Back end developer and fellow RYer, Emma Burstow shares her experience at the Umbraco Festival

Umbraco, is my bread and butter. My 9 to 5. Umbraco is known to create flexible and professional websites - ranging from the small to the incomprehensibly large. As Umbraco is open-source, we as a community tend to celebrate these successes as our own. Umbraco is clever but even more clever-er are the people who use it daily, build on top of it and then share the fruits of their labour. With this in mind, the Umbraco community is known for being a welcoming place.

Organised by Cogworks, Umbraco UK fest is the second biggest event in the Umbraco Calendar Globally and by far the largest in the UK, the day was broken into streams; beginners, developers and business. The beginner stream helped attendees get to grips with how to use Umbraco out-of-the-box, while the Developer stream focused more on making your implementations as bullet-proof, scalable and flexible as possible. Finally, business looked at how to work with clients as an Umbraco implementer.

‘The Friendly CMS’ works hard to keep its reputation as just that, ensuring that gatherings are inclusive and engaging for all. There were sessions on agile development (using Lego!), package development and best practice. Per Plough reminded us that “bad implementations hurt everybody.” Neils Hartvig, the founder of Umbraco, spoke at length about the benefits of the Umbraco Cloud, using it to make deployments between environments. 

Covering various aspects, I first spoke about the ideal Umbraco site set up. Architecture is key in any good build and the point I really wanted to drive home was that of scalability. Much of what I work on each day has been architected by senior developers who have kept that at the heart of each project. I urged the audience to consider in their next build: although it is unlikely that the dog-walker you’ve just built a website for will ever go international, is there any harm in setting up as though this is a possibility? What takes 30 minutes at the beginning of a build might save us having to start all over again a few months down the line.

The next part of the talk was around ReactJS and AngularJS. The debate around the two technologies became pretty heated. Most of us were unfamiliar with the two languages so it was great to sit down and watch two veterans hash it out. 

I went on to speak about the highlight of the retreat for me: the workshop on Ditto, a package created for Umbraco that has been very quickly taken up by developers as a flexible and lightweight way of mapping your strongly typed models. 

Essentially, it’s tools like this one that make my job as an Umbracian (yes, we really do call ourselves that) so rewarding. The clever pair that built Ditto and many other packages, built the package because they knew it’d make their lives easier. That done, they go on to make it available (for free!) to all. This really is the spirit of the Umbraco community. 

Umbraco HQ, the developers, the package builders, the kind people on the forums and those who organise the events, believe in the spirit of sharing. They share their software, improvements, advice and most of all, they want you to share your experience of all of their systems. To report bugs, to build packages and to break the whole thing apart, rebuild it the way you want it and then tell them all about it. They insist on this being a two-way thing.

I started my role as an Umbraco Developer just under a year ago. In that time I have drawn on the experience of many from the community. The tech world can be a confusing and scary place for a newbie. It’s way too easy to feel stupid for asking a question. There is an onus on us as learners and experts to make sure that we ask and we answer. Working in a bubble is a habit easily learned with all the pressures of our working lives, but refusing to resign ourselves to that eventuality improves the ecosystem we work in and  makes us better developers in turn.

I ended my talk with advice to others, developers and civilians alike: contribute, collaborate and just share.

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