PauseOnError: FileMaker Summer Camp

by Charlie Bailey - Technical Lead

PauseOnError is a grassroots “Unconference” where Claris FileMaker developers from all over come together for two days of sharing and community. I have attended Pause 4 or 5 times over the past decade, and every experience is unique and familiar at the same time. The early events were true unconference-style events – check the event wiki, book a room at the event hotel, bring something to share, and go to a specific hotel room to talk about Claris FileMaker. There is no keynote presenter, no big show, no loud music, and no vendor pavilion. All presenters and even all participants are more or less on equal footing. The schedule is very open, with lots of time for informal collaboration. In those early years, it was handy to bring a camp chair since hotel rooms can’t accommodate a lot of seating! A famous story circulates in the Pause community about a session (in New York, I think) where some session attendees had to sit in the bathtub since it was the only horizontal surface left in the room. I was there, and yes, it happened.

Pause presentations tend to be more like conversations. Yes, there might be slides and a demo, but what makes these sessions so engaging is the conversation. There’s no raising of the hands or passing of the microphone; there’s just a group of developers with a common purpose (to get better at our craft), occupying the same space at the same time, with no barriers to interaction.

A summer camp in October?

Georgia Summer Camp 2021 was (in short) awesome. The location was new to me, but the experience was somehow so familiar. As I arrived, Martha Zink, Krissy Ferris, and Makah Encarnacao greeted me at the registration desk. I’ve known Martha for years (since our first Pause together in NYC), Krissy is a new friend, and though I have worked with Makah on a project at Join::Table, this was the first time we had been in the exact location together (a Zoom buddy?). More familiar faces were popping up as I made my way through registration and then to my room. The facility was a beautiful camp-style resort in the backwoods of the Chattahoochee National Forest in Clayton, GA. We were two hours from the nearest airport and probably 20 miles from the nearest grocery store. And it was really dark. Had it not been for the constant clouds (and rain, rain, rain), I’m certain the stars would have been incredible. We even had a 12-hour blackout where we lost power – it was far from annoying, it wasn’t even much of an inconvenience. With no cellular service and no WiFi, it just brought us closer together. We gathered under the handful of lights on campus powered by a generator and played games late into the night.

There were about 80 participants on-site, and on the first full day of the conference, we all gathered under a covered basketball court for an introduction to Pause. Martha and Krissy handed out our “computers” for the conference duration, and we got to work. The unofficial theme of the conference was “let’s unplug,” and our “computers” were personal-sized whiteboards with attached markers. We used them in all sorts of creative ways over the next 48 hours. (The analog nature of the conference was my favorite part – most presentations were done without any AV equipment at all.) When it was time to break into sessions, we would gather at the basketball court, you’d find your presenter, and then head off to a quiet spot to meet.

Tech Talk

On the technical side, I came away with a better understanding of API’s, I’m more knowledgeable about AWS Lambda functions, and I’ve got a good grasp of the pitfalls when integrating with AdobeSign – all good things. Wim Decorte from Soliant led a discussion about the future of hosting that was particularly interesting; it’s clear to me from that conversation that infrastructure as code is the path forward. For most teams, the days of purchasing hardware, unboxing it, and racking it up in the local server room are gone. With modern cloud platforms like Azure and AWS, infrastructure can be provisioned, updated, and modified by issuing commands. Security and software patches can be applied automatically, servers can be monitored, and alerts can be sent when intervention is necessary. A smaller team with the right skill set can manage larger server farms.

AWS Lambda 

David Sullivan (“Sully”) did a crack job of explaining the architecture of his automated PBX system, even though he left his laptops on the kitchen table at home (oops!). In the spirit of Pause, he delivered a coherent explanation using several poster-sized diagrams outlining the business logic. This was my first introduction to AWS Lambda functions, and though I didn’t walk away with an understanding of how to configure one, I understand the utility of this serverless code. Before hitting the Claris FileMaker Data API, Sully uses several Lambda functions to validate inbound requests to his Claris FileMaker systems. Coupled with a queuing service, Sully can manage the load on his Claris FileMaker Servers while providing highly resilient services that respond well during peak loads.

 FileMaker/AdobeSign Integration

JohnAustin Lamprecht and Bob Bowers delivered a more traditional presentation detailing their experience configuring a FileMaker/AdobeSign integration. This more detailed presentation got into the nitty-gritty of setting up contracting workflows within a FileMaker system. We see these types of integrations more and more as customers look to services like AdobeSign, which does one thing exceptionally well but doesn’t necessarily interface directly with their CRM. While each integration is a little different, I’m personally finding it easier and easier to get a moderately complex integration up and running. Though I haven’t tried AdobeSign (or DocuSign) just yet, this presentation gave me the confidence to dive in, knowing that it’s not only possible but is the right way to go when doing contracting.

The Power of Gathering

These technical presentations aside, the biggest takeaway from Pause is the new and renewed connections to other developers in the community. There’s something about Pause that really breaks down barriers; connections are made, ideas flow, friendships are established, a little knowledge is transferred, and then it’s over.

This is the power of gathering: it inspires us, delightfully, to be more hopeful, more joyful, more thoughtful: in a word, more alive.

— Alice Waters

As an aside, I’d like to give a shout out to the PauseOnError team for planning a successful event during uncertain times. If you haven’t attended PauseOnError, please do. To stay up to date with the next event or learn more, please visit PauseOnError’s website.

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