Pittsburgh held their first Ruby conference this past weekend, offering a welcoming atmosphere and talks for first and longtime conference goers alike. Corey Haines’ first talk on ‘Getting the most out of a conference,’ encouraged maximizing your personal connections, and with his requirement to meet a minimum of three people following his talk, was the perfect way to break the ice and get the conference rolling. As this was my first technical conference, having this kind of introduction was a great way to set my expectations and encourage meeting new people to get the most out of the weekend.
There was a 30 minute intermission between each talk, a larger gap than many conferences, which allowed for a relaxed and social atmosphere following each presentation. This is something I feel is a must to really digest the previous talk and hear what others have to say. The conversations generated by a talk were often just as valuable, if not more, than the talk itself. The conference was also single track, freeing attendees over the need to pick and choose which talk to attend. Coupled with the wide area and round table seating, having everyone grouped together had a very communal feel and many people floated from table to table as the day passed.
I have to commend the organizers, and community as a whole, for being progressive against harassment of any kind, especially that pertaining to gender, race, and other biases. While having a zero tolerance policy on harassment may sound redundant, it made it clear to all participants that not only would this kind of behavior not be tolerated, it would be publicly scrutinized. With great programs like Girl Develop It highlighted at the conference, I think these kinds of policies and initiatives are a great step towards a more welcoming industry and something I hope generates productive discussion on eliminating such issues.
For anyone in the Ruby community, I do not feel it needs to be said that there is something special about this community. I went into the conference expecting much of what I have experienced virtually; a welcoming, vibrant community, with strong OSS and TDD practices. What I left with was a group hug (hundreds strong), and a room of individuals excited to simply share in each other’s passion for the craft. Whether Aaron Pattersons’ talk on giving back, or Joe O’Brien’s talk on ‘People Patterns,’ the emphasis on the people and interpersonal relations behind the process and code was a refreshing take on software development and a perfect mix for the purely technical presentations.
Steel City Ruby Conf has been confirmed for 2013, and after such a great experience, an event I do not plan on missing.