The last CFUnited

The last CFUNITED. Wow, it seems a bit weird to see it written down on paper. It was even stranger being the last person to walk out of the conference area the last day. Very surreal.

So what was the last one like? Certainly no one was talking about whether ColdFusion was dead or not. Not once did I hear anyone talking about that, thank goodness. The conversations were about four things mostly. The first was of course, it being the last, then talk about community, then about the sessions and perhaps the future of conferences.

I’ll get to that list in a second. Let’s start with the beginning. At Dulles I ran into my friend, Ben Nadel. I saw the scar on the back of his head and knew it had to be him. Yup, Ben. So, things were off to a good start, I had already re-connected with one friend. I was on my way to meet Michael Evangelista and his lovely wife Avery for lunch, and Ben joined us. (http://www.flickr.com/photos/deesadler/4855654702/in/set-72157624641659296/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/deesadler/4855655904/in/set-72157624641659296/)

When we got to the hotel, we could see they were starting to set up for registration later that day. Of course we were all thinking what the conference would be like, and anxious to see old friends. As a matter of fact, someone asked me, who had never been to a CFUNITED before about that. He said, “On line, I just see people talking about how anxious they are to see each other. Isn’t the content of the conference any good? Will I be disappointed?” Of course, I had to laugh. I told him that the content was a given, so we were concentrating on seeing each other.

Later that night, we had our community event. There has almost always been a User Group managers event, but since this was the last, and the first Liz Fredrick was on the community side and not running the conference, we had a reception for all the User Group Managers, and the Community Professionals as well. I have to say, as someone who prides their self on knowing the majority of the community, I did meet some new folks that night. It is always nice to see the community growing.

Wednesday morning was the keynote by Adobe. Adam Lehman and Terry Ryan were the main keynote speakers. I guess I missed Michael Smith talking as I was a few minutes late. Adam talked about the past CFUNITEDs and had some pics he apparently stole off of a few Flickr pages. I guess Steven Erat saw some tweet pics and was surprised to see some of his photos up on the screen. At least it was just for the keynote and no real harm done. I recognized the majority of the photos and reminisced about years past.

(http://www.flickr.com/photos/deesadler/4855708092/in/set-72157624641659296/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/deesadler/4855085915/in/set-72157624641659296/)

Then it was on to the future of CF. Exciting stuff here. Terry showed his new tool to create extensions, and they also talked about how many open CF projects there are, and let me tell you, there are a lot. In the past year alone, there have been 153 new Open Source CFML projects, and 113 of them are on RiaForge alone. That is pretty impressive. There was so much talk about open source projects; no wonder there was no talk about CF dying! It is more than alive and well. I have to say that I am leaning more on the side of using the phrase CFML instead of just CF these days. It seems to me, to include both Adobe’s version (since they invented CFML) and open source projects.

Also during the keynote, Adam pointed out some amazing applications of CFML in the wild like pintley.com. It is a great example of how CFML is shaping the web. He talked about Frameworks and of course, had to bring up the documentation king, Luis Majano, who is such a nice guy for being that crazy smart. He did a demonstration, and there was another one by a member of the CF team. It was once of those keynotes where after you thought, we laughed, we cried, but in the end, we were sent on our way to the first sessions. (Adam Lehman pointed outt that I omitted the Adobe donation to Apache. To be honest, I took extensive notes, then later I had problems with my machine, and ended up pressing the power button to restart, and lost all my unsaved notes of the keynote)(http://www.readwriteweb.com/enterprise/2010/07/adobe-buys-apache-contributor.php)

Charlie Arehart gave the 2nd day keynote, and it was on, of course Community. Charlie had a little fun with us in the beginning and brought some folks up on stage. He talked about his 411.com site and how it lists all, or as many as he knows about, links to almost anything you’d want to know about CFML. Open source projects, books, conferences (mine was listed, yay me), blogs, and even to other people who also have made lists like that. I am a hybrid, both a designer and a developer (to a degree) so I can honestly say that there is no other community that matches the passion the ColdFusion Community has. So much work goes into sharing with the community. The ColdFusion community is as strong as any I’ve seen, and they are only getting stronger.

(http://www.flickr.com/photos/deesadler/4855779794/in/set-72157624641659296/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/deesadler/4855150799/in/set-72157624641659296/)

I tried to visit the sponsors portion of the conference because, as a conference organizer I understand they are needed. I have known Sean Corfield since 2006 and Mark Drew since 2008 (and finally got to know Gert this conference) and now that they are a part of Railo,  I invested more time this conference in really seeing what it is all about. They were pushing the consulting more this conference. What a dream team, seriously. I am impressed for sure, and will be looking into it in the future to use perhaps with Mura CMS. Too bad Epicenter didn’t make it. I don’t think most people understand how great Clark Valberg is at marketing and so much more. He is a powerhouse and more people should talk with them. At least Ben and Ryan were there to sport the shirt.

I personally had two sessions I was giving, so I was very specific about the sessions I attended. All-in-all, there weren’t as many folks there as I expected, this being the last. There are two levels of rooms, the bigger rooms being downstairs and the smaller rooms, upstairs. You also got a sense the lower tier sessions were upstairs as well. Makes sense, right?

We did have one major speaker issue. I was a bit jealous because I had two speakers bail on me for
my conference
at the last minute, and one no-show, so only one major issue seemed fantastic to me. Poor Shannon Hicks, of Pintely.com fame, came down with a super high fever and they wouldn’t let him on the plane. I think Shannon was too sick to contact anyone, and so they canceled his session that day, but as it was on solr, I was able to find Ray Camden, and at the last minute, and I mean that literally, did an impromptu Solr session. After I asked folks how it was, and they all said, for a Ray not to have prepared before-hand, it was a pretty good session. Not many slides, but a bit of code and some good tips and tricks.

