CodeMash 2019

What better way to start off the new year than with a conference? This was my first time attending CodeMash, and it was well worth the trip.

CodeMash is an annual conference that is held at the Kalahari Resorts in Sandusky, Ohio. While the conference itself is only two days long, they do offer what they call "Precompilers" which you can just think of as pre-conference workshops.

First Impressions

It seems like many conferences may focus on specific frameworks such as .NET, or languages like JavaScript, CodeMash definitely makes an effort to be diverse in the content that they provide. I attended sessions discussing security, people skills, SQL, and the list goes on.

While not directly applicable to myself, the other thing I noticed is that CodeMash is incredibly family friendly. Not only was the conference held at an indoor waterpark, it's actually two conferences in one. The second name being KidzMash.

KidzMash is another conference that runs parallel to CodeMash, and provides sessions more geared towards.. you guessed it, kids! Topics included robotics, video game development, and even 3D printing. It made the whole experience feel very wholesome and welcoming.

To add onto that, I felt CodeMash had the most community involvement that I've ever seen in a conference. The conference had its own Slack channel where conference goers could ask questions as the conference was going on. You had people asking if anyone wanted to get together to play games, meetup to discuss another topic, etc. You never really felt alone or out of the loop.

New Faces

It was refreshing to see a lot of newer faces giving presenations in each of the talks. Along with being family focus'd, CodeMash almost seemed to be driven to encourage those who may not have spoken before, to get up on stage and give it a shot. A select number of the speakers at the conference have never spoken before, and the conference explicitly calls out that they like to have those individuals come and present.

For those who it is their first time, CodeMash even pairs them up with a couple mentors that can give feedback on their presentation and pass on their expertise from having been there, and done that.

Not only did you get to see some of the bigger names in the tech world (e.g. Jon Skeet!), you got to introduce yourself to some newer members of the community. These individuals bring a fresh perspective and have their own opinions which I feel disrupts the echo chamber that we may find ourselves lost in from time to time.

Capture the Flag

Speaking of new faces, I met quite a few individuals who were also a part of the CodeMash CTF. For those unfamiliar, CTF (Capture the Flag) is an event where you are given a scenario in which you must obtain the "flag" in order to score points. Scenarios may include: a zip file that has been intentionally corrupted and you must figure out how to get inside to unzip the flag, an image that has a hidden message somewhere inside of it, or even a website that has a web page somewhere on the server and you must do everything possible to find it.

It was one of the best experiences I had at CodeMash, and the people involved were equally enjoyable to converse with.

The organizer, Bill Sempf, also runs the Columbus OWASP group and is an expert lock picker! Luckily one of the "open spaces" at the conference was an introduction to lock picking, so I was able to get some hands on experience picking locks which was a great time.

But I digress.

For the CTF, there's plans for next year to have those who were specifically passionate about the it (this guy) to create our own problems, rather than using problems created by someone else. I'm overly excited to be make some CTF problems coming up here in the near future.

Wrapping Up

Taking everything into consideration, CodeMash is definitely worth it. At only 350$ a ticket, you get two full days of sessions, food, networking opportunities, and an after party. Contrast that with the typical pricing of conferences, it's worth at least giving it a try.

Great content, great speakers, in a great location. I will definitely be going back for CodeMash 2020.