Why Railsberry is a different kind of tech conference
As a woman interested in everything that so much as touches programming or ‘techy’ stuff like drones or 3D printers, I just needed to attend the Railsberry conference in Krakow last week. Railsberry is an event for ‘curious Ruby on Rails developers’ and its 2012 edition got my former developer co-workers so stoked, that I wanted to check out the hype.
That meant an eight-hour train ride to Krakow. Which is all nice and adventurous until your devices run out of power. Or until you have to change trains at Katowice, where two separate platforms are indicated with the number two. But I made it to my hotel in time to check out Krakow’s old town, a little alarmed by screams, later explained by the receptionist as being outcries from a few junkies holding office down the street.
Later that evening, the Railsberry attendees were invited to a modern dance performance and the pre-party, organised by SoundCloud. Normally, developers value their beer over a cultural shot but the interactive dance was still a hot topic the next day.
A conference with an eye for detail
Balloons and developers enjoying the summery weather in Krakow. Photo: Floor DreesThe Railsberry team mostly consists of women and that seemed to reflect in the great eye for detail displayed at the conference. Copious amounts of balloons, a life-size pink unicorn, foam board ‘railsberries’ everywhere, test tubes with bright liquids, an immense sugary breakfast and a more than decent vegan and gluten-free buffet brought out the best mood in everyone.
The summery weather got a few attendees to strip off their hoodies and Converse sneakers and although programmers aren’t known for their great personal hygiene, no precious air was polluted. With the Nicer app the team would send out push notifications about program changes, funny pictures or where the attendees could get the best coffee in town.
The random facts in sessions – did you know that a strawberry is not an actual berry, but a banana is? – and the general amount of community initiatives presented during the lightning talks, tells you that great movements start at Railsberry.
Partly caused by the Rails Girls event the weekend before, a considerable amount of women (for developer conference standards) walked around at the venue: one out of ten attendees was female. Contrary to other tech events, Railsberry did not announce a ‘code of conduct’, neither was there a need for it.
No alcohol but good conversations. Photo: Floor DreesThere was no alcohol available at the conference. Quite the opposite of, say, Ruby on Ales, another Ruby developer conference, where it seems mandatory to be at least tipsy before lunch. It certainly proves as a best practice to create an event that’s more welcoming towards women. The thirsty ones could get their drink on at the Basho High Voltage Party and the GitHub Octotastic Party as beer in Poland is incredibly cheap – at least in comparison to most of the surrounding countries.
The musical grande finale closing up the lightning talks session got everyone singing along and eclectic mixes of people then left the venue for food, an ‘I am curious’ tote bag slung over their shoulders. Conference life was perfect at Stara Zajezdnia (a former riding school) and I wish it could be like this at every tech event.
Railsberry is less creative when it comes to their line-up, Geoffrrey Grosenbach (Peep Code), Gregg Pollack (CodeSchool), Katrina Owen (Ruby Rogues), Chad Fowler and GitHub made for the usual suspects… But there were a few surprises too. Agnieszka Figiel, originally from Poland, saves the planet at UNEP-WCMC. In her talk she explained how she’s using Ruby for just this purpose. And there was Alex Koppel with his much discussed ‘sleep talk’. Why talk about sleep at a technology conference? Because as problem solvers, engineers need to do a lot of logical thinking. When a lack of sleep affects your brain, you won’t be able to be a good software developer, Alex argued.
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