My company was generous enough to buy me a ticket to GORUCO 2015 - NYC’s annual conference dedicated to the Ruby programming language. I was pretty excited to go, seeing as I love Ruby, and I’ve never been to a technical conference before. Here are my thoughts:
1. Giving Up A Saturday Is Hard
I woke up super early Saturday morning, and got over to the conference which started at 9am. I actually got there around 9:30 because the first hour or so was just breakfast. Normally I sleep in on the weekends, but getting up this early was hard. I was tired and groggy as a result, and not really at 100% engagement for the day. I think in the future I’ll try to attend conferences during the week (if my company allows!).
2. In Person Talks Are Inferior To Seeing Them On YouTube
The conference itself was just a series of lectures. Sure there was a bit of audience participation (“Raise your hand if you think it’s Option A!”), and I did meet a few old friends and made a few new ones over lunch - but 90% of my day was just sitting and listening to presentations. I watch a lot of tech talks and video tutorials on my computer. What I’ve found great is the ability to watch them at 1.5-2x speed, and the ability to pause when I want to take a break, and replay parts that I don’t quite understand. I can’t do any of these things at an in person conference, and combined with the less-comfortable-than-my-bed chair and awkward angle, watching tech talks in person is actually an inferior experience than watching them on YouTube at home.
3. Self Promotion Should Be Banned
There were a few speakers that were clearly there to promote themselves or their business first and foremost. This definitely rubbed me the wrong way, and as soon as I sensed their ulterior motives, I zoned out and stopped paying attention to their speeches. Tech talks should be about something that you learned that you want to share because it could be valuable to other people. Any serendipitous benefits that come your way down the line are great, but giving a presentation just to get on a stage as a marketing exercise is over the line. I think in the future the conference organizers should severely limit speaker’s explicit self promotion. No promoting your consulting services, no promoting your upcoming classes - simply say who you are and what company you work for/founded and then proceed to the tech talk.
4. Real Life Stars
One of the coolest experiences of the conference was actually getting to see people I’ve only “known” via the internet. I saw one of the teachers from treehouse whose videos tutorials I’ve probably spent 30 hours watching. I also got to see the creator of one of the kickstarter campaigns that I’ve supported (who gave my favorite speech of the day coincidentally). This was probably the coolest part of the conference. It’s one thing to read articles, watch tutorials, and engage in online debate. It’s a whole different experience to see these people in real life and really put a face to their names.
5. I Feel Bad for The Sponsors
There were quite a lot of sponsors at the conference. They all paid good money just to get their names in front of a few hundred developers. I suspect the reason they did this is because they are trying to hire developers, but can’t. While some people earnestly believe that corporations are people, I for one am under no such illusion, and thus don’t feel bad for them as an entity. However I still can’t help but feel sorry for the people behind these companies that can’t hire. I know how frustrating it can be to find a good developer, and hope that the their sponsorship of GORUCO helped connect them to their next teammate.
6. Women in Tech
The gender gap in the tech industry is one of the most controversial and heavily debated topics these days. The conference organizers took quite a lot of steps to make sure that GORUCO 2015 was as inclusive as possible. Practically the first thing about of the emcee’s mouth was a reference to the conference’s code of conduct. This was actually fairly pointless since no one probably read it, but I understand why it’s there - afterall somebody somewhere is inevitablely going to do something stupid, and the last thing the organizers wanted was for the conference to be a disaster like PyCon 2013. Even though the attendees were mostly men, they were able to not only avoid the embarrasment of a male-only speakers line up but they were able to achieve gender parity with their speakers. I enjoyed the presentations of almost all of the women who spoke and am really glad they made the effort to recruit the speakers they did.
7. Not Enough Sandi Metz
I was very excited to see Sandi Metz at the conference. She has written one of my favorite books about programming, and is one of the oracles in the Ruby community. When I first saw her I was hoping she was a last minute addition to the speaker line up, or that she would announce the publication date of her next book, but it was not meant to be. Unfortunately this was just a social visit for her, and she emceed the book raffle instead of enlightening us with a new speech. I hope next year she comes back and gives one of her famous tech talks!
8. More Tender Love
I’ve seen Aaron Patterson on the internet. He’s made some great improvements to Active Record, and is all over twitter. But what I didn’t realize is what an absolutely insane goofball he is. He came up on stage with a selfie stick and started snapping pictures of himself and the audience. Then he proceeded to turn every previous tech talk of the day into a one line joke. Finally he showcased some of his ridiculous holiday card photos and threw in lots of memes and animated gifs throughout his presentation. In short, I think we need more Tender Love.
1. GORUCO actually stands for Gotham Ruby Conference - something I found out after attending ↩