PauseOnError 2023: A Recap for Developers, by Developers

PauseOnError is a developer-led gathering of FileMaker folk that’s been designed to be open and spontaneous since its inception. Founders Ernest Koe and John Sindelar passed the co-CEO mantles to Martha Zink and Krissy Ferris a few years back. They’ve taken that mission and run with it.  

You’ve heard the maxim that constraints force creativity? Well, Covid-19 forced some creativity in finding a safe way to meet. That has turned out to be a boon to the FileMaker community. Martha and Krissy found a beautiful location with plenty of outdoor gathering space at Ramah Darom in Clayton, GA. Pause has been held there for the last few years.

T-shirts from the PauseOnError FileMaker gathering at Ramah Darom in Clayton, GA

Pause Summer Camp

Pause Summer Camp (which happens in the fall, because why not?) is the result. The conference is figuratively grassroots: speakers post their own sessions, so the content is entirely decided by the community. And now it’s also literally grassroots: Having the gathering at an actual summer camp lends an open, playful vibe that’s hard to get in a hotel conference room. 

There’s room to think, time to percolate, and space for walk-and-talks or impromptu brainstorming sessions gathered around a laptop. And time to tie-dye your conference shirt. 

Evenings are open, too: take what you need, leave the rest. Campfires, s’mores, music, bourbon, and games. 

PauseOnError 2023 Session Highlights

My personal highlights: 

  • Eric Luce (Proof+Geist) spoke about using “feature flags” to deliver uncompleted code. In a productive rhythm of regular, frequent releases, it’s likely that some larger feature will be unfinished when another is ready to release (or when bug patches need to be pushed to production). Setting global variables OnOpen and programming those into your features lets you turn features on or off as needed. I’ve done this sometimes when I know a feature won’t be released in the next push, but I like the idea of incorporating it fully as a regular practice. 
  • Norm Bartlett (Soliant) had a lakeside chat about the hurdles of continuing education. When you’re busy with billable client work, how do you prioritize learning new features? When do you fold that into projects and when do you set aside separate time? How do you prioritize what to learn next? I enjoyed the conversation around this and realized a couple of my own stress points. (Namely, I acknowledged I probably can’t Know Everything, so it’ll help my sanity to choose my learning path judiciously!) 
  • Peter Vinogradov (Proof+Geist, TileMaker Pro ) shared his organizational/mental planning/dopamine hit system. Because I also support multiple clients plus some internal initiatives, my days can feel a little scattered, so this hit home. I’ll see which ideas stick, but am starting with being stricter about documenting, per project, what I did last and what my next step is, to reduce friction on re-entry. And per both Peter’s session and Micah Woods’ impressive JSON session, it sounds like I should be using Keyboard Maestro. Downloading now. 
  • Dina Torok (Data Maven Consulting) taught us all to Circle sing, which is like using a Looper but with human vocalists “looping” themselves and improvising over the top. (I made it sound weirder by saying “humans,” I know. You sing what Dina says, and someone else sings something else she says. Repeat.) Improv is its own whole set of Samsonite for me, but Dina + friends + camp made it work.

Getting to and from camp from where I live in central Washington state is indeed a trek but given how much Pause feeds my brain and soul, it feels more like a pilgrimage. I’m focusing on the Now, but already looking forward to next year.

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