Once you have spent some blissful hours getting acquainted with the finest CMS available, and after you have partaken of the responsive, helpful our.umbraco.org forum, you may start getting an urge to attend the annual Umbraco conference in Copenhagen, Denmark – Codegarden.
For those of us of the Umbraco persuasion, Codegarden represents the pilgrimage-to-mecca of web development. Just imagine three days spent in the company of those august HQ core developers – along with Umbraco community legends and hundreds of happy geeks. Yes – it IS as good as all that, and yes, you SHOULD, if at all possible, make the trip.
A trip across the world can be a daunting prospect to some, though, so I have here compiled a list of tips and hints gleaned from my first visit to Codegarden. Though this may be rather lengthy and detailed, I do request that anyone reading this who has additions from their own experience to please get in touch, so I can keep it updated.
Also, being from the United States, I have written this from the North American perspective. Hopefully attendees from other parts of the world will gain some value from it as well, and I am happy to append international tips, or link to other’s posts on the matter from their own geographic vantage point.
Getting Your Codegarden Ticket
Each year a new website is created for the event, usually along the lines of “www.CodegardenXX.com” (where XX is the current year). If you’re not sure about this year’s website, check Twitter, Facebook, or www.Umbraco.com. You can’t miss it.
There are always “early bird” specials on tickets, so order your ticket as soon as you are sure you want to attend.
After you order your ticket, login to your umbraco.com account where it was purchased and make sure you assign your name to the ticket. If you have a group from your office going, and the company has purchased a block of tickets, just be sure someone logs in and assigns names a few weeks before the event.
Making Your Travel Arrangements
Some tips for selecting your travel dates:
- Keep in mind that the time difference wreaks havoc on your sleep schedule, and if you don’t sleep well on planes, you will be doubly affected by exhaustion upon your arrival in Copenhagen. It’s a good idea to fly into Copenhagen a few days before the conference begins on Wednesday to settle in and orient yourself.
- Another good reason to arrive a bit early is to attend any “pre-conference” events that might be happening. Check out http://our.umbraco.org/events and twitter for planned meet ups.
- Most people will be flying out of Copenhagen by Sunday after the conference concludes on Friday evening. Otherwise, meet up with a local umbracian if you don’t enjoy sightseeing by yourself.
I know that Norwegian Airlines flies direct from JFK to CPH, at a reasonable price. Many airlines will have a stopover in London or another European city. Check with other attendees from your area for good routes and airlines.
The conference center for the past few years has been Kedelhallen, located in Frederiksberg. Most of the evening events and general carousing happen around Central Copenhagen. Map with various event locations for 2014.
Booking a hotel in Central Copenhagen is a safe and comfortable bet – there are many hotels right near the Central train station. You will generally be able to walk back to your hotel at whatever ungodly hour you leave the festivities each night, and can take the train/metro to the conference center in the morning.
There are a few favorite hotels among conference attendees. Picking one of these options will practically guarantee that you have someone to walk back with or head to breakfast with each day.
Cabinn – For the budget conscious, “all you need to sleep” is what you’ll get. The “Cabinn City” location is reasonably central, and the “Cabinn Scandinavia” is a bit closer to Kedelhallen.
Wake Up – A good option with small, modern rooms nearby to Central Station.
Other Hotels – Check out your favorite online travel sites, looking for hotels within proximity to Central Copenhagen.
Apartment/Air BnB Rentals – A somewhat riskier choice for the first-time visitor, but might be a good option if you are staying together in a small group or family. Often the prices are lower and the space somewhat larger. However, make sure you check on the details about the number and sizes of the included beds – I heard a few stories about slumbering on pull-out daybeds and tiny children’s beds. Another thing to watch out for – you will often need to pick up your keys upon arrival, as well as drop them off before departure, from a different location than the apartment you are staying in. Make sure you are aware of these details when planning your trip.
Other Things to Do
- Deal with your mobile communication needs
Check with your carrier about international roaming for phone, text, and data. There are likely add-on packages you can use for the trip which will make it more affordable. One suggestion I heard was to add only an international data plan, and use Skype for any voice calls you want to make.
