Developer Diary: Umbraco UK Fest

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On November 2nd I packed my overnight bag (my favourite flowery Cath Kidtson, of course) and headed to London for the UK Umbraco festival. Here is a wee recap of a very busy couple of days.

 

At the UK fest, the Thursday is a hackathon day ahead of the main conference on Friday. Last year I attended the hackathon but this year I couldn’t make it. I travelled down in time to make it for the pre-party, a good chance to catch up with friends, old and new from the community. It’s always nice to meet people in “real life” that I talk to online all the time :)

 

 

As has become tradition at Umbraco conferences, a few of us met for a morning run. Considering it is start of November, it was a lovely morning and we got to see some of the tourist sights and a lovely sunrise too. We went along the Thames for about 6km before heading back to get ready for the early start at conference!

 

After arriving at the Barbican and navigating our way to the conference (that place is huge!), we grabbed a cuppa tea and headed to the welcome talk. Adam from Cogworks said a quick hello and handed over to some of the team who introduced us to their Friday tradition “cog-lympics”- basically playing some fun games. So there’s me just recovering from my run and having a tea when I suddenly end up on stage?! We had to dress up in 80’s clothes (I volunteered this to my team mate!) and take a selfie. Although being up on stage made me a wee bit (big bit) awkward, I won Umbraco training so that makes it worth it, eh?!

 

First talk I went to was Stephan’s about Umbraco’s long awaited v8. It was really interesting to see how v8 implementations of existing features like Nested Content will look. Still no arrival date for the new version yet but from what I understood from the talk, it works but HQ are still in the tidy up process, trying to get just right before releasing. Niels’ keynote later in the day commented on how HQ are trying to perfect v7 before rushing on to releasing v8, more on this later.

 

Next up was Ravi telling is why talking is “good for our health and wealth”. He discussed how our mind is our main tool as a developer so we need to look after our mental health the way an athlete looks after their body. Different people have different ways of coping with the stresses of the job, mines is running (obviously!) but others might be reading, painting, socialising with friends. Basically, find your version of balance!

 

Pete Duncanson’s talk was next, he told us how to get the web site we need (rather than what the client thinks they need!). I related to a lot of his anecdotes as I also work in an agency. In a “if I didn’t laugh, I’d cry kind of way” as some of it was just too close to real life scenarios I have also been in, a really good fun talk.

 

In the last talk before lunch Mike Masey took us through a cool project he had been working on for Run Together... Umbraco and Running, I’m in! Always interesting to see what other devs are working on and cool to see how they handled the user generated running routes saving to CMS and the approval process required for this to get to the site.

 

Lunch Time!! Always a good chance to catch up with friends and meet new friends. In our new conference tradition (does twice make it a tradition?), a few of us played some board games :) I am glad I had this as a distraction as the meetups panel I was taking part in was up next!

 

I was asked to take part in a panel of meetup organisers since I run the Glasgow Umbraco meetup. I was quite nervous as I have never done a panel before and well, I am always nervous in front of a crowd!

 

 

Being in a panel is quite different to giving a talk. When presenting a prepared talk, it’s easier in a way as you can practise and people can’t throw too many unknowns your way. In a panel you don’t really know what to expect!

Not going to lie, I was really self-conscious on a stage with 5 guys and my super high pitched voice in comparison… as if this accent doesn’t stand out enough! No-one else probably noticed, but this is one of they times where being a women in tech, you notice if you are the only female in the line up.

 

Anyway… we shared approaches to our local meetups and came up with some new ideas on how we can work together to share this experience between groups. We even saw a new meetup set up afterwards, so I am taking that as a win!!

 

No time to recover from the stress, the next session was the one I have been most looking forward to, Headless Umbraco with Per from Umbraco HQ. He showed us the new Umbraco REST API, how easy it is to get data from Umbraco without having to implement WebAPI controllers yourself (this is normally what I do at the moment). Also, some libraries for JS frameworks to show how you can now get data from Umbraco without even the need for C#. Now Umbraco integration could be done by a front end developer or someone who doesn’t know the .Net stack, pretty cool! There is a library for .Net standard library too which means it could be used in Xamarin and .Net core apps. I am really interested in IOT technology and how this can be integrated so I am looking forward to trying this.

 

Next up, I went to the Q&A with Niels from Umbraco where people could get answers on what's happening at HQ, future plans and how they can work with the community. Then there was a cool demo by Callum from Cogworks on how to unlock Umbraco with face unlock (2 factor authentication). It's awesome to see different ways people use new tech within Umbraco, even if it is just for fun to learn the new thing!

 

After a short tea break (yes, more tea!) it was the last talk of the day, the keynote with the chief unicorn, Niels. He gave an update with numbers on the popularity and growth of Umbraco as well as the expanding team at HQ.

 

I was really interesting to hear just how big the Umbraco community is, not just those we see at conferences and on Twitter but 225,000 visitors to our.umbraco.org!

 

Niels then explained the reasons for the focus on v7 before focussing on v8 (see "boring can be friendly" pic above). Comparing early versions of 7 to the latest 7.7, you can see the main focus has been not on us developers, but the editor experience. The main focus has been on making it more friendly for the users. They are, after all, going to be maintaining the site long after we build and deploy it so it’s understandable why the focus is on getting this right. We even got a wee sneak peak at v7.8, where we can give users a “tour” around Umbraco backoffice, explaining how to use each section.

 

And there we go, a full day of Umbraco over, just like that! I really enjoyed all of the talks I attended and looking forward to the videos of those I missed. It really was an impressive line up this year.

 

As usual after attending an Umbraco conference, I left motivated by the friendly and super talented community. I left with some interesting things to think about and a few extra items for my to do list.