2 Oct, 2023

Andy's CODECABIN 2023 Weekend Diary

Well it's been just over a week, I've finally got over the blues and written up my personal account of my recent experience from its humble beginnings to its bittersweet ending.

CODECABIN has been an incredible experience that not only bolstered my self-belief but also helped me break through the walls of anxiety. As I arrived through the gates on that Friday evening, I felt a vulnerability that gradually transformed into confidence by the time I departed the following Monday morning. I was genuinely overwhelmed by how much I enjoyed the experience and how quickly it flew by. The event brought together a fantastic group of individuals from diverse areas of expertise, making it easy to connect with like-minded people. I never felt out of place and had the chance to interact with individuals I might not have encountered in any other setting. I'd definitely do it again.

Now, let's rewind a bit and provide you with some context from the very beginning...

CODECABIN is an exclusive annual event, accessible by invitation only, set in a remote location in the picturesque Peak District of the UK. Over the course of three nights, 20 participants stay in a spacious and charming house with breathtaking views. This event offers a unique opportunity for both familiar faces and newcomers to code, learn, and network in a relaxed environment far removed from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Sounds amazing, how do I get in?
This is an invite-only event that involves an application process. Applications open several months before the event, providing interested individuals with the opportunity to apply. The application form delves into your background, requiring you to effectively showcase your skills and qualities. Approximately eight weeks prior to the event, applicants receive an email indicating whether they've been successful in the application process or not.

I got accepted, what comes next?
Upon receiving the congratulations email, you'll be provided with a link to a questionnaire and a payment link for your ticket. A few days later, you'll be invited to the Slack channel, where you can virtually meet your fellow attendees and housemates and start planning for an exciting weekend. A Trello board will also be at your disposal, offering useful information, a platform for sharing session and hack ideas, and the event schedule and food menu later on.

Meet the organisers (Our hosts)
  • Lucy Brailsford: DevRel team member at Umbraco HQ
  • Matt Brailsford: Commerce technical lead at Umbraco HQ
  • Lotte Pitcher: Umbraco MVP and Community Package Team member
  • Lee Kelleher: Umbraco MVP and author of Contentment
  • Karl Tynan: Umbraco MVP and Senior Software Developer

The Weekend
Day 1 - Friday (5pm+)
The Journey
I had the fortune of living less than 50 miles away from the venue, allowing me to embark on a short road trip down the motorway, passing through Sheffield and into the heart of the Peak District. Just 15 minutes before my arrival, I was captivated by the distant mountains, as if they were painted by a divine hand with watercolors. My only regret was not pulling over to capture that moment in a photograph.

Upon arrival, I met with attendees who had already reached the venue, and most importantly, our hosts. Throughout the evening, more attendees trickled in. Spread out on the tables were everyone's CODECABIN swag, including a T-shirt, pad, pen, pin, and the optional hoodie (for an additional fee). This provided the perfect opportunity for icebreaker introductions and to coordinate bedroom assignments. I had the privilege of sharing a room with the fascinating Rich Jackson.

Welcome to CODECABIN 23
Later in the evening, after the majority of participants had arrived, we gathered for an on-screen presentation that covered details about the hosts, the venue, house rules, and plans for the upcoming weekend. This was followed by personal introductions, where each attendee had the chance to share their name, workplace, job description, and some fun facts.

Dinner is Served
Our head chef and co-host, Lucy, treated us to a delectable 'Spicy Three Bean Sausage Chili' served with sour cream, guacamole, tortilla chips, mature cheddar, jalapenos, and flatbread. Dessert was a 'Lemon and Ginger Cheesecake with Fresh Raspberries and Raspberry Coulis'.

Time to Unwind
The remainder of the evening was filled with socialising and board games. I was introduced to a fun game I had never played before, called 'OK Play.' It's somewhat reminiscent of Connect 4 crossed with Dominoes, highly addictive, and perfect for four players. We also had some Umbraco-themed games like 'Umdobble' and 'Guess Who?' with the CC23 attendees and Umbraco CEO, Kim Sneum Madsen. 

Later in the evening, some of us enjoyed stargazing through breaks in the clouds and witnessed mesmerizing distant thunder-less lightning. The countryside holds many surprises!

Day 2 - Saturday
Lucy served a continental breakfast that included tea, coffee, juices, bread, bagels, granola, Greek yogurt, raspberries, blueberries, nuts, meats, cheeses, jams, butter, maple syrup, and honey. Absolutely perfect!

Group Photo
Photo by Matt Brailsford
We were all asked to wear our CODECABIN T-shirts, received the day before, and gather outside for a group photo with the scenic backdrop, as well as a shot with all of us on the stairs leading to the games room.