My own experience was that it was challenging – though not impossible – to get along without a data plan other than whatever WiFi was available at the hotel, cafes, or (very rarely available), at the conference center itself.
- Order your currency
It might take several days for your bank to get Kroners, so plan ahead. Sure, there are ATMs in Copenhagen, but starting with some cash will give you peace of mind.
- Consider a Chip + Pin credit card
If you have the time, and are in the market for a new credit card, try to locate one with Chip + Pin technology (and ideally, no foreign fees). It isn’t necessarily easy to get in the US, but it will make aspects of your trip much easier.
- Get onto Twitter
Before, during, and after Codegarden, Twitter is used to share information, coordinate gatherings, and generally connect attendees. If you don’t yet have a Twitter account, sign up for one and start following umbraco people. A hash tag search for #umbraco and #cgXX (once again, where XX is the current year), will turn up all manner of goodies and keep you in the loop.
Things to Bring
- 1000 – 2000 Danish Kroner currency - (See above)
- Sleep mask (and possibly, ear plugs) – The sun sets very late, and comes up around 4 am. Not all accommodations have curtains, so be prepared. You will get so little opportunity for sleep, you might as well get as much as you can.
- Flat sheet - if you get uncomfortable sleeping under only a duvet.
- Converter/Adapter for electronics/small appliances
- Comfortable shoes – Be prepared to walk (a lot).
- Business cards of some type – to share with your new colleagues
- A print-out of the conference schedule once it has been finalized on the website. I know, sounds old school, but just trust me on this. I did it and was glad every day.
- An open mind and friendly attitude – Codegarden is a fantastic place to meet new friends. In general, people there will be inclined to like you unless you prove otherwise. Bring along the same attitude and you will have an absolute blast.
Taxis are readily available, but can be pricy. Take note – tipping is not customary nor required.
The different train & bus lines will make it easy for you to get from the Central Station area out to the conference each day. Go ahead and get yourself a 10-clip ticket at one of the ticket machines. You just shove it into the yellow box once you get down onto the train platform or onto a bus and it will stamp it with a validation (this is called a “clip”).
If you are intrepid, you can rent a bicycle and join the locals on their dedicated bike lanes all over the city.
Oh, and you did bring your walking shoes, right?
Getting the Most Out of the Event (Heather’s Tiny Manifesto)
Once the schedule of speakers has been finalized, take some time to review the descriptions and get an idea about what sessions you might be interested in attending. The break time between sessions might seem like a perfect chance to review the upcoming sessions and make your choice, but really isn’t when you are chatting happily with all your new friends, grabbing another coffee, or waiting in line (for the men’s room :-) ).
Meet new people as much as possible. Go ahead, just go up and introduce yourself. It isn’t that painful. Need some opening lines? Here you go:
- Where are you from? Where do you work?
- What have you been working on lately?
- What code are you most proud of?
- Wanna get a beer? ;-)
Also, spend quality time with your current Umbraco friends, who likely live nowhere near you.
Go out every night. I know, I know, you are crazy jet-lagged and totally knackered. It doesn’t matter. You will survive. I was getting an average of 3-4 hours of sleep each night, but was so glad I took every opportunity to talk more with more people. Have fun, you might just learn something amazing.
So, basically, unlike some other conferences you might have attended the whole point of Codegarden isn’t really the speakers. (Yeah, they’re all awesome and you will be blown away by what everyone is up to in the wild world of web development, no doubt about that.) The main point is the COMMUNITY. It’s about connecting. Call it “networking” if you have to get your boss on board with the whole thing, but do it. Seriously. This could be one of the best things you do for yourself and I know you won’t regret it.
“Is there any adventure more exciting than meeting new people and finding out what lives within them?”
- Sonja Henie
*ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS* Special thanks to Casey Neehouse, 8-time Codegarden attendee and one of my long-time Umbraco friends who provided many of these tips to me via email before I came to my first Codegarden. Also, shout-outs to some “Kings of Umbraco Community Building” who have unwittingly provided material for my manifesto: Doug Robar, Bob Baty-Barr, and Pete Duncanson. I love all you guys.