Meet the guys behind ColdFront conference.

Interview with Daniel Frost and Kenneth Auchenberg

ColdFront wants Danish developers to blow their own horns

The Copenhagen front-end conference ColdFront is about bringing in interesting speakers from all over the world to share their take on the biggest upcoming challenges for developers. But ColdFront is also about creating a forum where specialists can meet, get to know each other and exchange ideas.

Both Daniel Frost and Kenneth Auchenberg are self-made developers – and do-it-yourself’ers as well. Both developers are self-taught – Kenneth specializing in front end, Daniel in back end – and both have a strong creative drive.

Together with other inventive, entrepreneurial developers, Kenneth helped create the online work platform Podio, which was later sold to Citrix for over EUR 3.35 million. And for the last four years, he’s been arranging the monthly Copenhagen JS meet-up for JavaScript and front-end developers.

Daniel Frost has worked as a freelance consultant for a number of years for clients including Carlsberg and the major European media company De Persgroep, and was also employed at Microsoft for five years. In 2013, he organized the Copenhagen software conference Warm Crocodile Developer Conference.

Front end is now a specialization

In 2014, Kenneth Auchenberg and Daniel Frost agreed that the front-end community in Copenhagen could do with some outside inspiration. So they established and organized the ColdFront conference, which received a lot of positive attention in both in Denmark and internationally in its first year.

Why is there a need for a conference like ColdFront in Denmark?
“Front-end development has gradually developed into a specialization in its own right,” Kenneth Auchenberg begins. “Ten years ago, you did both front-end and back-end development, but as the demands related to the quality of the user experience have increased, for example when logging on to Facebook , the two areas have become separated.”

And in response to the increasing importance of front-end development, front-end developers have started meeting and attending seminars in order to learn from one another’s experiences. However, the majority of the many conferences and seminars on front-end development have taken place outside Denmark.

“Why do Danish developers have to go to London, San Francisco and Berlin to find inspiration? Why can’t they find it in Copenhagen? That was our starting point and the idea behind ColdFront,” explains Kenneth Auchenberg, who in the same breath feels compelled to point out a paradox: Even though we have so many talented people in Denmark, we don’t feel very comfortable drawing attention to it.

“Danish IT brains are behind massive successes like Ruby on Rails, C++ and Chrome’s V8 motor. But we don’t have a tradition of telling the world about it. Blowing your own horn, getting out there and proclaiming, ‘I made that’ – something Americans are good at, for example – we just don’t do that.”
ColdFront is about community spirit Daniel Frost takes over and emphasizes how it important it is for Danish software talents to be challenged constantly. Otherwise, they jump ship and go off to find challenges in other countries.
“Talented people want to be with other talented people. That’s just how it is. So the idea with ColdFront is to help create an ecosystem of people who can challenge each other and help each other innovate.”

What sets ColdFront apart from all the many other software conferences on the market?
“We’re a conference that emphasizes the social side of things. Our content is good. It’s not content you can find anywhere else. The speakers are hand-picked, and they’re not the usual suspects who tour the world doing conferences. But having said that, you can find content that’s similar to what we present at ColdFront. That’s why we really emphasize the aspect of ColdFront participants creating all kinds of relationships with each other. We’re trying to cultivate community spirit. It’s our job to provide the right framework, but it’s up to the participants to contribute the content that will really be of value to them,” says Daniel Frost.

What is a good community?
“Both Kenneth and I are extremely extroverted people, and we love to socialize. But not everyone on the scene feels that way, far from it. It’s easy enough to get people to participate in conferences – especially if there’s free beer and food. But getting people to open up and participate actively in a debate is harder,” says Daniel Frost.

“It’s kind of funny, actually, because developers are probably some of the most opinionated people as a profession. They have an opinion about everything, but they’d rather keep it to themselves instead of simply talking. I think it’s a cultural thing.”

Get involved in communities

Kenneth Auchenberg, who invited the conference speakers, explains that the focus of this year’s ColdFront was on the challenges that will be facing front-end developers in the future.

”For example, developments in mobile technologies mean that users now primarily use apps and have stopped using the traditional web as much. So for many of the speakers, the theme was how we can make the web interesting again, so that not everything ends up in an app,” explains Kenneth Auchenberg.

Why is participating in ColdFront important for a developer?
“Both Kenneth and I started from rock bottom,” says Daniel Frost.
“We don’t have a formal education, but we’ve learned the ropes through communities. That’s an important dimension not just of participating in ColdFront, but of conferences and communities in general. Conferences and communities can open the doors to the next job. I don’t have any statistics on how many people I’ve seen get jobs through community meetings, but it’s a lot.”

“There’s also another dimension,” adds Kenneth Auchenberg: “In our business, companies want to hire people who do hobby projects, partly because it means that they make all their mistakes in their free time, and partly because it draws new inspiration into the business. Getting involved in a community also has an educational aspect. As a back-end developer, you can do a degree in your field at the Department of Computer Science. You can’t do that as a front-ender. Your education takes place out there in the industry. What I mean to say is that communities where there’s an exchange of ideas are where front-end developers improve and educate themselves,” he concludes.

Name: Daniel Frost
Age: 32
Education: Self-taught
Occupation: Developer Is currently working for the Danish Broadcasting Corporation via ProData Consult

Name: Kenneth Auchenberg
Age: 26
Education: Self-taught
Occupation: Developer