Into The Box 2018 Recap

April 29, 2018

As is customary these days, I’m at the airport, waiting for my flight, so now I shall write up my thoughts on the latest conference. :)

Into The Box 2018 wrapped up last night, and was a huge success! Attendance has grown since last year, most pre-conference workshops were sold out, and all the regular sessions were streamed on line. Congrats to Luis and his team for all the success — their hard work is clearly paying off!

I attended the TestBox workshop to fill in some gaps in my knowledge about what all is capable with TestBox, as well as to get a better understanding of BDD. I’ve used both in tiny bits here and there, but want to make use of both more regularly.  Last year I attended the CommandBox workshop for the same reason.  And in both cases I’ve walked away with exactly what I wanted.  If you’ve got an interest in learning either product, I highly recommend both workshops.  And just another brief reminder: *neither* CommandBox nor TestBox require you to be using ColdBox for your applications! (Though the more modular and well structured your code is, the more benefits you’ll gain from TestBox.  But even that is still possible to use with an old spaghetti codebase — I gave a talk on “Testing My Non-ColdBox Site With TestBox” which you can watch here.)

Okay now back to Into The Box!

Thursday started with the Ortus keynote where we were introduced to all the new things happening at Ortus Solutions. There are new versions of ColdBox, CommandBox, ContentBox and more all being released, plus a variety of other updates.  And like last year, a portion of our conference tickets went toward feeding needy children at an orphanage — a nice touch, being able to give back to others while learning new things. This win-win is just one of several things that always make the feeling of community at Into The Box great.

In fact, “community” kind of felt like a highlighted theme this year, even moreso than usual. Maybe it was just my personal experience, but I feel like I met more people that were genuinely interested in making connections, and had more great conversations in between sessions than I remember having at other conferences of late. Of course, maybe that was because I only gave one presentation, and was able to enjoy myself more, rather than being bogged down with multiple slide decks worth of prep. :)

Session highlights for me included:

Raymond Camden’s talk on “Building Progressive Web Apps” was packed with great content, which is no surprise to anyone that’s attended his talks in the past.  Ray’s talks are oen of favorite places to go when learning a new technology. His presentations are always clear

Thinking Modularly from Brad Wood should be watched by EVERY ColdFusion developer, especially those that don’t like seeing all that “npm install” stuff these days, and feeling like their tech stack is being left behind.  With CommandBox and ForgeBox, the CFML world can literally to head to head with any Node/JavaScript/npm workflow.  And again, no you do not have to be building ColdBox apps to take advantage of these things. :)

Brian Klaas has become one of my favorite conference speakers of the last few years.  His knowledge of Amazon Web Services and what can be done with them via ColdFusion is amazing.  This talk was titled “Step into serverless with AWS + CFML”, and while that title sounds like the discussion might be all about the theory and architecture behind how to do such a thing, he included several working demos that were very impressive! It’s quite scary what can be done with AWS, CFML, and literally just a few lines of JavaScript. I’ve had several discussions with folks about AWS, and been (very peripherally) involved in projects that used it behind the scenes; I always walked away feeling like it was a pretty big mountain to tackle.  This talk changed my mind completely -- it IS possible to start playing with AWS without having to dive in head-first and redo your entire workflow.  (Plus, Brian is one of the nicest people you will ever meet at a conference!)

Jeffrey Kunkel gave his first ever talk at a conference, titled “Oh my GAD (General Anxiety Disorder)”.  The talk was well constructed, and well attended.  But the best part was probably the followup conversation among attendees.  Rather than just a typical question/answer session, it was more open dialogue with the audience, with many people sharing tips about what’s worked for them when in similar situations at work, and emphasizing how open everyone in the ColdFusion community is to helping others.  This was another of the conference moments that really highlighted the feeling of “community” for me.  

Matthew Clemente’s talk on writing API wrappers -  watch this if you’ve ever been tempted to write an API wrapper but weren’t sure where to start.  Coincidentally Matthew was my roommate at the conference; I can vouch for him as proof that there are indeed nice people in New Jersey. ;)

Thursday night wrapped up with a live recording of the Cross Cutting Concerns Podcast with several of the conference speakers.  The host of said podcast admitted to a) not being well versed in CFML and b) mostly writing code in C#, but he came away rather impressed with the CFML world and all that can be done with the platform. Success! The podcast included equal portions of quality discussion about the current state of the CFML world, fun trivia and other hilarity. :)

Friday morning’s schedule included 2 talks that were back to back, and I’m guessing that wasn’t a coincidence. “ColdBox HMVC 5” from Luis Majano and “Integrating MVC Into Legacy” from Brad Wood should be required viewing for anybody doing CFML that is still stuck with a legacy app, and has been scared to try moving to a full blown framework.  This was the 1-2 punch that knocks down ANY excuses about it being difficult to move a legacy app into a modern framework.  Not to sound like a broken record but seriously, CommandBox + ForgeBox + ColdBox 5 can provide an EXCELLENT set of tools for moving any large legacy app into modern times. Don’t believe me? Drop me a line and we’ll set up training for your team. :)  

I skipped some of the Friday afternoon sessions to run thru my “Vue.js + CFML” preso a bit, and to make a few adjustments based on what I’d seen earlier in the day from other speakers.  This was the first appearance for this particular preso, but I received some good feedback afterwards, so I know at least a few people in the audience liked it. :)

I took notes in a few of the sessions; will get those posted on line shortly.  All the sessions were recorded, but I’m not sure what the plan is for getting those posted on line.

Thanks again to all the new people I met this year (Uma, Matthew, Jeffrey, Denny, Paul, Javier and whoever I’m forgetting in my jet-lagged-post-conference-exhausted state), everyone that came to my session, and of course Luis and the rest of the Ortus team.  Hope to see you all again next year.