occasional posts about programming, tech, and the dreaded etcetera

Red Dirt Ruby Conference II

Red Dirt Ruby Conference in nearby Oklahoma City was even better this year than last year, and that’s saying a lot.

The format of RDRC is unlike any other conference I’ve attended. The key difference: each speaker (excepting keynote speakers) only talks for 18 minutes and that’s it.

Speakers are grouped, four at a time, into a theme. This year’s themes (for day one, which is all I was able to attend) were Ruby Implementations, Rails 3 Extensions, Rails Redux, and JavaScript. So in all, I saw 16 presentations in a single day, plus keynotes!

For us with A.D.D. fueling our disorder with wifi-enabled laptops at hand, coercing presenters to condense their subject matter down to a mere 18 minutes is like switching from a charter bus to high-speed rail – you get to the destination considerably faster. As @JEG2 put it, if a speaker can’t get to the point in 18 minutes, then they won’t in an hour either.

Keynote speaker Aaron Patterson (@tenderlove) gave an entertaining and honest look into the core of Rails development, and the challenges that go with it. I don’t envy his position on the core team.

Dr. Nic Williams (@drnic) gave a compelling call to action for people to join or start Ruby user groups in their communities. Dr. Nic’s style is disarming and delightful alternating with hysterical and off-the-wall. Looking around the room, I saw few if any laptops open during his speech.

The best of the 18-minute talks were about alternative Ruby implementations Rubinius and MacRuby, Rails plugins OmniAuth, Haml and Sass, and finally JavaScript alternative CoffeeScript. But by far the best regular talk was from Jeff Casimir, titled “Fat Models Aren’t Enough.” Jeff’s speaking style was engaging and provocative – so much that he received more than one middle finger from the audience! But it was all in good fun, and that brings me to my most favorite part of the conference…

The fun. RDRC is upbeat, energetic, and just plain fun. People are just friendlier in Oklahoma than some other places I’ve been (even if those same people came from the other places, it seems). RDRC makes me proud to be an Okie.

After the day was done, many of the conference goers packed into a hotel suite and started hacking. This was the icing on the cake for me, because I met many amazing people who do creative work everyday. Inspiring stuff.

Thanks to James Edward Gray II and his wife Dana, and to the army of people I’m sure it took to pull this off. See you guys next year!