Photo by Bjarne Fyrstenborg
These discussions were based on the topics contributed to the Trello board weeks before the event and took place in both the morning and afternoon of both days. Some of the key topics included:
  • Front-end JS "frameworks" for websites
  • Optimising and caching Umbraco websites
  • Building a better back office with extended data types
  • The current state of package development
  • The rise of headless CMS
  • Umbraco Builds: LTS or STS?
  • And many more
I had intended to elaborate on some of these topics, but Joe Glombek beat me to it with his excellent blog post, which you can find here.

Lunch consisted of a buffet with delicious sandwiches crafted by Lucy:
  • Chicken Caesar: Shredded chicken and cos lettuce dressed with Caesar dressing and topped with a bacon crumb, served on toasted sourdough.
  • (v) Soy 'chicken' bites and cos lettuce dressed with vegetarian Caesar dressing, topped with crispy onions, served on toasted sourdough.
  • Whipped feta, prosciutto, fresh fig slices, rocket leaves, and maple walnuts, served on ciabatta.
  • (v) Whipped feta, fresh fig slices, rocket leaves, and maple walnuts, served on ciabatta.
  • Mexican spiced chicken wraps, with guacamole, cheese (some without cheese for non-cheese lovers), lettuce, and crispy onions.
  • (v) Beetroot and chilli falafel wraps, with guacamole, cheese, lettuce, and crispy onions.
  • Ploughman's: Thick Wiltshire ham, mature cheddar, served with chutney and salted, grass-fed butter, in a sourdough roll.

Hack Time / Activity Time
This provided an interval between discussions and dinner for attendees to pursue their own interests. Some chose to work on personal projects either independently or in collaboration, while others socialised or enjoyed the games room facilities.

I used this time to explore 'Lazy Collections with Type Scanning' as part of a project I'm currently involved in, leveraging IDiscoverable. I also began investigating a small issue with the Umbraco installation wizard that had been bothering me for quite some time. Unfortunately, due to a quirky internet connection, pulling the latest v12 code took longer than expected, so I focused on addressing it in v11 for the time being, with plans to tackle v12 later.

In a CODECABIN first, Lucy spared herself the head chef duties, and we were treated to catering services from Reyt Good Burger Co (https://reytgoodburgerco.co.uk/). Since the weather had been kind to us all day, we relished some delicious burgers in the outdoor seating area. We continued to soak in the pleasant weather, breathtaking views, and enjoyable company.

Karl's Quiz
Following dinner, we were instructed to remain outdoors as an evening of fun was set up indoors. During this time, Lotte kept us entertained with Umbraco charades. When everything was ready, our co-host & quiz master, Karl, assembled four teams for the upcoming games. These games had a pirate theme, featuring a treasure hunt for bags of coins (each coin equating to points), standard pub quiz questions, and a game akin to beer pong (but with water). Apparently, I excel at the water pong version. After initially lagging behind with points, we managed to claw back the victory at the very end!

Day 3 - Sunday
Sunday followed a similar schedule to the previous day, with the same scrumptious breakfast and lunch, discussions, hack time, and activities. After breakfast, most people (excluding myself) ventured outside for a walk around a local valley named Froggatt Edge. 

As it was a typical Sunday in the UK, we were treated to a classic Roast Dinner. This hearty meal included chicken breast, mashed potatoes, thyme and garlic roasted carrots, tender stem broccoli, pigs-in-blankets, sage and onion stuffing balls, Yorkshire puddings, gravy, and cranberry sauce.

I had the privilege of being on gravy duty... so much gravy!

Dessert was an Apple and Blueberry Nut Crumble served with a choice of vanilla ice cream, custard, or cream.
It was all incredibly delicious! A big thank you to Lucy for making our final main meal of CC23 truly memorable.

To cap off a wonderful weekend, we enjoyed another CODECABIN first: an award ceremony hosted by Lotte. Special recognition awards were given out, including categories for newcomers, returners, those who contributed pull requests, and written blogs. High 5 You Rock (H5YR) awards were also distributed, where each person gave three stickers to others in the room as a token of recognition and appreciation. I awarded mine to Rich Jackson for being an exceptional roommate and to Matt Brailsford and Lee Kelleher for their outstanding contributions to the Umbraco community.

Oh, and there was another award for 'King Pong,' which I received in honour of my skills during the water pong game in Karl's quiz the previous night.

Day 4 - Monday 
Morning came, and it was time to bid farewell to a weekend that none of us would soon forget. We said our goodbyes to both new and old friends. While my journey was relatively short, some of our overseas friends didn't arrive home until just before midnight.

I hope to see the Class of '23 again someday soon! ūüĖ§ 

Until that day arrives, we'll always have the 'codecabin23' Slack channel to stay in touch, as well as the 'codecabin-forever' channel, where we can connect with past attendees, now totaling 91 people.

I hope this article has helped capture the entire experience and has given you some inspiration to sign up for CC24.

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