Conf Writeup: RubyConf Australia 2016

This conference was so freaking awesome. Some events you can tell are going to be great just by what information you can find online beforehand, and RubyConf Australia was one of those events for me: the location in the Gold Coast looked beautiful, the social events sounded super fun, the lineup was sure to be incredible, and the sense of community and inclusiveness was pervasive from the very beginning (including a very visible Code of Conduct).

All of these things turned out to be just as great as they seemed. I was very happy that my own conference-speaking schedule was going to allow me to make a pit stop in Australia before my talk at DroidKaigi in Tokyo the week after. Of course my main impetus for attending was to see emoji party other half Stella present about load testing for her first ever conference talk (yay Stella omg woo, she did so well!). Look out for more news from us when you can watch the video.

A photo posted by @sienatime_ on

emoji party lookin' good at the opening party.

The conference kicked off with a bang, hosted by the very energetic #melliam (Mel Kaulfuss @MelissaKaulfuss and Liam Esler @liamesler), who set their own quirky tone by MCing the event while dressed in ball gowns and bowties, respectively. As both of them are self-professed on the peripheral of the Ruby community (as in, they are involved but neither of them are professional Ruby developers), they made sure that Rubyists of all levels and kinds were made to feel welcome. Not only was the Code of Conduct mentioned prominently at the beginning of the conference, but the regular bathroom signs had been replaced with signs that merely said “toilets with urinals” and “toilets without urinals” to make them gender neutral (mad props to conference organizers Rob Jacoby @robjacoby, Trish Jacoby, Jo Cranford @jocranford, and all the other volunteers).

As far as the lineup went, there was no shortage of interesting speakers who spoke on both technical topics as well as subjects like empathy, giving and receiving feedback, diversity in tech, and even Shakespeare. Learning new technical concepts is great and all, but having talks about more “soft” skills helps to normalize the importance of being an effective and happy team player, and not just a code-writing machine operating in a vacuum. Plus, it can be hard to concentrate on super technical content all day, so it helps to break it up with some other related conent that works your brain in different ways. Some of my favorite talks included Katrina Owen’s “One Undo,” an artfully crafted talk on refactoring using the poem “There was an old lady who swallowed a fly.” (I’m very much looking forward to the book she is working on with Sandi Metz, 99 Bottles of OOP.) Other favorites included Enrico Teotti’s talk on maintaining large Ruby apps (hint: local gems!), Jeff Casimir's thoughtful keynote about making mistakes (what a cool guy, I’m sure he’s a great teacher), and Sebastian von Conrad’s about event sourcing (something I had never heard of but understood perfectly by the time his talk was done).

I did a few sketchnotes during the conference, which is always a fun way for me to interact with the speakers and the rest of the attendees. I very foolishly did not pack a ruby red marker, a mistake I’m sure not to repeat in the future. I only sketchnoted some of the 40-minute talks, as I felt like the 20-minute talks were best listened to instead of spent worrying about filling up a whole page of notes (though some talks I do regret not taking notes during, but it is a good chance to live-tweet instead. It’s hard to both sketchnote and live-tweet a talk). I’m planning on scanning and cleaning them up when I get home from my travels, so stay tuned.

Whoever planned the conference food clearly has as big of a sweet tooth as I do: there was an abundance of tasty treats during teatime (which, delightfully, is a thing that happens in Australia as well as in England), during meals, and of course from the ever-present gelato cart. Both the coffee and the lunches during the conference were excellent, which is a difficult thing to achieve.

I don’t think it would be fair to rattle on about all the social events for too long, so I will just give you a taste: I sampled lots of local beer, held a koala, hung out with kangaroos, rode rollercoasters, and played beach volleyball. How great is that? It really helped give me a taste of the Australian lifestyle by having all these group activities. If you are organizing a conference, take advantage of group discount rates to get your attendees some local color and some social time outside of just drinking alcohol (which is all well and good for some, but can alienate or even harm others). Thank you RubyConf Australia organizers for going the extra mile to make every event special.

A photo posted by @sienatime_ on

Why would you even go to Australia if you didn't get to hold a koala?

All in all, this was a super fun conference, and I hear from a very good source that it was a pleasure to speak at as well as attend. I would heartily recommend it to anyone who can make the trip to the land down under (and there is some financial assistance available as well). I met some wonderful people, and I hope to see them again somewhere in this great world.

As mentioned, I'm speaking this week at DroidKaigi, so I'll have some more posts for you soon!