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Red Dirt Ruby Conference

Posted by Marty Haught on Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Last week I attended a refreshing and enjoyable regional Ruby conference. Red Dirt Ruby Conference broke from the comfortable mold of other regional Ruby conferences and their gamble worked. As a speaker at this conference I wasn’t sure how it would play out and was anxious to see the new format in play. I was not disappointed at all and was so impressed that it may well shape how the current forming Colorado Ruby conference is organized.

Before I get into the specifics of this conference I want to say what an impressive job the team in Oklahoma did to pull this off. James Edward Gray II, Dana Gray, Derrick Parkhurst and Grant Schofield put together a well-run technical conference. Kudos to all of you as I know that’s not easy. It’s also quite the feat to get such talented speakers and attendees to fly in from across the country into Oklahoma. Thank you all for your efforts.

So what about this conference was so different? The first was having super short talks. Most talks were 15 minutes long. No questions, just bring up the next speaker. We worked in 4 speaker blocks with all four of us sitting at a table right beside the podium. The switch between speakers took less than a minute and sometimes only 15-20 seconds. We were grouped in blocks by subject and after it was done there was a moderated list of questions for the panel.

The shorter talks worked great. It forced speakers to hone their message and quickly get to the point. My talk felt super fast but as I was eliminating slides it gave me the freedom to go for the high quality content over trying to cover everything. It also meant that if a talk came up that wasn’t so interesting, it didn’t matter as much since it’s only 15 minutes.

The question and answer session for each block was also a smashing success. While the talks were going on, the audience was directed to send questions to James via twitter, irc or email. irc seemed to be the best format as sometimes others in the channel would answer the question. James was able to pick the best questions and ask them in an efficient and intelligent way that made great use of the panel’s time. There was also some nice interplay between the four panelists as one might expect.

The conference also did other things right such as have a hash trading game where you traded hex ‘cards’ to match a hash based off your name. It encouraged folks to go up and interact with other attendees to get the right cards. Some even got prizes for matching their hash though they had limited supplies and ran out quickly. The size of the conference was very intimate with around 100 people in attendance. Food was fabulous and the wifi quality was great. It seemed all the things important for a technical conference they got right.

My only complaint was that it was too short. The pace of the conference seemed pretty fast too but that’s usually how good conferences are. Anyway, I look forward to seeing what comes next for Red Dirt. I just feel bad for those that weren’t there but I do understand you can get the video if you wish.

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