RubyFringe

FutureRuby: July 9th – 12th, 2009

by Joey deVilla on February 23, 2009

First Came RubyFringe

RubyFringe logo

I can’t talk about FutureRuby without first talking about RubyFringe.

Last July, the fine folks at Toronto’s Little Coding Shop That Could – Unspace – created one of the best and most memorable conferences I’ve ever attended: RubyFringe. RubyFringe made its mark by taking the standard geek conference formula and turning it on its head. Among the things that distinguished it were:

  • RubyFringe was intentionally a small conference, with its attendance capped at 150 attendees.
  • No sponsors!
  • It had a single conference track, and all presentations took place in the same room.
  • The presentations were vetted carefully by people who really, really, really loved the Ruby programming language. This meant that we got interesting speakers and no vendor pitches. We felt Damien Katz’ pain when he talked about his situation prior to creating CouchDB, grooved as Nick Sieger talked about the parallels between jazz and programming, and stayed glued to our seats as Giles Bowkett gave us his rousing call to action in his 400-slide extravaganza, even though he’d gone well beyond his allotted time and was cutting into lunch (it was that good).
  • They didn’t allow questions at the end of the presentations. In organizer Pete Forde’s words: “Our experience has been that questions are hard to hear, generally of poor quality, often just statements, and almost always an exercise in demonstrating how brilliant the questioner is while dominating the attention of the whole room.”
  • There was a “companion track” for attendees’ non-geeky significant others, where they were taken on a tour of the city while their partners were at the conference.
  • They served some of the best food I’ve ever had at a developer conference. The lunches were at the Downtown Metropolitan Hotel, and the big dinner at the Drake Hotel was beyond anything I’ve ever had at a developer conference.
  • The conference also included parties at some of the best spots in the city, some of which you wouldn’t find on vanilla tourist guides. Better yet, those parties were open bar!
  • Not only was there an opening party at a brewery, complete with stand-up comic, rock band and DJ, but there was a great closing party on Unspace’s roof.
  • The organizers paid attention to little details that set the conference apart, from giving everyone transit passes to heralding speakers as they walked on stage with the song of the choice to the giant polaroid montage featuring every attendee.

The organizers’ decisions in crafting RubyFringe made it a high-quality, memorable and inspiring experience, and its carefully limited scale gave it a sense of community that I could almost describe as familial.

Many people who went declared it the best conference they’d ever attended, and many who passed up the opportunity kicked themselves for missing it. Those pale next to the highest praise for the conference: the fact that after attending RubyFringe, a half-dozen handful of attendees were so inspired that they quit their day jobs to strike out on their own doing Ruby development.

Now Comes FutureRuby

FutureRuby comic

With RubyFringe’s resounding success, it was only natural that people would ask if Unspace would be doing it again next year. They gave it some serious thought – the last thing that they wanted to create was a weak sequel. They didn’t want to simply rehash RubyFringe, but reinvent it, just as they had reinvented the developer conference with RubyFringe.

So they reinvented RubyFringe as FutureRuby.

FutureRuby will take place from July 9th through 12th, and will build on what RubyFringe accomplished. The organizers bill it as “an opportunity to prepare for the future by learning from the mistakes of the past”, and promise us that it won’t just be RubyFringe warmed over – we shouldn’t expect to find the same things in the same places!

What else will it have?

  • Parties and nightly entertainment, three nights in a row
  • FAILCamp (which I co-hosted last year, and which I am invited to host again) is back with a vengeance, and an adorable sailor suit
  • “More better than” swag that you’ll be proud to wear in public
  • The return of the companion track for partners and secret lovers during the conference
  • An amazing two nights of lunches and dinners that you’ll photograph and tweet about
  • Loving attention to all of the details, like excellent wifi, transit passes, and no paid presentations

All the details are in this post at Unspace’s blog, Rethink. You can bet that I’ll be at FutureRuby.

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Collage of images from the RubyFringe summary article at \"Rethink\"

Over at Rethink, the blog of Accordion City-based development shop Unspace, Pete Forde shares his thoughts on the RubyFringe conference in an articles titled RubyFringe was Profitable, People are Happy, and the Sky Didn’t Fall. What Now?”.

The article covers all kinds of things including:

  • A loving poke at RailsConf (“A 400 person conference doesn’t become better with 1600 people, but if you’ve already done the hard work, why not scale up?”). That’s a reference to RailsConf 2006 and 2007.
  • The number of attendees (something that I’m going to cover in an article very soon)
  • Why they might not do another RubyFringe (think of all the movie sequels you’ve ever seen)
  • Women and tech conferences
  • You can hold a conference without sponsors (well, Engine Yard helped foot the bill for a party)
  • Consider going with just a single track
  • Just as Obie said that you shouldn’t undercharge for your services, you shouldn’t undercharge for a conference. Charge what it costs, and deliver real value
  • “Great food is important, because nobody can focus for fifteen hours on cold boxed lunches.” And RubyFringe had great food.
  • Care about the details! “This cannot be overstated, and the key word here is care.”

