Conference Recap: Madison+ Ruby 2014


Time for another conference recap! I sure have gone to a lot of conferences this year. Perhaps too many, but this one was definitely worth it.

This is my third year traveling to Madison, WI for this conference. It is one of, if not my most, favorite conference. This year they rebranded from "Madison Ruby" to "Madison+ Ruby," which I think is a more accurate description. I love the conference because of the people and the community in Madison, and it happens to have a little ruby in there.

I got to see so many friends from all over the place, many of which were repeat attendees of the conference. Others were friends who attended because people recommended the conference. Word spreads when you consistently run an awesome conference, and that is definitely what Jen and Jim do. <3

I hope I see you all there next year.

Favorite Talks

Below are my favorite talks from the conference in order of presentation. All the talks I saw at the conference were amazing this year, so it was hard to even pick favorites to share notes on. I mean it. Seriously amazing lineup this year.

Here are some scattershot notes on each in bullet point format! Several of the talks may need content warnings for discussions of violence, consent, boundaries, and mental health.

Note: I haven't found slides for most of these yet. I'll update with links to slides and videos when they become available.

Class: Debugging Tech’s Social Justice Issues by Carina C. Zona

  • Interesting discussion of class issues in getting people involved in tech, and the intersections of race and class issues.
  • Comparison of impact of Uber on consumers, uber, and cab companies over time.
  • Reminded me of some thoughts I've been having for ages on developer schools and how they are often quite predatory on people from lower class backgrounds. I really should write about this. I have been hesitant because I know it will piss people off, but that's probably exactly why I should.

Expanding Your Empathy by Kronda Adair

Y/N?: Binary for Humans by Scarlett Sparks

  • I cannot even express how amazing it is to see a well thought out talk presenting boundaries and consent in an accessible way at a tech conference.
  • Enthusiastic consent!
  • She referenced the github resume project (although not by name) as an example where things should be opt in to make sure you have consent. YES!
  • "Don't touch someone and then ask if it's ok." (followed by applause)
  • "You are not entitled to anyone's time, energy, etc."
  • She mentioned her "one thing" rule for a given day to help her manage her life. I really need to do this.
  • She added a thoughtful trigger warning about 10 minutes into the talk. My only advice is that this probably could have gone at the beginning of the talk to give people a chance to leave if they needed to before she got into things.
  • This talk struck me so much that I ended up writing some late night thoughts on boundaries and consent my last night in Madison.

Sweaters as a Service – Adventures in Machine Knitting by Amy Wibowo

  • Nintendo almost made a sweater peripheral?!
  • It sounds like Airbnb hack days are a lot of fun, or at least they are if you're working with Amy.
  • This talk makes me want to get into hardware hacking.
  • Slides

Security Is Hard, But We Can’t Go Shopping by André Arko

  • DHH jokes!
  • "Doing security upgrades is kind of like insurance."
  • I learned a bunch about responsible disclosure.

Alchemy and the Art of Software Development by Coraline Ada Ehmke

  • It was so exciting to see Coraline give this talk. I know she's been working on it for a long time and put her heart into it.
  • Deep talk about the importance of labels and what we really do.
  • It's really hard to give bullet points on this one. You just need to watch it when video is up.
  • Rightly got a standing ovation. <3


The conference had a diverse lineup of speakers this year, and all of the talks I saw were excellent. I think this is the example conference I will be pointing to for a while when people suggest that aiming for a diverse conference lineup will decrease quality. Clearly that is bullshit if you put hard work into your lineup like this conference did.

The conference attendees were also more diverse than the average conference. I don't have specific stats, but there were definitely more women than usual. On more than one occasion, someone I was chatting with in a group stopped, realized she was in a circle of all or mostly women at a conference and remarked at how unusual and wonderful it was. The racial diversity of the conference attendees was quite low, but better than your average tech conference (I know that's a sadly low bar).

Opportunity scholarships allowed a few people who couldn't have afforded to attend otherwise.


Bee-related items from my travels.

A cute bee bag that is the new home for my firebee stickers.
square bag shaped like a happy bee

A delicious drink. menu item for bee's knees drink. death's door gin, honey syrup, fresh lemon juice...8

Fire-brewed cream soda with honey in it.
cream soda with a picture of a bee on it

My firebee stickers found lots of new homes, but I think this one is my favorite. The octocat sticker wouldn't come off the laptop, so it is now under attack by a firebee.
photo of a mac laptop with a github octocat sticker and a firebee sticker attacking the octocat with fire


Rainbow Bookstore Cooperative

I passed this cooperative book store last year, but didn't get a chance to stop in when they were open. I made sure to stop by this year. They had a great collection of books and zines. Bonus points for the adorable resident black cat (sadly, I don't have a picture).

This sign in their window is what caught my eye as I was walking by last year. Every year, it becomes truer and truer about the US.
poster that lists early warning signs of fascism
Sorry that the photo is a bit blurry. Transcribed below for easier reading.

Early warning signs of FASCISM:

  • Powerful and continuing nationalism
  • Disdain for human rights
  • Identification of enemies as a uniting cause
  • Supremacy of the military
  • Rampant sexism
  • Controlled mass media
  • Obsession with national security
  • Religion and government intertwined
  • Corporate power protected
  • Labor power suppressed
  • Disdain for intellectuals & the arts
  • Obsession with crime & punishment
  • Rampant cronyism & corruption
  • Fraudulent elections