This last weekend I had the opportunity to head up to Des Moines, Iowa and give a presentation at the a regional developer event called the Iowa Code Camp. Due to a bunch of recent travel and speaking commitments (including the Windows 7 Launch event in St. Louis and spending next week in LA for PDC) I decided a weekend in Des Moines would make a very nice little trip for the family. During my time at the conference my wife and three little girls took the opportunity to hit the local zoo and the malls and other local attractions.
In the essence of full disclosure, this was my first significant trip to Iowa. I’d never been to Des Moines (or too many other places in Iowa) although I did grow up in neighboring Nebraska. My trip didn’t do much for Iowa football as both (previously undefeated) Iowa and Iowa State lost on the Saturday of my presentation (although Nebraska beat Oklahoma that night which was pretty impressive to watch from enemy territory). My first impressions of Iowa were fantastic. The West Des Moines area (where this conference was held) was a nice or nicer than most other places I’ve had the opportunity to visit.
The conference itself was held at the Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) and this was one of the most impressive community colleges I’ve ever been to. It was by no means exceptionally big but it was a great venue for this type of event and had more technology devoted to learning than any other community college I’ve ever seen. The hallways literally had museum exhibits devoted to the evolution of the PC. I found a Macintosh exhibit with an Imagewriter printer like I had when I was a kid. They even had an old Altair with basic code on “tape”. From talking to conference organizers this community college is a big supporter of the local community and it sounded like meetings and other events are frequently held there so kudos to them.
Being from rural Nebraska I know that too often these smaller markets get overlooked for national conferences or marketing attention. Talented developers come from all areas of our country whether urban or rural and Iowa seems to have more than most areas traditionally considered rural. This means its ultimately up to these local developers and other community members to take the initiative to step up and host these things themselves with whatever support and resources they can get. Not only does it take the initiative of the community, but it takes sponsors and other local organizations like the DMACC to recognize the value of community based knowledge sharing and for these organizations to step forward with donations of prizes and money so that the events themselves are possible. The guys in Iowa not only had over 200 attendees (I’m not exactly sure of their final count) but their conference was as well organized as anything I’ve attended (and they obviously learned a bit from our mistakes up here St. Louis ;) Not only was it well organized but it appeared that they had some great and involved sponsors which says a lot for the local community.
I want to tip my hat to the following organizers (and any I forgot but were involved). I realize how much time and work go into an event like this well before and after the day of the event itself (which is actually the easy part). These guys hit a home run and were truly champions for their region. Congrats guys!
Greg Wilson (who proudly hosts his blog on SharePoint :)
(Check out their blogs by clicking on the links above)
As far as my trip, I had a great time at the conference and in Iowa in general and, from the buzz on Twitter and elsewhere, it looks like many others did too. I wish the organizers the best of luck in the future and I hope they can continue to host such an event and learn and grow (and I’ll gladly be back if the opportunity arises).