Meghann Millard of Unspace
Meghann Millard, RubyFringe cat herder supreme.

Pete said it in his article, and I feel it bears repeating: Meghann did an amazing job herding cats for RubyFringe, and if you attended RubyFringe and have a little cash to spare, it might be a nice idea to send her some flowers (or an Amazon gift certificate) for all the work she put in. I owe her big-time for thinking of me when she was looking for a host for the Friday night opening events as well as an emergency host when FAILCamp needed one. Thank you, Meghann! I salute you with a filet mignon on a flaming sword!

As for Pete thanking me for the RubyFringe guides and notes from the conference: it was my pleasure. I believed in the event from the get-go and was only too happy to apply the Burning Man ethos to this event (“There are no spectators, only participants”). Besides, that’s what we in the Accordion City tech community do!

If you’re thinking about putting together a tech conference, you should steal as many ideas as you can from RubyFringe, and Pete’s article is a good starting-off point.

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RubyFringe: Day 2 Notes, Part 3

by Joey deVilla on July 22, 2008


Photo by Carsten.
Click the photo to see it on its Flickr page.

Pete Forde Break

Ruby.rewrite(Ruby) (Reginald Braithwaite)


Photo by Libin Pan.
Click the photo to see it on its Flickr page.

Conceptual Algorithms (Tom Preston-Warner)

Sinatra (Blake Mizerany)

Be Good (Leila Boujnane)

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RubyFringe: Day 2 Notes, Part 2

by Joey deVilla on July 22, 2008

Jabl: The Language You Will Hate (Hampton Catlin)

Archaeopteryx (Giles Bowkett)

CouchDB and Me (Damian Katz)

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An Amusing RubyFringe Moment

by Joey deVilla on July 21, 2008

This is funnier if you happen to follow the Ruby programming scene or know me and Zed Shaw:


Photo by Libin Pan.
Click the photo to see its Flickr page.

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RubyFringe: Day 1 Notes, Part 2

by Joey deVilla on July 20, 2008

Jazzers and Programmers (Nick Sieger)

Nick Sieger had two talks ready and put it to an audience vote. They could pick either:

  • Pointless and Time — Wasting Things You Can Do with JRuby, or
  • Jazzers and Programmers

As you can see by the title, the audience picked “Jazzers and Programmers”.

Experience the music! Carsten Nielsen put together a muxtape page where you can hear the samples of jazz that Nick used in his presentation.

You should also see Nick Sieger’s blog entry Jazzers and Programmers, which is his presentation in article form.


Do the Hustle (Obie Fernandez)

From the RubyFringe program booklet:

Sales is an a rt that very few technical people have mastered. Very few. It takes patience, confidence, empathy and a whole slew of other skills mixed together — a brew that is seriously difficult for many geeks to figure out. In this talk, Obie will leverage his experience successfully selling consulting services for both Thoughtworks and Hashrocket to help you with the following questions: How do I figure out how to price my services? How do I figure out the kind of work I want to sell? How do I write contracts and statements of work? What about proposals? And RFPs? How do I close the deal?


Being Dumb and Using it to Your Advantage (Matt Todd)

From the RubyFringe program booklet:

You’re in over your head, dumber than you (and others) think, and you want to matter to your community. What do you do?

There are many good developers in this same position sitting on some dumb ideas simply because they are dumb. I’m challenging you to implement them…let me tell you why. First hand experiences from some dumb developer.


The Framework Mass Index: Why Your Web Framework Sucks and You Should Build Your Own (Jeremy McAnally)

From the RubyFringe program booklet:

Frameworks are getting fat. Many times it’s just as easy to build your own stuff that does what you want rather than shoehorning what you want into an existing framework. This talk will discuss experiences in shoving specific functionality into a general framework and some options for curing the problems that were encountered.


There Will be Porn (Zed Shaw)

From the RubyFringe program booklet:

I’ll go through 10 truly horrible ideas that I’ve implemented or thought about, all created just for RubyFringe.


