Last week @dabit and I went to Ghent, Belgium for Arrrrcamp, a 2-day Ruby conference that has an international attendee base, including us Mexicans :D.
Being there was a great experience, beginning with the city that is just beautiful. I thought of the city as one of those perfect locations for a conference: small, right in the heart of Europe, with all this medieval vibe all over it. There were plenty of interesting places to visit, including churches, plazas, rivers and even castles! This is definitively one of those cities you want to go back at some point in your life for sure.
The conference started early on Thursday. I'd like to mention here that one could tell the effort made by the organizers in planning the event. It was remarkable. They had everything under control, everything happened very smoothly, without any noticeable delays or technical difficulties.
The first talk was by Avdi Grimm. He talked about doing things that you enjoy doing, and sharing that with people you care about. Then you will notice that those people enjoy the same things you enjoy. He also talked a lot about pair programming, and his service pairprogramwith.me, which helps you find someone to pair program remotely, and share the joy of programming. It was funny how he gave the 'pair programming commercial' from time to time, just to focus again and continue with his main topic. I enjoyed his talk a lot, it was inspiring and funny.
The day went by and more great talks were given. There was this one about the Ruby standard library, in which the speaker talked in favor of the stdlib, and gave a couple of examples to convince us that it is actually more powerful than we tend to think, and that it's better to use the stdlib instead of trying to find some sort of gem that does what the library is already capable of. Here you can see what I'm talking about.
After that I saw Zachary Scott, who happens to be a really funny speaker. He is funny even when he is messing up his live coding presentations of shoes, a Ruby GUI that was extracted from the Hackety Hack project), with which you can do pretty cool stuff effortlessly.
Something that I really liked about Arrrrcamp was that they have a coffee break after each talk, which gives you enough time to meet people, have a drink, and then continue listening to talks.
Friday started a bit later than the first day, but with the same energetic atmosphere. Some people seemed a bit hungover though. Like Mark Bater who began his talk lying on the floor. He talked about MiniTest and how helpful it is to start building your test suite with it, especially because it comes with Ruby 1.9 and it's not a DSL, it's just Ruby code.
The next talk was by Luismi Cavalle, a Spanish programmer with several years of experience hacking Ruby and Ruby on Rails, as well as contributing to the open source community. Luismi gave us an intro to Active Record done right, using concerns, and how to maintain everything in its place and in a readable format for any developer who touches the code in the future.
It was a pleasant surprise to see even more Spanish-speaking people giving talks, like Javier Ramirez, Jano Gonzáles and @dabit. Together they made up 25% of the speakers, which is a fairly big number in terms of native language representation.
Lightning talks are what I like the most of international conferences, and this wasn't the exception in Arrrrcamp. You know there is something special going on when you see people rushing excitedly, just to have the chance to show their projects, code or just a thought in five minutes or less. We had the pleasure to watch a 5-minute talk by Lau Verou, who used to work at the W3C, and usually covers topics related with front-end.
We also watched Jim Weirich explain how to control his Parrot AR drone with his Argus API. He almost kills himself while doing so, but fortunately he is fine now, and his talk was lots of fun.
The closing talk was something completely unexpected. It was a talk by Floor Drees, and it wasn't a technical talk at all. She spoke about removing all of the fancy that we hang to ourselves to make us look cool and smart, like "Master of the universe developer" or "Front-end ninja". She explained that we shouldn't make the mistake of thinking that we are better than most people just because we are software developers. She encouraged us to spend time with ourselves and our families, to seize the opportunities to talk to them and explain what we do. To be nice, to be a person. It was a really good talk.
Arrrrcamp is a great conference. You should go if you ever have the opportunity, you won't regret it. I can assure you that you will drink awesome Belgian beers, watch beautiful landscapes, taste delicious waffles, and listen to great tech talks.
Oh, and I almost forgot, the only thing I can really complain about is the lack of English translations in the menus. Many of use couldn't choose something to eat because we didn't know Dutch, French or German. But other than that, it was a perfect experience.
Thanks for reading!