RailsConf 2007: Community

Posted by Curtis Miller Curtis Miller

Part of the reason I attended RailsConf this year was for the community. When I first started learning Rails, I was alone. Literally, I would sit by myself at home for 12 hours a day trying to learn. Don't get me wrong, I think I learned a lot and that was great for keeping my focus, but I think I missed a certain aspect of what Rails is about – namely, the community.

After spending several months learning from home, I decided to find a job using my new found skills. Actually, I was broke and needed to get back on my feet, but anyway… It was an exciting time for me because I was really looking forward to meeting other people who were passionate about Rails. Phoenix is not the greatest market for Ruby on Rails developers, but I decided to hold out until I found a contract position doing just that. A short two weeks later, things were looking up. I had a job that paid well and I was using Ruby on Rails, what more could I ask for?

Well… a lot actually. What I found was that only one other person at this company was as passionate about Ruby on Rails as me. Seriously, I am thankful every day that I work with him; it would be a nightmare if he were to leave. Working with another Ruby on Rails geek has pushed my appreciation for the language to a new level. Well, not only the language itself, but the culture that it inspires. Is this an intended or unintended effect of using Ruby on Rails? I think there is a reason why one of the most popular learning aides for Rails is Agile Web Development with Rails. It not only leads you through developing your first Ruby on Rails application, but it also starts to plant the seeds of Agile development. The language features allow you to rapidly develop based on feedback, sometimes even when the user/customer is right there next to you.

So back to RailsConf. I wanted to meet the other people in the community. I already subscribe to many blogs covering Ruby and/or Ruby on Rails, but I wanted the personal interaction. I needed to know that other people like me existed… for real. And I found some. Of course, I couldn't meet everyone there, but in each session, I turned to the person next to me and asked them some questions. Sometimes that led to a more lengthy conversation or business card and sometimes not, but you can't say I didn't try.

I attended the conference with my friend Josh and two other co-workers, Ramesh and Clif. Clif is more of a higher up (non-developer) and he seemed to be attending RailsConf to recruit. Ramesh is a developer that we are working on, ever so slowly, to get him to become more passionate and opinionated.

One of the first people I met was Chardy, a Rails developer from Singapore. I talked with him a little about what he is working on, how he started using Rails, etc. He was very nice and it was interesting to see that people traveled a long way to attend the conference.

On Friday, I had a blind meetup with, Mike, a friend-of-a-friend. Very cool guy. We ended up spending a lot of time hanging out over food and beers during the conference. He is still in school, but I was extremely impressed by the breadth and depth of his knowledge. We had some really good conversations and I hope that we can keep in touch. He said he might go up to San Francisco this summer for a job between semesters. I wish him the best of luck!

Also on Friday, I noticed someone on the Portland light rail that had a badge reading Integrum Technologies. I knew that company from reading several of their blogs. They are also located in Chandler, AZ which is very close to where I work. Turns out they are a very cool group of people. The first person I met was their Algorithmagician, Jay. He's a nice guy and we attended several of the same sessions throughout the conference. He then introduced me to Lindsay, Chris, and Jade. They seem like they have a great group of people working for them. If you are interested in working for them, I just saw a job posting for an experienced web developer at their company.

Celebrity sighting! Lol… I met Gregg Pollack and Jason Seifer of Rails Envy fame. Yes, the guys who brought you the Mac vs. PC style Ruby ads. My personal favorite was #1, so enjoy it below. they both seemed to be really great guys – down-to-earth, funny, and of course knowledgeable.

At a party Saturday night I also had the chance to meet several women attending the conference. The first, was Tina, a photographer, entrepreneur, and web usability expert. She is working with a group at Amazon researching Ruby on Rails as a possible web development framework. I remember when I was completing my MS project using the OpenLaszlo framework, Amazon was looking at that as well. Cool to see Amazon exploring other technologies (even though I'm still not thrilled about the whole Amazon vs Alexaholic/Statsaholic debacle).

Tina in turn introduced me to Desi, a member of the ThoughtWorks team. Desi and I had a great, long conversation about women in technology and their lack of attendance at conferences. She is currently the principal contact for DevChix, a group encouraging a more diverse technological workforce. I will probably expand on this conversation in a later post. Desi also introduced me to Cyndi Mitchell, vice-president of strategy for ThoughtWorks. Wow, there were a lot of ThoughtWorks people around… We only talked for a short time because they all decided to go to Dante's to see the Extra-Action Marching Band live. Incidentally, the marching band made a guest appearance at the conference…

There were a lot more people that I met, but I wanted to call out a few specific ones that I really enjoyed meeting. So, bottom line is there are people out there with as much, and in some cases more, passion for Ruby on Rails. Finally, I feel like I have started to connect with the community. However, I see this as a first step in the right direction. Now I need to get involved with making Ruby on Rails and the community successful.

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