We were at Arrrrcamp, the great, near (for us Belgians) and cheap Ruby conference in Ghent. Most of the presentations will be available online, so this is more like some shards from those two very packed days.
I’m not that used to conferences (Arrrrcamp being the one I to attend since I switched from Java to Ruby two years ago), so part of this maybe common knowledge for the rookies – anyway.
First of all, I think that there is as much to see outside of the talks than during them – not that they were not good, just that the (relatively) modest size of the event allowed for a lot of interactions.
Avdi’s keynote looked like two talks merged into one (after asking him, it was not just animpression) – one about naught (a null object helper library), the other about the importance of joy in work. The constant shift was initially unsettling, but Avdi manage to make it work (don’t try that at home, still).
Piotr then did a short but packed talk with a lot of unknown snippets using the Ruby stdlib. Most useful, all being funny (and on Heroku!). This reminded me that I sort of know little of Ruby standard library, and that I’m not alone. Between GitHub and RubyGems.org, gems are actually easier to discover and use than some parts of the stdlib. Maybe there is something to fix there (or maybe those parts of the stdlib should just be gems?).
Zach did a follow up of even more Git & GitHub secrets. The talk was much enjoyable, even if I’m not sure I’ll need that soon. Still, each time I learn something about Git, it seems there is even more.
I had the opportunity to catch up with Zach afterward to ask a question I had holded forlong. As I think many others, I’ve a troublesome relationship with Git: the tool looks more and more like one of the best designed VCS I can think off (it’s object model is both simple and powerful), yet it’s API (the command line) puzzle me to no end – when it is not plainly infuriating, so I asked:
When you start to really know Git well like you do, does its API starts to make sense?
No, actually it doesn’t
Not exactly surprising, but still a bit depressing.
Lastly, two of the best talks were actually snapshots of the way their speakers and companies were working, in a way that resonated much with me.
Adam Roger talked about being a team leader, being invested in the “servant leader role”, joking about being useful to developers by bringing them coffee. I do really like this vision of being a team leader as being there to remove impediments, then trusting your team to get the job done. I laughed hard when Adam said “As a team leader, if you are the brightest guy in the room, then you’re in the wrong room”. Something to remember.
Bart van Zon come from Wirelab Creative, where they are building full web applications on a monthly basis, with tight deadlines linked to their customers promotional campaign schedule (like the launch of a new car model). Going against the usual “we don’t have time for that”, Bart’s team is obsessed by quality, from the code to the beauty, and trying hard to measure their progresses. Missing goals is it’s own punishment for the team, and Bart summarized it with “We have tight schedules. We cannot afford bad quality”. Something to remember.
Both talks made me want to know their speaker and companies more – an effective advertising if any.
More on the side, Bart showed interest in PullReview but was stuck immediately on a bug – allowing Stephan to do some of his stunts, hotfixing the problem in one of the “silent” rooms provided by Hannes and Joren’s crew.
Last but not least, we sort of started a Rails Girls group in Belgium, thanks to Oana enthusiasm.
The event finished (for me, the more courageous ones did go to the GitHub drinkup afterward) with a Ruby Burger with more than 40 of the attendees, speakers and crew, an occasion for the conversation to go afar from technical stuff, talking about beer, Pennsylvanians microbreweries and Sagrada Familia – an occasion to remind that all of us are more than our work, and a nice way to learn to know each other.