I recently had the privilege of being a speaker and a guide at RailsConf in Atlanta.
First, a little about the Guide program. Guides are mentors to Opportunity Scholarship recipients, who are generally new to the Ruby/Rails communities or maybe new to programming in general. The guides are there to help make RailsConf a little easier and less intimidating. There are a lot of people, and I confess that I still get intimidated at times.
We were paired before the conference, and I reached out to my scholar (Eduardo) in advance to get to know him a little. There was also a Guide Mixer the night before the conference began that gave everyone an opportunity to meet each other. It’s always fun to be around a group of people who are really open and want to help. That’s one of the things that I love about the ruby community in general.
I will also confess that I’m generally fairly introverted, and being a guide was also a good way to help me break out of that shell. There were several times when I would see someone and introduce them to Eduardo. It was also great just meeting the fellow guides and having them as a peer set.
The guide program was great. Be on the look out for it at RubyConf.
OK. Now let’s shift our focus to the conference itself.
There were somewhere between 1500 and 2000 people in attendance. I wanted to get out of my introvert/ambivert shell and get the most out of being around so many people in my community. I got to Atlanta on Sunday to see some family and was at the hotel by mid-afternoon. I had already made a connection with someone via Twitter about going for a run during the conference, and we decided to meet in the lobby Sunday afternoon to talk shop and see about some dinner.
This is where the magic really began. At any given point during my time there I was with someone who knew someone who knew someone…. Ad hoc groups would form and start talking and before you knew it you’ve made new friends and are going somewhere to eat, or go to a talk together, or make plans to catch up later that evening. You couldn’t turn around in (or around) the hotel without seeing someone (or a group of people) from the conference.
I was a little nervous about my talk. I gave a fairly technical talk that involved a lot of code. Would there be some hotshot in the crowd who wanted to show me up? No. It went well (I think). I had some great questions and conversations after.
The last evening there was a giant mass of people who all wanted to be together, so we split up into 3 large groups. The restaurant wasn’t able to get any of us close, sadly. It was still a lovely evening. I hated saying goodnight to everyone, but I was spent.
There were some great talks throughout the week. 6 tracks going at the same time with 1 being hands-on workshops. I’m always inspired seeing what people are talking about and exploring. It was even more fun seeing my friends giving their talks. More than any of that, though, was an overwhelming sense of community. I made a lot of new friends and deepened existing friendships.
I look forward to seeing my ruby friends again – sooner than later I hope.