Last week, I got to attend a tech conference… without internet access.
I was lucky enough to go to dotRB, a unique Ruby conference, and I loved the format, approach and experience.
dotRB’s goal is to offer brief, TED-talk-quality talks in a scenic setting…without providing internet access to the attendees. During the first session, I sat on the top terrace level. Looking out over all the lower terraces and the opera level without seeing lots of bright screens and hearing the rapid typing of the conference-goers was such a neat contrast from other Ruby events I’ve attended. Instead of tweeting about the speakers and the talks, everyone was actually absorbing the presentations. And given the historic setting, a wireless-less conference seemed only natural.
The twenty minutes slated for each speaker ensured that no time in the talk was wasted; this isn’t to say that we didn’t hear about velociraptors from George Brocklehurst or deadly “cookie” recipes from Konstantin Haase, but I found that each speaker was very purposeful in the material he or she covered. As a listener, my curiosity was piqued repeatedly, and I was given enough information to begin informed research of my own. Each speaker had time to either cover an idea in a full and broad way, or to cover one facet of an idea in a deep way; this led to a nice medley of approaches and topics. It felt like a proper variety show.
Two of my favorite talks could not have been more different. The first was by George Brocklehurst and featured a live coding session that showed how to include good “unixy” error handling and documentation when running Ruby programs in the console; his goal was to present an interface good enough to illicit the famed exclamation “It’s a unix system; I know this!”
The other was from Erik Michaels-Ober, who outlined the history of the technological leaps from the Big Bang to the invention of language, of written word, of paper, of the printing press, of the telegraph—all the way to Twitter. He reminded us that each tool required the invention of a prior tool, and challenged us to continue building the tools of today, because the tools of the future depend on them.
For those who want to hear about a range of subjects deemed interesting by some of our accomplished peers, dotRB is for you. It was a great opportunity to learn together—fully engaged.