Of course, I am not a CFML developer, I just play one on TV. OK, sorry, couldn’t resist. I am a CSS, UX/UI geek, but since I work with CFML developers and have to rummage around in the code, I understand the language to a degree. I put together, design-wise, FAQU (Fusion Authority Quarterly Update) since 2006 and you know, I actually read the majority of the articles. I even surprise myself sometimes with the knowledge I have picked up over the years thanks to that and that Judith and Michael Dinowitz made me come to my first CFUNITED that year. I guess you could say, the rest is history.

Of all the sessions, my favorite was done in a private showing after one of the days. There were several of us who had missed Christian Ready’s HTML 5 session, so he was kind enough to do it for us that night. About two hours later, we all had a much better understanding of HTML 5. Thanks Christian! Great info from him, as always.

Here are the sessions I either saw and liked, or heard how good they were, because either the content was awesome, or the speaker, and sometimes both. Charlie Arehart’s Hidden Gems talk. Sam Farmer’s CF one liners, Cache me if you can by Mike Brunt and the always amazing Dan Wilson. (I still like Dan even if he is an Apple hater.) Elliot Sprehn blew people away with how smart he was, but Elliot is a new speaker. His session was I bet you didn’t know you could do that with ColdFusion. The general consensus was, no, a lot of people did not indeed know you could do some of those things with ColdFusion. I heard even the Adobe engineers were furiously writing down things while looking at each other like, “Did you know that could be done?”. Of course, Pete Freitag always blows people away with his Writing Secure CFML, and he is just the nicest guy.

Really, there were some great speakers there. Luis Majano, Dan Wilson, Jim Priest, Jason Dean, Simon Free, Laura Arguello, Ezra parker, Gert Franz, Chaz Chumley, Sean Corfield, Selene Bainum, Bob Silverberg, Charlie Arehart, Brian Kotek (who was another one people kept talking about after the session), Jeff Coughlin and SO many others. I am not listing enough here, and I am sorry for that. It is a long list. One thing you are struck with at an event with a list of speakers like this, is there are a lot of crazy smart people under one roof, and that is pretty cool.

I had two sessions this year, CSS and the CMS, where the twitter peeps chose Mura for the CMS I’d talk about. I really came to love Mura CMS and got to know the Brinteractive guys a bit better in the process of preparing for the presentation. With their help, I really got a much better look into how it works, so thanks guys, and thanks for a stack of Mura CMS t-shirts for my User Group members. I also did a session on Flash Catalyst. It was suppose to be about preparing files to hand off to the developer, but no one in the room had seen Flash Catalyst before. Good thing I added the “What is FC” slides in while preparing for the session.

Of course, with the ending of this CFUNITED, we lose one of the bigger conferences. Some say this filled the first gap of beginner to intermediate level ColdFusion topics. I heard from an attendee that he didn’t think there were enough advanced sessions, while talking with Bob Silverberg who didn’t think there were going to be enough, was surprised how many advanced sessions he found. So that may mean that there were just too many tracks and some attendees were lost as to which session to choose.

I can say there was no Bootcamp sessions this year, and perhaps one could say there should also be a level attached to the session as well as the track it fits in. Tara and Cara (so much talk about the demise of Teratech and how the girls basically ran the conference for free, which explains SO much) did a decent job for the final CFUNITED. Could things have gone smoother? Well we are use to Liz and Nafisa, who did the conference for years, so sure, it could have been better. Did they do a good job considering? Absolutely. My personal hat off to them for tackling such a large conference. I don’t think folks realize just how much work goes into putting something like that on. So, good job girls!

(http://www.flickr.com/photos/deesadler/4855123631/in/set-72157624641659296/)

The main take away is the community is growing. We need more regional conferences to fill in where CFUNITED left off. cf.Objective() is now the only large ColdFusion-centric large conference left. There is a need for more “grow your own developer” User Group meetings and day conferences, as well as advanced information. A lot of good talks came out of this last event, and I already know of some new UGs that will start because of this, which is never a bad thing.

Of course there were evening events. Above I mentioned how passionate the community is about the CFML language. Well they are just as passionate about beer, and hanging out with each other. Socializing is every bit as important at these events as the actual content of the sessions. The Adobe pool party this year had jousting, but certainly not as popular as the Sumo wrestling last year. We had a lot of fun just hanging out in the bar together, or down by the fire pit. Outside you were often joined by wildlife and I am not talking about Jason Dean. (I am just teasing) There were tons of deer and many raccoons rummaging through the trash. The hotel gives out smore kits to take to the fire pit, and the leftovers make the raccoons very brave.

There were several of us speakers that ended up saying Saturday night. We hung out by the fire pit and became better friends. I already miss everyone, which is pretty typical for me. For me, reconnecting and meeting new friends is what the conference experience is about. We all talk online, but I can say from experience, you make the best connections face-to-face. I’ve made a lot of life-long friends by going to events like this, and this last CFUNITED was no exception. It was a surreal experience I won’t soon forget.

See more on my CFUNITED Flickr page and the general CFUNITED Flickr page.

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One comment

  1. I am so grateful I got to spent time with you at CFUnited. After ‘knowing’ you from online, it was great to finally hang out with you in person. Even though it’s the last CFUnited, I look forward to seeing you at another conference down the road!

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