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ArrrrCamp’12 and GreHack Recap

David Worth

Kasteel in Ghent

I’ve written before about Highgrooves’s “any conference you want, every year, on us” policy. This year, I chose to attend two events, with a cycling adventure between.

ArrrrCamp

When I originally intended to attend ArrrrCamp’12, I planned to go as a participant. I wanted to make the most of the best part of every conference: the gaps between talks. Those “hallway sessions,” during which we get to talk informally with our fellow developers, are the high point of conferences for many of us.

As it happens, I was able to do that and give a talk.

ArrrrCamp, a pirate-themed conference on Ruby, Rails, Radiant CMS and Rum, is hosted in the medieval city of Ghent, Belgium. It was well worth taking some extra time ahead of the conference to simply explore the city. I was able to see the masterpiece Adoration of the Blessed Lamb, consume some fantastic coffee at Mokobon and Barrazza, check out the future of Highgroove ergonomics and drink some local beers while getting a feel for this vibrant university city.

When the conference began, it became clear that the two tracks were split thematically across front-end and back-end lines. Because I am much more comfortable with back-end development, I took advantage of this split to learn more about the front end of things.

I found myself giving a talk when Corey Donohoe unfortunately wasn’t able to make it to the conference as planned. I stepped in with a slightly updated version of the talk on Static Analysis of Ruby and Security Scanning of Rails Apps with Brakeman that I gave at Ruby Hoedown earlier this year. Giving the talk was great fun and the audience asked some new and complicated questions that I had never considered before.

Cycling adventure

After ArrrrCamp, I made my way to Oudenaarde, an area in the Belgian region of Oost-Vlaanderen. Our methodologist forbade me from working while I was there, so instead I rode bikes for 11 days straight and enjoyed myself greatly. I rode the entire route of the Ronde van Vlaanderen (the famous Tour of Flanders), and I fulfilled a lifelong dream of riding to Roubaix to see the velodrome there.

GreHack

After the bicycle-centric interlude, it was time to get serious again. I headed to France for the first year of GreHack, a security conference hosted by the University of Grenoble. The panel covered subjects ranging from tracking and categorizing botnets to iOS and cable TV hacking, along with a large dose of low-level hardware hacking.

I presented on Leveraging Convention over Configuration for Static Analysis in Dynamic Languages, and in my talk I focused on why it’s ok to write simple frameworks for complicated tasks.

Overall, I had a great trip, and I enjoyed being able to immerse myself in the experience. However, after 22 days abroad, two conferences and 11 days of cycling, I’m glad to have my feet back on my home turf.

At Highgroove, we want to make sure we never rest on our laurels, and we force ourselves out of our comfort zones to continuously learn about fields other than our own core competencies.

What do you do to stretch your comfort zone while contributing to the community?

Image credit: davidworth

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