Ruby On Ales 2016 – Part Two

After the rousing success that was Day One of the 2016 Ruby on Ales conference, I was incredibly excited to see what Day Two would have in store for us!

…after a bit of breakfast and slow start to the morning thanks to the after party the night before.

Day Two of the Conference

Let’s just address the elephant in the room and say that while I didn’t have any negative repercussion from the ample amounts of great drinks at the Astro Lounge from the after party, I did take my sweet time getting up Friday morning.  After a long, hot shower and a great breakfast at the Black Bear Diner (my little mini-tradition when I go to Bend) I headed back over to the Tower Theatre.

Unfortunately due to my procrastination and need to consume mass quantities I missed the first presentation by Allison McMillan.  Her talk, “BDD:  Baby Driven Development“, started at 10:00 AM and focused on the parallels between becoming a parent and becoming a developer.  I have since heard nothing but good things about that talk so I encourage you to head over to the Confreaks site and check it out for yourself.

Next up was Justin Searls presentation on “How to Stop Hating Your Test Suite“.  As a newer developer I often times had trouble with the differences in how different companies, programmers, and projects write their tests and what testing suites they use.  Switching from incredibly verbose and non-programmer readable RSpec tests to barebones, to-the-point Minitest assertions and back again would give me quite the headache.  I personally think that Justin’s ideas surrounding setting up even an arbitrary testing convention would be incredibly useful for on-boarding new members to the team as well as just making tests easier to maintain across the organization/project.

After Justin’s talk it was time for lunch so I took a long walk around the nearby park and then settled back in at the theatre for a cozy little nap.  Not much else to report for lunch, I was just being a lazy, well-fed (thanks again, Black Bear Diner!) bum.

The first post-lunch talk was “A Machine State of Mind” by Vaidehi Joshi.  This talk was on my list of must-sees.  Not having the same formal computer science education as most developers/programmers, I’d been blissfully unaware of state machines and what they were.  Sure I’d heard the term tossed around quite a bit but since I hadn’t run across them in my own coding endeavors I had just put them on the back-burner of things to research.  Thankfully Vaidehi’s talk shed light on the subject and it turns out that I had been unknowingly been using the idea for a while without knowing the name for it.

As a whiskey lover and novice myself, Julia Ferraioli‘s presentation “In the Name of Whiskey” was another one I had singled out to definitely attend yet I was woefully unprepared to handle the topic of machine learning.  Now I won’t even start trying to get into the details of machine learning (you can dive into that Google powered black hole on your own here) but suffice to say that it is a method of using data to help make sense of other data.  Yes I know that’s vague but you’ll just have to go investigate more yourself.  Julia did a great job explaining the problem to the audience and even while I didn’t quite grasp everything that was going on I was emboldened to go research more on my own.  Given the rise of machine learning in industry giants like Facebook, Google, and Apple it definitely deserves a deeper look!

One of the seeming audience favorite talks was by Amy Wibowo.  Titled “Fold, Paper, Scissors — an Exploration of Origami’s Cut and Fold Problem” it focused on the theorem that given a piece of paper and any polygonal shape it is possible to find a series of folds of that paper such that the given shape can be generated out of a single cut.  She went on in her talk to show proofs of the theorem and her own Ruby application that helped determine the correct folds for an input polygon.  I also learned that Amy has a very successful Kickstarter campaign for BubbleSort Zines.  The BubbleSort Zines focus on teaching and explaining technical topics via creative art and storytelling.  Having taken a look at the zines and seeing Amy’s passion and creativity I highly recommend checking them out for yourself or potentially as a gift for the up-and-coming techie in your life.

One of the best things I have noticed about the Ruby community is how open they are to learning new languages and encouraging others to do so as well.  Along those lines Will Leinweber‘s talk was focused on the Crystal programming language.  Will was great to watch on stage as he mixes horrible puns and technical knowledge into his examples.  During his talk I looked up his website and even it didn’t fail to impress with its homage to the old Geocities/Angelfire style of site design from the “golden age” of personal websites.

The final session of the day was “Why Good Software Goes Bad” by Rein Henrichs.  Of all the talks over the two days this one had the most “nuggets” for me as a developer.  Rein covered all manner of failure sources within companies and processes that I hadn’t even started to think about.  I highly recommend going to the Confreaks YouTube channel (no affiliation with them, just a great service) and checking out the talk, you won’t be disappointed.  Ok you might be disappointed, I don’t really know you.  Maybe you hate fun and good information…and probably puppies and ice cream.

Closing Ceremonies

After Rein’s talk concluded Jonan came up on stage to close out the official festivities. He gave a rousing round of thanks to the speakers, attendees, and sponsors before closing out with a sentimental and emotional thanks to the organizers of Ruby on Ales.  I must say I echo his sentiments that they truly did put on an amazing, welcoming conference that I can’t wait to return for next year.

Post-Closing Dinners!

After closing I went over to the Guestfolio house near downtown Bend for a quick chat and beer.  Kevin Prince, James Matsuba, and the rest of the Guestfolio crew were incredibly nice and fun to speak with.  I didn’t stay there long as I had previous dinner plans to head off to at the local McMenamins but I enjoyed a great conversation with James about code schools and trying to determine the quality of their instruction.

The dinner invite I had mentioned above came from Daniel Adler and was to a dinner organized by Zander Hill.  I had an AMAZING time eating and sharing stories with Daniel, Franz Knupfer (who I know from our time together at Epicodus), Brian Kane, Tyler Kling, and others.  We had some good food, good drinks, and even better company for the 2-3 hours we were there.  Afterwards we headed over to the outside area of the McMenamins where I ran into Brian from Rollbar again and shared another round of drinks before I called it a night.


No one who knows me would call me a lover of crowds or big groups of people in enclosed spaces but I would gladly return to Ruby on Ales again without a moment’s hesitation.  Whether you’re a new or veteran developer (Ruby or not) I can not encourage you enough to make it out to Bend next year to be part of the community that is Ruby on Ales.  You’ll find amazing people with open minds and big hearts who are more than willing to make you feel welcome and share a story or two with you.

All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to the Ruby community.

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