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Railsberry: A Different Kind of Conference

Big Nerd Ranch recently sent Brian Gardner and me to the Railsberry Conference in Krakow, Poland. Having been to several Rails conferences already, I expected some technical talks, Agile process talks, and the requisite talk on refactoring.

What I found at Railsberry, which is advertised as the conference for “curious” Ruby on Rails developers, was far from formulaic and typical. It was one of the most unique, fun and well-organized conferences I’ve attended in my career as a developer.

A different kind of conference

So how did Railsberry show me a different kind of conference experience? First off, ask yourself this question: Have you ever been invited to attend a contemporary dance performance by the conference organizers? Odds are that you haven’t, unless you’ve attended Railsberry.

Have you been able to swing back and forth while watching a lightning talk? Odds are, again, that you’ll have to say no. But this is what the modus operandi is at Railsberry; in fact, upon arrival at the conference, you’re inundated with a different look and feel. The conference itself is an experiment, meaning that the organizers try different, new ideas and see if they work. They embody a curiosity towards everything that permeates the entire two-day, single-track event. I was actually initially greeted and welcomed by conference staff wearing laboratory coats! (Were they experimenting on me?) When a conference speaker wasn’t able to attend the conference, it was no big deal. The conference organizers simply opened the floor for more lightning talks.

Learning something new

Let’s not forget the reasons we attend conferences: to learn something new. And there was a slew of great talks by a variety of speakers from various professional positions. We listened to Gregg Pollack walk us through the current state of the online education business as it pertains to learning code. We were enlightened by Fred George’s talk on implementing Agile methodology for any development team. As a 40-year industry veteran, his insight into how a company “should” do Agile was eye-opening, to say the least. He even called out some of the practices that we currently use at Big Nerd Ranch (our ego is not damaged; indeed, we love learning from others as much as we love teaching). The most outstanding and thought-provoking presentation was Joseph Wilk’s talk called “Creative Machines,” where he explored the ways that computers can produce music.

All in all, this event is a standout amongst the global collection of technical conferences a Ruby on Rails developer could attend. It was entertaining, thought-provoking and fun. I can’t recommend this conference more highly.

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