Day 1


I journeyed over to Bristol on Thursday morning in time to attend the pre-conference hackathon. This year, the focus for me was on exploring the new Umbraco 14 Backoffice, Bellissima, now that the beta has been released.

With a bunch of talented developers from Umbraco HQ in attendance, it was a perfect opportunity to get questions answered and gain a strong understanding of how it all ties together.

As hackathons often end up for me, I actually found myself spending a lot of time catching up with a bunch of Umbraco friends, seeing what they have been hacking away at during the day, which is always a delight. I had chosen a "small" bug relating to one of the new components from the Umbraco UI library. I say small because with many things, once you start digging into the details, you find yourself somewhere completely different, learning a bunch of new stuff along the way.

The bug I was looking into was issue 744 in the Umbraco.Ui git repository. I'll likely keep working on this over the next few weeks when I can. 

The hackathon finished with a few people showcasing their work. It was great to see how quickly some people were able to get up and running with some package creation projects, and hearing that whilst there is a learning curve in the switch from Angular to Web Components, LitJs, and the new Extensions API, once the fundamentals are understood, it's not too intimidating.

I also decided to ask ChatGPT to write a Haiku to summarise the day, to which I was given the following.

Code flows through the day, 
Umbraco hackathon thrives,
Growth in shared delight.

— ChatGPT 3.5

Pre party

After the hackathon, we headed over to Roxy Lanes for an evening of great conversations, entertaining Duck Pin Bowling, ice-free curling, a batting cage and pool. A fantastic event sponsored by the wonderful team at Moriyama.

Day 2

A running start

I decided to join the morning run organised on by Owain Williams from Gibe, which was an energising way to start the day. We did a nice little loop of the Bristol canal, running past the SS Great Britain, a Banksy, the Ardman studios and the M Shed itself, where the event is held. 

Umbraco Spark!

After a stop back at the hotel for some breakfast and a shower, it was now time for the main event. This was my second time attending Spark, and I was thrilled to be back for another year.

The talks for this year were all brilliant, to the point where there was an internal battle when deciding which session to see. Either choice was going to be a great talk, but it also meant you were going to miss out on another great talk! Definitely a good problem to have.

My chosen talks

Lone Iverson & Jacob Overgaard - What new Backoffice? Haven't heard of her

The opening session for everyone was by Lone and Jacob from Umbraco HQ, where they took us through how to work with the new Bellissima backoffice. Despite a few technical issues, once they got going something just clicked in my brain on how everything fits together, and it's super exciting.

Luke Hook - UmbraCopilot - AI all the things!

Luke's session on ways to utilise AI tools such as Copilot was a great insight on how other people are starting to use the technology. As someone who has been using Copilot in my IDE on an off for a year now, the learnings Luke shared from his own experiences felt very similar to mine. AI is a great tool, when used mindfully and appropriately. It's not the solution to everything, at least for now.

Erica Quessenberry - Avoiding the common dev:creative handoff pitfalls

It's always refreshing to hear insights from a person who's main expertise sits slightly adjacent to development, and Erica's talk was no expectation. Erica showed us how being communicative with compassionate and empathy during the creative and development processes will always result in a better project outcome.

Matt Brailsford - Reconnecting a fragmented community through automation

I've been subscribed to the UMB.FYI newsletter for a while now and it was fascinating and impressive to see all of the technologies that came together to turn this really useful weekly email into a 15 minute a week task for Matt!

Pete Duncanson - Edge case poker

It's been a while since Pete has been present in the Umbraco community, and it was a real treat to have him back with us. His talk focused on how to identify true edge cases in problem solving, along with highlighting the potential risks that come with them. It's something we've all experienced, and in a similar message to Erica, often the best approach is clear communication, and even more importantly, with the right people!

Molly Watt - How to think and design in an inclusive way

As a keen advocate for accessibility, it's always a pleasure to hear Molly talk. Here own experiences with Usher Syndrome, which is the most common cause of congenital deaf blindness, combined with her experience as an accessibility consultant at Nexer is incredibly valuable. She talked about how we should be thinking about accessibility as an integral part of a project, and how when it's done right, it becomes invisible.

Phil Whittaker - Deep dive into Umbraco Headless Demo

I haven't had a chance to work with Umbraco Headless yet, so it was really useful to hear about Phil's journey into the demo provided by Umbraco. It certainly helped to demystify some of the perceived complexities of a headless project. It was great to see a bunch of familiar technologies being used in a different way too.

Joe Glombek - How to copy & paste

Dressed in a majestic unicorn onesie, Joe guided us through how to best interpret the information we often rely on when sourcing help online. From StackOverflow to AI-generated solutions, often the context is key. There are many ways to solve a problem when it comes to programming, and just because a solution found online works for the original question, it may not be the right solution for you, but it can certainly get you closer to the right place.

After the event finished, we headed over the canal to an after-party where the multitude of conversations continued.

Final thoughts

Umbraco Spark is a day that feels both short and long at the same time. There is so much incredibly useful information to absorb, and even more wonderful and insightful conversations that happen.

Beyond the talks I saw, one of the biggest highlights for me was simply reconnecting with the many people in the Umbraco community that I am fortunate enough to call a friend, along with making a bunch of new ones!

Being able to talk openly in what I like to think of as an emotionally mature community allows us to share differing opinions and ideas without judgment and ultimately come away with a broader way of thinking, inspired by incredibly intelligent minds from a multitude of backgrounds.

Unrelated Stuff

This blog post took me about 2 hours to write, along with the bug fixes below, and a bit of ChatGPT spellchecking. I'm going to start tracking this time, and including the information in each blog post in the spirit of showing my work, to potentially help others learn.

Blog fixes

As part of writing this blog post, I discovered and fixed the following bugs,

  • My "Text with media" block was completely broken! Thankfully it was a case of some missing css for when the "Image on left" option is chosen.
  • The blog hero image wasn't set up properly so the responsive image and general layout was all wrong.

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