CodeFest is a gathering of evolt.org members that usually lasts for a weekend. We work on the evolt.org CMS, talk about evolt.org happenings, talk about politics and world events, drink, joke around, get to know each other, check out waitresses (or waiters), and generally have a good time.

The most recent CodeFest was this last weekend: Friday, October 12th to Sunday, the 14th (2001) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. I drove from Cincinnati, OH and arrived in Milwaukee around 8pm on Friday. After searching the Milwaukee Ale House for Evolters (only three of which I had met before) for 15 minutes, Michele Foster flagged me down and guided me to their table. There, I sat down with Jeremy Ashcraft, Dan Cody, Michele Foster, Miriam Frost, Russel Jungwirth, Greg Sampson, and Jeremy Saperstein. After a short meet & greet session with those I hadn't met, I began talking with Russel who urged me to take up his religion: Regular Expressions. He made some damn good sense too. After a few, we played musical chairs so we could spread the social wealth and not simply chat with the two or three people within earshot of you (damn that foreground music was loud!). Basically, we all just chatted it up about various things. I listened in while the hard-core geeks discussed hardware. I had a few thoughts on how certain admin actions were perceived by evolt.org members that were confirmed. But best of all, I learned a lot about people who I had only recognized by email address until then. The last of us were politely kicked out around 2:30am while the bartender was wiping down the bar.

We three non-locals (Jeremy Ashcraft, Michele Foster, and myself) were awakened by Dan on Saturday at around 10:00 or so. We went to The Copper Penny for breakfast where we were served by Flo (heh) and continued the conversation where we had left off the night before. We finally decided to "get to it" around 1pm and headed on over to Dan's work office where we met up with Miriam and Russel. Greg and Jeremy Saperstein came in shortly. And Mark Nickel made it in from Appleton, Wisconsin. Jeremy Ashcraft set up a webcam for the folks at home and we all got started working on whatever we wanted to do.

One shot of us 'working' at CodeFest

One webcam shot of us (well, as many as we could get into the shot) "working" at CodeFest. Jeremy is squishing my head (which explains the bruises) and Dan "Bandana Boy" Cody is hard at work.

Tip Harvester

The Tip Harvester is the program which parses messages sent to thelist for tips contained within <tip></tip> tags and stores it in a database table so they can be browsed and searched by evolt.org members. In order for the browsing and searching to be effective, each tip needs to be categorized. Unfortunately, this categorization has to be done manually, and for that we need an interface. Dean Mah had quickly thrown together an interface for his own use written in Perl, but we needed one that was ready for general use and that was written in a language popular to those who could expand on it (namely: thesite). Jeremy Ashcraft and Russel volunteered to re-write the interface in PHP and did a wonderful job with it.

evolt.org CMS

There were a lot of features we wanted to add to the evolt.org CMS. Because of our stance on developing sites with valid HTML and CSS, Dan went through the evolt.org CMS code to make sure it was spitting out well-formed documents and made the w3c validator happy. He also resurrected the "Recent Jobs" box in the sidebar and added quite a bit to our admin application. Participating via our IRC channel #evolt on irc.evolt.org, .jeff fixed a low-priority bug or two that had been pushed down the LOTTD (list of things to do) for quite a while. He also added a feature to the software which listed other articles written by the author of the currently-displayed article. Miriam, Russel, and Jeremy Saperstein worked on the design of an upcoming feature called "member pages" where registered members can elect to divulge additional information to the rest of the community (such as skillset, ICQ number, cat's name, etc.). I fixed a bug in the CMS's XML and RSS feeds and added a new feature which "revives" a random article older than one year so that it doesn't get lost forever in the pile of old articles.

Other evolt.org Websites

Michele made sure all the evolt.org pages on lists.evolt.org, members.evolt.org, browsers.evolt.org, and dir.evolt.org were creating valid HTML and CSS. She also made sure there weren't any discrepancies between the global portions (such as the top, right-hand navigation links) of each of those sites. I did some work on an upcoming evolt.org site that isn't yet ready for general use (more later!).

UEUE (you-we-you-we)

UEUE (Unified Evolt Userid Effort) is the name we tagged to the problem we've been having with all these evolt.org subsites (like lists.evolt.org, members.evolt.org, etc.) and the user tables in each site's database. You, the user, should be able to sign up for evolt.org and automatically be able to access member-only features in all evolt.org sites. Because there are multiple copies of the user table, it becomes a problem to keep those tables synchronized. And for various software reasons, we can't go to a single-database model. The other problem is that many of these sites are written in different languages and therefore can't share session information. Mark came up with an excellent solution that solves these problems and we will be working in the next months to implement his ideas. He even wrote up how the system will work (documentation? Shoot, I barely even comment my code...), but I'll keep that URL to myself until he says it's okay to do otherwise ;-) But, what I can do is tell you that it's a pretty slick setup. Thanks, Mark!

After the coding, we went to The Rock Bottom, again until about 2:30am. People shared life stories, interesting facts, and we danced around in togas while holding torches... er...

All in all, it was an awesome time. It's one of those things where you look at the clock when you get there, and all of a sudden it's 8 hours later. It was especially nice to get back into "collection of developers" mode, after becoming the only Web developer in my department and then going freelance. I suspect many others are in a similar situation, considering the current status of many companies' IT budgets. It's great to work in a relaxed, multi-developer environment. I think we all left that day having learned something. It's a great time and an opportunity to network. So, where were you? No worries, it shouldn't be too long until we have another (especially if there's some demand *hint*).

I think it was Winston Churchill who said: if you don't have at least one weekend out of the year to totally geek out, you'll never be truly happy. That's paraphrased, of course.

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mattwarden

mattwarden.com