Zed devoted the rest of the presentation to his Ruby “swan songs” — four numbers which he constructed on stage using Inculcator to record tracks and the salmagundi of music and computer gear shown in the photo below:

Zed Shaw\'s music gear setup at RubyFringe

Zed’s gear consisted of:

The four numbers he constructed and performed were:

  1. Zed Jumped the Shark (940K MP3)
  2. Matz Can’t Patch (1.7MB MP3)
  3. Don’t Fuck Up Chad’s Community (2.1MB MP3)
  4. Goodbye Friends (3.6MB MP3)

You can download them by clicking on the links above or by visiting their Internet Archive page, where you’ll find them in various formats. Zed put them in the public domain — in his own words: “I’ll nevermanke any money off them.”

In the photo of Zed’s setup, you can see four boxes on the left side. They’re t-shirts which have been compressed into cubes. Zed customized them by hand-painting “ZSFA” (short for “Zed’s So Fucking Awesome”, the name of his blog) on them. They were rewards given to people who supplied the vocal samples (“Zed jumped the shark”) for Zed Jumped the Shark. Those people were: Hampton Catlin, Deb, one unidentified person and Yours Truly.

Here’s what the t-shirt looked like after I extracted it from its cube:

Uncompressed ZSFA t-shirt from Zed Shaw

For Zed’s perspective on the event and his presentation, see his article titled RubyFringe 2008 – Killing Floor in Toronto.

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RubyFringe: Day 1 Notes, Part 1

by Joey deVilla on July 20, 2008

Here’s the first of my notes from RubyFringe, the non-corporate, almost-non-sponsored, edgy Ruby-but-not-Rails conference organized by the folks at Unspace and held in Toronto (a.k.a. “Accordion City”) on July 18th – 20th, 2008. I’ve read on a lot of blogs that people have been calling it “the best Ruby conference ever” — I might go so far to say that it’s the best tech conference I’ve been to.

This first set of notes covers the following presentations:

  • Adhearsion (Jay Phillips)
  • Deployment Monoculture / Scaling Ruby Down (Dan Grigsby)
  • Rockstar Memcaching (Tobias Lutke)
  • Living on the Edge (Yehuda Katz)
  • Testing is Overrated (Luke Francl)

Adhearsion (Jay Phillips)

From the RubyFringe program booklet:

Jay Phillips will talk about what’s been changing in the Adhearsion and VoIP scene and how people with virtually no VoIP experience can use Ruby and Adhearsion to write their first application in this generally foreign world of technology. If you’re building a Rails web application, with Adhearsion you could consider leveraging voice as a new, cutting-edge feature of it. If you’re a cowboy hacker with more personal ambitions, Jay will also talk about fun hacker projects and how you can go about implementing them. The world of voice is certainly a growing market and it can’t hurt to know a little about the technology!

Deployment Monoculture / Scaling Ruby Down (Dan Grigsby)

From the RubyFringe program booklet:

Most conversations about scaling Ruby web apps are pointed in the wrong direction. Instead of talking about whether Ruby can scale up — I think we all agree it can — I’d like to see it scale down.

As an entrpreneur, I launch dozens of ideas before I pick the one to turn into a startup. The Rails-inspired approach of deploying long running instances of the runtime, one or more per app, doesn’t scale down to support even a few side-by-side applications.

Instead of reflexively arguing that EC2 is cheap enough, this talk will challenge some base assumptions, take a hint and some inspiration from Google App Engine, and suggest another angle for deploying Ruby-based web apps.

Rockstar Memcaching (Tobias Lutke)

From the RubyFringe program booklet:

Memcached is what makes the web fast. It’s also the simplest thing ever: you put a little memory aside for it, you put some keys in, you get them out at a later time.

So why the hell do all of you geniuses use it wrong? I’ll teach you how to tackle your performance issues using memcached once and for all.

Living on the Edge (Yehuda Katz)

From the Rubyfringe program booklet:

Ruby is growing up quickly, and a number of Ruby’s mainstays are falling by the wayside. I’m talking about classics like Rails, Rake, Rdoc and much much more. This talk will help you squeeze even more developer productivity out of the latest edge tools that will be the mainstays a year from now. Of course, living on the edge is a dangerous game, so I’ll cover how to sanely keep abreast of the latest and greatest without having to spend all your time keeping your tool chain up and running.

I intend to cover Merb and DataMapper (briefly, as they are rapidly reaching escape velocity from the Land of Edge), Thor, YARD, basis and Johnson. I will also cover other edge tools that are released between time of printing and Rubyfringe. Rock on!

Testing is Overrated (Luke Francl)

From the RubyFringe program booklet:

Develper-driven testing is probably the most influential software development technique of the last 10 – 15 years. There’s no question that it has improved the practice of building software. And in a dynamic language like Ruby, it’s hard to get by without it. But is it really the best way to find defects? Or is the emphasis on testing and test coverage barking up the wrong tree?

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