I was fortunate enough to have my talk selected for JRUBYCONF.eu this year, held August 1st. JRUBYCONF.eu is held alongside and as part of the larger European Ruby conference, eurucamp. This was my first time traveling outside the United States as well as my first time speaking at a tech conference, so the excitement (as well as nervousness) I felt in the days leading up to my departure was quite intense. Fortunately, the conference organizers did an absolutely amazing job taking care of everything on their end, from hotel rooms during the three days of the conference and airport pickup to having sound and projection work flawlessly. They even hired a professional stenographer, providing transcriptions of the talks. And while I had concerns about not being able to speak German, it turned out that everyone I met spoke flawless English.
eurucamp as a whole was an incredible experience. Excellent talks were selected, and I felt like I took something away from each one. One thing which delighted me was the diversity at the conference. They had an extraordinarily high ratio of female speakers, and people had traveled from all over the world to participate. For instance my new friend Tworit a student from India who came to talk about programming robots and other hardware with Ruby. And the food. Have I mentioned the food? Large feasts laid out by the caterers for lunch each day, bratwurst and polish sausage in BeerGardens and off food carts for dinner, and a slice of truly excellent pizza on my last day before heading to the airport.
While I did not have a lot of time to give to sightseeing, the locals made sure to point out lots of interesting and historical things. For instance, did you know that Potsdam is where many films that take place in a European city were actually filmed? The Bourne Trilogy films, for instance, had several scenes filmed there. Potsdam, just outside Berlin, is where the conference took place and it is an incredibly beautiful city with fascinating architecture. In one section of town the architecture is German/Prussian, but there are two other sections, one with Dutch architecture and the other with Russian. The explanation I was given is that when the city was constructed, workers were brought in from Holland and Russia. The officials believed that if they gave these workers living quarters more like what they had at home, the workers would be more comfortable and thus stay longer and work harder without desiring to return home. But to come back to my earlier point, this explains why films which want a "European looking" city would choose to film here.
One of the things which is instantly noticeable about the city of Berlin is the colorful graffiti decorating everything. Tagging is an artform in Berlin, and the entire city has become a canvas.
Germans appear to have perfected public transportation. I only rode in a car once my entire journey. The rest of the time, we traveled by train, subway, tram or bus. And it was wonderful. I never waited more than a couple of minutes, and always arrived exactly where I was supposed to. Several of those train rides were spent passing through idyllic scenery like this, moving between Berlin and Potsdam or just traveling from some restaraunt in Potsdam to the avendi Hotel am Griebnitzsee where speakers stayed.
Of the talks, some of the most memorable were Tom Stuart's excellent talk on monads, which caused me to loudly exclaim "Awesome!", when, for the first time ever, monads finally clicked for me. Blithe Rocher's talk on how we can use the scientific method to do better debugging. And Franklin Webber's exploration of util files and folders. Often disparaged as "junk drawers", Franklin discovered that
util files were also often treasure troves. But really, as I previously mentioned, every talk was excellent, and because of eurucamp's two room policy, I got to see almost all of them. (The first day was split between JRUBYCONF and workshops, but for days two and three the eurucamp speakers each spoke twice, once in each room, so everyone could potentially see every talk).
My own talk, which I've neglected to talk about up to now, was on the rsense project. Rsense is a tool for doing type-inference on ruby code. My slides are available here and because eurucamp had the awesome idea to have an official podcast, you can hear me discuss it in depth at 2014.eurucamp.org/podcast/ (I'm somewhere towards the middle of the Day One file). The podcast features many of the excellent speakers and was hosted by three new friends of mine: Lucas Dohmen, Dirk Breuer and Bodo Tasche. Lucas even promised, on air, to develop the Vim plugin for rsense, so if you would like to use rsense with Vim, feel free to harass him to do so ;) .
One of the best parts of attending this conference was getting to spend time with my friends Tom Enebo and Charles Nutter. I first started working on rsense as a Google Summer of Code project for the JRuby organization and Tom was my mentor. It was awesome to get to reconnect with them and find out what they've been up to. JRuby9000 is just around the corner and it's going to be better than ever. Better, Faster, Stronger. If you aren't already using JRuby for anything, you really need to look at it. While we aren't currently using JRuby here at LonelyPlanet, it's an excellent technology with more benefits than I can list in this blog post.
Overall, this was an amazing opportunity for me to be a part of something much bigger than myself. eurucamp is something truly special.
The above video, compiled by @polarblau, does a great job capturing the many awesome moments at eurucamp. I made so many new friends Mark Menard, Arne Brasseur, Joann Chenge, Tyler Croy, Ian Smith, Colin Suprenant, Julia Tokarov and finally got to meet @PragTob in person. I'm surely leaving people out here as well, so apologies, but there were so many nice people who introduced themselves or were introduced to me, I don't think I could list you all here.
Thank you LonelyPlanet, for sending me as your emissary, and thank you eurucamp/JRUBYCONF for creating such a memorable experience. I can definitely recommend this conference as one to attend, and I'll hopefully be back in the future. While videos have yet to be released, I hope they are able to do so soon, so those of you who were not able to attend can at least watch these excellent talks.