After months of planning, deliberating over talks and hoping it would all come together, Campaign Monitor’s Devcamp for 2019 is over. A great 3 days of sessions and hangs was had and I’m so glad we got to run it.

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I’ve got a few thoughts I’d like to share on the experience while it’s still fresh in my mind.

Things I am left thinking from organising Devcamp

Have a website for distributing information

We found having a website allowed us to manage the schedule for the days on the fly and give important information when it was relevant. It also helped people add prerequisites for workshops where necessary.

Also, it was way better than hosting something on the internal company wiki or other channels, which are only accessible via VPN 😭

The site is as of writing still up at devcamp.club if you wanted to check it out; I’ll probably find some way to archive it so it doesn’t end up costing me to host it on Heroku.

Shirts!

Everyone loves free stuff. Shirts allow you to identify with the event, generate tangible excitement beforehand and if you have unique iconography for every year, it makes it kinda fun to wear in the future years to come.

Georgie did a really good job of canvassing people on options, and we had a few customisations to the shirt game this year - check it out here.

Always be cross pollinating

Check something out you may not have looked at before. Talk to people both those you know and those you don’t!

How to give feedback on talks + workshops

This is something we didn’t crack this time. The offsite is a time for people to hone public speaking skills, and people would probably love to get some constructive feedback. It’s part of the matrix we use to judge individual contributors and tech leadership alike, so it’s essential that we get better at it.

We floated a few ideas, none of which we got to implementing before Devcamp:

  • Red / yellow / green bits of paper that you could put into a bowl at the end of each session to indicate what you thought of it; this idea kinda sucks as it doesn’t offer any meaningful feedback and could be down to how the audience member was feeling on the day or any other arbitrary reason
  • Small sheets of paper that people could scribble ideas on off the back of the session; I like this idea and it would probably work for the type of event that we held since it was only around 60 people
  • Feedback forms online immediately after each talk for people to fill out; this one could also work, and would be the easiest to implement, but increases the barrier to entry since people would need to have their laptop or some other device out

Either way, we’d prefer to have immediate feedback since the longer you go before offering feedback on a talk or workshop, the less valuable the information will be to the speaker. Something for next year!

Try to make it accessible for all

This was also difficult and something we didn’t tackle this time around either. People like being far away from their daily troubles; it lets them think and be creative without the knowledge that they’ve only got thirty minutes till the next meeting.

But we also want to be inclusive of folks who can’t be there for the whole experience - and three hours is a long way to travel if you’re only going for the day because you have family commitments. We’re insanely family friendly here at CM and it’s something I pride the organisation I work for on. If we get to doing Devcamp next year, I’d love to do it closer, maybe the Blue Mountains or something.

Things I learnt from attending

  • Writing the HTML for emails is really fucking hard and I would tear my hair out if I had to develop templates with it
  • CQRS is really just all about moving complexity from one place to another and so maybe you shouldn’t do it for everything
  • After Ryan’s talk on designing micro interactions, I need to take a deeper look at styled-components; micro interactions really require flow and lots of time making small tweaks, and if you’re going to be making lots of small tweaks you want to be having all your changes be colocated
  • How to write a custom React hook - which I’d never done before
  • The benefits of graph databases when traversing lots of relational data

What am I gonna do next?

Look, not a lot. I’m feeling pretty recharged from this experienced though, and I got a lot of good memories from it all.

I registered the domain haikufriday.club and pointed it at a Netlify build, and I want to actually make use of it to host a randomly generated haiku every Friday. I don’t yet know how to generate a haiku procedurally, but that’s half the fun, right?