Steel City Ruby Conf 2012


Less than a year ago, it started as an idea. A tiny little awesome idea in the pghrb chat room. Over the next few months, that idea slowly grew because of the hard work of roughly a dozen people. This weekend, that tiny little awesome idea, Steel City Ruby Conf, became a real thing that is hardly tiny, but definitely awesome. A Ruby conference with over 200 people in the city of Pittsburgh, the place I’ve called home for almost a decade now.

I am frequently skeptical, often a realist, and sometimes a cynic. Touchy-feely isn’t really my thing. If you know me, you know these things already. If you don’t, I mention it because it helps color the thoughts that follow.

This conference was magical. It was such an amazing group of fantastic people helping and contributing to create a community for a weekend. It’s not supernatural, but it’s so rare and sufficiently advanced that I can’t distinguish it from magic.

This is the best conference experience I have ever had. I don’t say this because I helped organize. I don’t say this because it happened in my city. I say this because of the people, the experiences, and the community. I’m going to attempt to randomly condense some of my favorite things before I come down off the conference high, but my writing is probably ill equipped to convey the level of awesome that went down this weekend.

In the last year, I’ve met a lot of great people in the tech community online (mostly on twitter). This conference helped bring us and many others together in real life. These people are just as (if not more) awesome as they are online. I will be making an effort to travel more, so I can visit them and meet others in their communities.

In addition to meeting my internet friends, I also met a bunch of strangers. In the past, I’ve had a hard time socializing at conferences. Not this time! Corey Haines tasked us with talking to 20 new people – a daunting goal for someone who in the past had trouble squeaking out a “hi” to one or two people at a conference. I didn’t keep an exact count, but I am positive I exceeded my goal.

We got a ton of support for Girl Develop IT Pittsburgh. Halfway through the first day of the conference, someone suggested people give us donations. For the rest of the weekend, people walked up to Lindsey Bieda and me to give us cash to help get started. We haven’t done a final tally yet, but I think we received over $100. I wish I had gotten down all your names – thank you to everyone who donated! We talked to even more people who showed their interest or moral support for the group – thanks to you too! We have a long road ahead of us, but it’s going to be great.

Seeing and hearing an impromptu jam session during lunch. Hearing Jim Weirich singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” definitely helped with that magical conference vibe I mentioned earlier.

I gave my “My Technology Will Be Intersectional or It Will Be BULLSHIT!” lightning talk – my first time speaking at a conference and speaking in front of that many people. It was terrifying and wonderful all at the same time. It helped a lot to hear Aaron Patterson admit earlier in the day that speaking makes him nervous too. In the Ruby community, our heroes are just people too, and those people want to help build the rest of up.

Kitties! I got a GorbyPuff sticker!

I could mention a bunch of individual talks, but you can see what I learned in my sketchnotes.

The important thing about this conference was people. Earlier, I mentioned my cynicism. This weekend, it melted away. I used to think that my cynicism was a personal flaw (and it still probably is to some degree – we all have our flaws). I’m starting to understand that it is a shield for navigating a crappy world that aims to treat me and others like cogs in a big machine. I don’t need that shield when I’m in a community of people who genuinely care and see each other as more than just things. I need more of this in my life. I may be exhausted right now. Con crud may be likely to follow, but I feel better than I have in a long time.

TLDR: Steel City Ruby Conf is awesome and magical!