My personal watershed moment came when Nick Sieger got up and taught us about the beautiful history of jazz and how it relates to programming. Nick’s talk (and its accompanying short samples) threw down the expectation gauntlet and set the tone for everything that came after. I was backstage (with Daniel Weinand from Shopify, who was mounting photos for the evening’s art show) and summoned the courage to peek around the curtain, terrified that people would be bored or asleep. All I could see was people in rapt attention. When Nick played Miles Davis, almost everyone in the room closed their eyes and listened. I nearly fell over!
You know why there was never a "The Usual Suspects 2: Keyser's Boat Party"? It's because it would have totally sucked. Everyone is dead, and clearly short limping people are faking it. You can count the number of good sequels on one hand. Not convinced? Five choice words for you, friend: "The Matrix — Only Ravers Survived".
People have been asking us whether there will be another RubyFringe, and it’s a fair question. Peter Cooper at RubyInside went so far as to refer to it as “inevitable”. My first reaction was “Hell no! Real punks play short sets and there will be no encore!” I wanted to be The Wedding Present, not Radiohead at Coachella in 2004, who came back out five times.
If we announced RubyFringe 2009 — just like this year… except next year — people would show up with massive expectations and hoping for a repeat of what already happened. This is completely impossible, or at least a Very Bad Idea. “Sex with the Ex” if you will; there’s a reason you don’t go there. Heck, I would go out on a limb and suggest that even a third day of talks would have been overkill. It’s not clear that any other combination of speakers would have actually added value. It was, to the people who came, just right.
However, watching the amazing response to RubyFringe on Twitter has been humbling, and word seems to have spread far beyond the 150 paid attendees. In addition to the “retirements” announced by Zed Shaw and Reg Braithwaite, somewhere between 4-8 “Fringers” were so moved that they either quit their day jobs or are about to. That’s really heavy stuff!
As for Unspace: If Miles Davis reinvented jazz five times, then we want to be like Miles Davis. Our company is always changing. We've never run a conference before RubyFringe, and now we have. We like to throw a fun party to get the Turings and McLuhans of the current generation tipsy. We're just getting started, and we will totally do more events! Why not? We just need to catch up with our lives again, first. Ultimately, we want to blow minds, and not just in the Ruby community. We are inspired by things like MAKE Magazine and P2P lending and feminism and fab labs. Plus we like to hang out with smart, interesting people. In other words, we're going to hold on to the right to decide whether RubyFringe will happen again; whether it will be next year or in Toronto. We're okay leaving you guessing, because a good performance should always leave the crowd wanting more.
That said, people in other cities are actively planning to run conferences that were inspired by RubyFringe. This is awesome! They won’t be called RubyFringe, but we’ll do everything we can to help out and spread the word.
We're pleased to announce that RubyFringe was a profitable business endeavor that earned Unspace $22.24. Capitalism — it works!
This is a testament to nothing except Meghann Millard's supernatural ability to herd cats. It also provides a clever segue into another topic, women.
Like other Ruby events, RubyFringe was attended primarily by men, and there was just one female speaker. Yet, I believe that the biggest reason RubyFringe succeeded was because of women. In addition to Meghann’s tireless planning, we’re proud that the final talk was delivered by Leila Boujnane. We’re glad we encouraged people to bring their significant others, and then coordinated a full activity track for them. (Thanks Faye and Heather! You were amazing by all reports, and are now technically trailblazers. You should start a consulting company!)
A lot of conversations are had about why there aren't more women in tech. Why are most speakers straight, white men? These are valid questions, and we have some tips. Support women taking charge whenever possible, but don't attempt to stack your attendance or speaker list. The truth is that women will come if they want to, not if we constantly ask them if they are comfortable. That's creepy and annoying.
In hind-site, we should probably have put Ada Lovelace’s image on all things RubyFringe. Babbage only saw his machine as a calculator, while Ada wrote that “the Engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent.”</p>
Clearly, this idea was not lost on Giles Bowkett.
We have some advice for people looking to plan events. RubyFringe's legacy:
- 30 minute talks are superior, and questions should be discouraged
- 150 attendees, 20 speakers, and 30 volunteers is the perfect intersection between big and small
- you do not need sponsors!
- you should charge real money for your event, your attendees will thank you because it will be worth going to
- make sure women play a leading role in organization and speaking
- single track is totally the way to go, because it keeps people together and allows an ongoing narrative
- pick venues renowned for their competent staff, as a great catering manager can save your life
- great food is important, because nobody can focus for fifteen hours on cold boxed lunches
- turn down the lights! why? the lucky stiff was right: “do the dim!” he said. (of course, he also suggested we make the conference smell like a woman)
- organize after-hours events for people to go to as a group
- provide activities for travel companions coming with conference attendees
- try to run at least one event that is open to the general public
- the best way to keep people engaged is to keep them guessing
- find creative ways to inject art and music into your programming
- play good songs between speakers, and find great DJs for your events
- put cool stuff on and in your swag bags, and don’t fill it with advertising crap that goes straight to landfill
- encourage people to engage the speakers instead of the back channel
- pro D-SLR photographers are tired, so bust out the Polaroids while you still can
- take chances on new speakers, otherwise you’re not taking the correct risks
- care about the details! this cannot be overstated, and the key word here is care
Almost everyone at RubyFringe seemed to be a musician or passionate fan of music and art. This isn't a surprise to us, but it was nice to see it manifest. Music really is universal; doubly so for good programmers. We had all of the speakers choose theme songs which we did our best to play as they were introduced. This helps the audience bond with a speaker before they even start talking.
- InfoQ is working hard to get the talks and speaker interviews ready to post on their site. We will definitely let you know as they are released
- Keep in touch! Join the RubyFringe google group and watch rubyfringe.com for updates. Apparently the #rubyfringe IRC channel is still running, as well
- RubyFringe was nothing more than the sum of its attendees. You have to take an active role in building the community you want to be a part of
- Nick Sieger has posted the music from his Jazzers talk
- I am planning to create muxtapes of both the speaker theme songs as well as the music which played in between speakers and during lunch
- The albums which people kept asking about were Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet’s “Savvy Show Stoppers” and Yo La Tengo’s “I Can Hear The Heart Beat As One”. You should buy both of these albums immediately, as they will increase the quality of your life
- One fellow really dug Frank Black and the Catholics, as well
- Over 1100 images on Flickr, thanks to Libin, Carsten, Austin, and others
- Joey deVilla deserves an award for his amazing unofficial guides and conference notes
Follow your heart, make time for your loved ones, and don't waste your life realizing other people's dreams. Don't be a workaholic; learn to play an instrument. Organize public meetups for Rubyists in your town, and buy each other drinks. Focus on becoming friends instead of talking shop all of the time.
Tell your parents to vote for Obama, play more pinball, make cool babies (or none at all!), eschew bottled water, and keep Portland weird.