Blithe Rocher

Not your average engineering manager.

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Madison Ruby 2013: A Community of Coders

This post originally appeared on the Big Nerd Ranch blog. You can find the original version here.

Madison Ruby taught me that conferences are where you go to meet your heroes.

One thing that really drew me to Ruby as a language was its community, and when I first started learning to program, one of my greatest resources was Twitter. Because of its public and open nature, I was able to follow some of the thought leaders in the Ruby community and see what they were reading or reach out directly with questions. In this way, I felt like I was welcomed into the community with open arms.

And so when I started thinking about attending Ruby conferences, I reached out on Twitter for advice. I received lots of suggestions from respected developers for Madison Ruby, so I began investigating. Madison Ruby is what’s known as a “T-shaped” conference: the talks cover a broad range of topics with a deep spike into the Ruby language. This allows the conference to have in-depth coverage of Ruby and Rails, along with a taste of other relevant or interesting ideas.

Then something exciting happened—the Madison Ruby organizers reached out to me (via Twitter, of course) and I was invited to tell my story at a pre-conference event called Hype Harvest. Given that the main purpose of the event was to raise money for the Nairobi Dev School, I was more than happy to contribute.

Not your usual conference

When the first morning of the conference kicked off with an improvised dance party, I knew Madison Ruby wasn’t going to be boring. How many other conferences have a gnome and a German Wheel between the talks?

The talk that Aaron Patterson delivered was a perfect example of the Madison Ruby style: serious Ruby and Rails, with a side of silliness. The talk covered how a few performance improvements in Rails were brought about indirectly while troubleshooting a bug. Other highlights included a Chef tutorial by Jason Garber and Steve Klabnik’s emotional telling of CLOSURE, the story of _why and his relationship with the Ruby community.

The conference wrapped up with an Iron Coder event, where the audience was able to see what some of the top developers could do given a few constraints and a short amount of time. The developers were required to build an app using Shoes and to involve music in some way. Although I would have prefered to see the thought processes of some of the greats while they were coding, it was still impressive to see the results.

Giving back

The first few days of Madison Ruby were dedicated to workshops to help attendees become better developers. One of the workshops was a RailsBridge event targeted to women interested in becoming Ruby on Rails developers. Because I know that even small events like this can change lives, I jumped at the opportunity to serve as a mentor for the event.

Working with the ladies at the event was inspiring and we were able to give each woman the tools she needs to start her journey as a developer. And as part of my Hype Harvest talk, I encouraged the other developers to continue giving back with events like RailsGirls and RailsBridge. My own career path is proof that the efforts to increase diversity and bring more women into the community are working.

And of course, it was great to represent Big Nerd Ranch and to meet people who had taken our classes or used our books to learn to program. I was excited to share how Big Nerd Ranch has helped me to become a better developer. I also brought along a few Nerd glasses and made some new friends.


The greatest part about Madison Ruby was getting to meet some of the amazing people in the Ruby community. I met some of my Twitter friends in real life, and I was able to chat with some of my Ruby heroes. My career as a developer is just starting, but Madison Ruby has inspired me to become a better developer so that I can continue to give back.