable was the fantastic Hawaiian theme that HQ had decided upon. Beer pong was setup, chats and laughter echoed as people took aim at the cups with their competitive spirit - I started off not being competitive but that soon changed when myself and Karl T took on staff from HQ.

Let's not forget the pineapple bowling—yes, you read that right! Rolling pineapples down a makeshift alley was a hilarious and entertaining way to pass the time.

A great evening was had by all!

Day 1

Tuesday morning, the official kick-off day for Codegarden. As the sun rose, signaling the start of a new day, I eagerly joined the #cgRunners at 7am, ready to run along the streets of Odense.

#cgRunners: More than Just a Run:For those unfamiliar with #cgRunners, let me paint a picture for you. It's a morning ritual—a chance for Codegarden attendees to gather and embark on a 3k-5k run together before diving into the day's events. As I joined the group, I was thrilled to see both familiar faces and newcomers alike. Running alongside like-minded individuals created a natural environment for me to the easily start up conversations.

Discovering the Joy of uBuddy Sessions:After the run, I made my way to the uBuddy session—an initiative where experienced Codegarden attendees are paired with first-timers to offer guidance and support throughout the event. I had the privilege of being paired with two first-timers this year.

While the concept of uBuddy is fantastic, I must admit that I encountered a slight challenge in meeting up with both of my buddies throughout the event. Despite my best efforts, my path only crossed with one of them.

Some ideas that I had were on how the uBuddy session could be improved:

  • A dedicated "meeting point" within the venue - what I mean by this is actually a sign that says "Meeting point". This way you can say to your new buddies, I'll be at the "Meeting point" at 10am each day if you want to catch up. I didn't do this and it wasn't until after the event I thought about it. I could of setup my own meeting point when I first met them.
  • Make it clear that you don't need to sign up for the uBuddy session. I heard a few people after the event who didn't go to the uBuddy session because they thought they had to sign up. It was only if you wanted to be a uBuddy you had to sign up, not if you were a first timer looking for a buddy.
  • Make the uBuddy session a bit later on the first day. Maybe after the keynote. That way people can get to the venue and get settled a bit. Some people I spoke to after the event didn't know where the "Theatre" stage was until after the keynote, once they knew where each stage was. This meant they missed the uBuddy session.

After the uBuddy session, I found myself in a situation where loneliness started to creep in. The first two sessions of the day had me as a stage host, which meant I was responsible for looking after the presenters, keeping them on time and introducing the next speakers on stage. While surrounded by plenty of people, including familiar speakers, I missed the comfort of a group of friends to attend the initial talks with.

As the day unfolded, I realized that I had inadvertently spent most of my time moving from one talk to another without encountering anyone I knew. While I exchanged a few brief words with individuals and greeted those I passed by, it wasn't enough to alleviate the sense of solitude.

One contributing factor to this was possibly the venue itself, which was divided into three different buildings. This division made it all too easy to miss friends who may have been in a separate building or took a different route. Despite the shared excitement of Codegarden, the fragmented layout presented a challenge in maintaining a sense of togetherness.

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Day 2

Thursday proved to be another day of attending talks solo. Navigating through the attendees, I tried to find a spot next to someone familiar, exchange a quick greeting, and then focus on the speaker's presentation. However, the abundance of space this year, particularly in the new social area, made it challenging to naturally encounter people. It felt like everyone was scattered, making corridor chats something of a rare occurrence.

The evening dinner brought its own mix of enjoyment and challenges. Unfortunately, the seat I chose had two empty seats in front of me and one empty seat to my right, creating a void that made it difficult to engage in the conversation happening further down the table. Feeling somewhat disconnected, I found myself instinctively reaching for my phone to check Twitter and Discord for any ongoing chatter. In hindsight, I realized I had a choice to make—either move to a different seat for better conversation but sacrifice a clear view of the stage, or stay put and enjoy the visual experience. Perhaps I made the wrong choice, but in the end, it was a decision I had to make in the moment.

Following the dinner, socializing time began, and I spent a good couple of hours wandering around the venue in search of a familiar face. However, dim lighting and the darkness outside made it difficult to approach anyone confidently.

I left the venue and headed back to the hotel having had a good evening but I felt I had missed something.

Day 3

The final day arrived, and I found myself back in my comfort zone. Surrounded by a group of friends, we sat together, working on pull requests while sharing jokes and discussing code. It was a relaxed atmosphere, laptops open but still filled with fun.

While I may have experienced moments of loneliness, I know I'm not alone in feeling this way. Codegarden is renowned for being the friendliest conference out there. However, I believe we can make the experience even better for those of us who struggle in crowds.

Upon sharing my thoughts on Twitter, I received some fantastic suggestions from the community.

One idea was to reintroduce mindfulness, yoga, or relaxation sessions, which could provide a much-needed space for rejuvenation.

Additionally, having gentle reminders during the conference to invite those hovering nearby to join the conversation, this could foster inclusivity.

In 2018/19, we had color-coded stickers on our badges, and although challenging to remember, they served as conversation starters. Perhaps incorporating simple indicators like "Happy to chat" or smiley faces could be a friendly gesture. Alternatively, distributing blank stickers and marker pens would allow individuals to personalize their badges, sparking intriguing discussions. Another suggestion was to create a designated "Lost and Found" or "Come and Chat" area where individuals struggling to find a group could gather, making it easier for others to approach them.

These are just a few of the many ideas that have emerged from the community. Together, we can continue to brainstorm and find new ways to enhance the friendly atmosphere of Codegarden.

These are just some of the ideas that the community have come up with but I'm sure we can think of other ways to make this event even more friendly.

Ultimately, the purpose of this blog is to remind those who may have felt low, lonely, or lost at Codegarden this year that they were not alone. I invite you to return to Codegarden next year, knowing that others may share similar feelings. It's okay to simply listen, take time for yourself, or reach out to others for a chat. Embracing the spirit of community, we can create an even more welcoming and inclusive environment at this remarkable event.

Published on : 20 June 2023