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Mountain West Ruby Conf 2012

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Better late than never, here's my wrap-up of Mountain West Ruby Conf 2012!

Through some luck and wrangling, there was an extra bed in the Dev-Fu block for MWRC, meaning that I could make the trip, after all. After spending the night at Byron's house watching archer and deepthroated by sesame chicken, we hit the road bright and early for the 14 hour drive to Salt Lake City.

We made it in to town without any issues and met up with the Authority Labs folks for eats and drinks. We headed to Squatters where Byron and Mike spent the evening treating the beer tasters like they were shots. They paid the price for it. After Squatters closed (at midnight, no less), we made our way to Poplar Street, which didn't close at Bum Fuck Early. Oddly, I was carded, and then let in anyways.

We spent the rest of the evening enjoying some nice IPA I can't remember the name of and cigars, all the way back to the hotel.

The next day, Mini B and Remi rolled in to town from San Francisco and woke my sorry ass up probably around eight. Mini B and I both went to bed and woke up for the afternoon of MWRC day 1.

Believe it or not, MWRC was actually the first single track conference I've ever been to. Most FOSS conferences I am used to attending are multitrack events where it is hard to attend all of the talks that I found worthwhile. However, MWRC makes that a no-brainer and, thankfully, all of their talks were really well done and very good.

Not to mention, this year's event mascot, Kruby is hilariously cute.

!Kruby's Dreamland, coming soon!

I really enjoyed a number of talks at the conference, such as Jake Danger's Strong Code talk and Jamis Buck's "The Little Things", which reminded me that Ruby does bring a lot of really great things from other languages, including the things that make all you functional programming fiends hot under the collar for. I'll be sure to link to the talks when they are up on the interwebs, I really recommend checking them out.

After the talks, we went to the Money Desktop hackfest and hung out with a lot of really knowledgeable folks there. I began modularising HSM and registered a Github organisation for the project. Unfortunately I botched the migration, and all of the repo watchers and forks are under Andrew's repo now, and our wiki pages are gone. :( Thankfully, there's not a lot of lost data besides that.

btw, I've got some interesting news on HSM forthcoming!

Friday, of course, heralded yet more talks, surprise, surprise. I really enjoyed Friday's lineup, there were a lot more really great talks, especially Mosbacker's Hacking Education talk which focused a lot on Open Education, a subject I hold of high regard. The talk covered a lot of sites, services and ideas that I was aware of, and many that I was not previously aware of, like Mendicate University.

Angela Harms' "Does Pair Programming Have to Suck" presentation was also very good, especially delivered to someone who is still coming to grips with the ideas behind pairing. It was a really great talk, and I highly recommend anyone who has had to or is currently pairing.

Of course, what FOSS-ish conference would be complete without a rousing bout of accused sexism, this time centered around a lightning talk about why more men should use the link sharing site. Pinterest, for those who don't know of the site, is centering most of its branding around more feminine things, or at least things that stray from the typical male interests. Which is great, but naturally can fail to attract certain subcultures. The lightning talk was five minutes of why Pinterest is a good service, even for men, but for some strange reason, dbrady got up after the next talk and decried the blatant sexism of the talk. None of us are really sure why, even outside of our small group in the back of the auditorium. Yet, no one stood up and asked what exactly someone had been offended by. Byron ended up ragequitting and storming out before Angela's talk started, and was planning on pulling a _why and becoming a Pythonista. Thankfully he came to his senses later on, and realised that he'd have to actually learn Python.

The on-going sexism debate at conferences is an interesting one, and it's pretty hard to express a grounded opinion on things when both sides are either calling you a sourpuss or threatening to blacklist your conference or some other mostly insane thing. However, I worry that by discouraging the sort of male-to-female bending of gender roles that the feminism movement is so often trying to do the opposite of is worrisome in that it destroys the sort of legacy that we as hackers have had as the basis of our culture since its very beginnings – that of playful exploration of the world around us, be it code, language or the very bases of society. People are, in my opinion, spending too much time arguing about things that don't matter and aren't focusing on the Doing Awesome Shit that they should be.

But then again, I'm a bit oblivious to all of this stuff. shrug

Barring all of that fun bullocks, we spend the rest of the evening hanging out, capping it off with a trip to Salt Lake City's planetarium and explored the deep spaces of the Dark Side of the Moon. Yes, that's right, we went to a planetarium and watched a laser show set to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. Be jealous. Thankfully it was all heavily subsidized by the massive amounts of ATK advertisement all over the museum. America's tax dollars at work, I say.

Saturday we pretty much hung out at the Library hacking on things until they closed, since not all of us had tickets to the workshops and not all of us wanted to attend them anyways. I was fairly interested in the Arduino-based CI build status indicator, but more as a "I wonder how they implemented it", not as a "I want to learn how to do that!" I got some cool stuff done, including ordering a bunch of new business cards from Moo, which are both mini and cute. They also have my trademark ridiculous personal photos on the back, which I'm sure will help me land a job some day….

Sunday was leaving day, and it was also the day that all of the storms started to roll in. After sending Mini B and Remi off on their way, we headed off on ours and were quickly engulfed in a really cool snow storm. And then the snow storm was gone and it was sunny and nice. And then it came back. etc etc… At one point, we did stop and I got some cool panorama shots. Unfortunately, I had some issues stitching that one, but I got a very nice panorama at Glen Canyon Dam.

!Glen Canyon Dam Panorama

(As an aside, Digikam's integration with Hugin works REALLY well, and very easily)

By the time we got to Flagstaff, snowpocolypse had arrived. We had figured this would happen, even planning to reroute to Vegas at some point. However, we made it in to Flagstaff with little issue and spent Sunday night at the Little America, which is a cute little hotel I've really enjoyed staying at the handful of times I have been there. At Little America, much French Onion soup was ingested and much sleep was had and we made it down to Phoenix the next morning without issues.

On the way down from Utah, I also worked on an Enyo frontend to the new todo list management application I've been using, Tracks. I had to add a JSON interface to its API which was an interesting dive in to Rails's render logic. I still have a lot of work on it before it is ready to replace toodletasks HD, including deploying Tracks to somewhere that I can actually use it personally, but it's a nice little framework that I think I can do some cool things with.

All in all, I think that MWRC was a really good introduction to the wider Ruby and Rails communities and I really feel like it's worth dropping 100$ on. It's motivated me to work on some cool things, such as HSM and a few other small railsy and javascript projects. It also kicked off a thread in my head about how to improve the state of Ruby in Fedora and Linux as a whole. When the default is "install all your gems under ~ and compile your ruby from source" there is something wrong, and I have been saying that from the beginning, but I just want to figure out how to fix that.

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Ryan Rix is a privacy rights advocate and net-art wannabe. Reach them on the Fediverse as @rrix@cybre.space, twitter as @rrrrrrrix, via email to ryan@whatthefuck.computer or on Facebook or on Matrix as @rrix:whatthefuck.computer.