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FutureRuby Conference Coming Up

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Last year's RubyFringe conference was very succesful and well received, yielding a lot of interesting talks and interviews.

This year,  Unspace, the company that put RubyFringe together, decided to do it all over with the FutureRuby conference in Toronto July 9-12 2009.
Tickets are still available - although 15th June is the deadline for the regular priced tickets.

We talked to Pete Forde of Unspace, organizers of RubyFringe and this year FutureRuby, about what to expect from the conference.

InfoQ: You don't seem to be targeting a particular topic with the conference - what's the theme for FutureRuby?

We're having a lot of fun dodging people's expectations about what FutureRuby is. I'm very grateful to the registered attendees for trusting us, as many of them were booked long before we even started formally inviting speakers. While in many ways this conference is an evolution of what started at RubyFringe last year, it's very important to us that FutureRuby has its own identity, audience and spirit... this is not an encore!

If RubyFringe was defined by not being a dry, forgettable cookie-cutter cash grab event - and FutureRuby is defined as not being RubyFringe - then we had a paradox on our hands. That pretty much left us with the New World Order, or Soviet Russia. Given the choice between "The Manchurian Candidate" or "From Russia With Love" the decision was obvious: lovable, kitschy Commies.

The factual, serious answer is that most conferences pretend to provide an opportunity to "learn" by catching up with the status quo, and that's why they bore alpha geeks to tears. Our events are specifically designed to gather a critical mass of smart, creative hackers and bombard them with new ideas that are truly on the bleeding fringe stuff that hasn't happened yet, or is just about to - in the context of an inclusive social atmosphere. This fast-forwards the genesis of real-world friendships, and suddenly you have people going home and realizing that they're the ones deciding what the future is going to look like.

InfoQ: Could you talk a bit about the speakers you invited? Are they all Ruby developers?

I take my role as curator very seriously, and I've worked very hard to find an interesting balance between Ruby developers - some well known and some speaking for the first time - and a significant amount of "other". You'll find wizards like Ilya Grigorik mixed with programmers from other languages, frameworks and disciplines. Molly Holzschlag is a personal hero of mine; she co-wrote The CSS Zen Garden and influences standards that aren't even implemented yet. There are definitely a few names on the list that aren't even programmers at all.

RubyFringe attendees will remember that speakers were free to choose their topics and decide to change their minds if they wish. One of my favourite talks was Nick Sieger. I introduced him as being from the JRuby project, and he proceeded to blow everyone's minds with an oral history of jazz music, and how it pertained to programming. The audience ate it up, and I realized in that moment that we'd broken through the expectation barrier. If your idea of a good conference is four concurrent tracks of socially awkward nerds debating fixtures and mocks for 50-90 minutes in a monotone, you're doing it wrong.

I've invited people with a plethora of interesting stories to share, and the truth is that I'll find out what those stories will be at the same time as everyone else. This should excite you, or else it's possible that FutureRuby is not the place for you... and that's okay!

InfoQ: How will FutureRuby differ from RubyFringe?

In terms of content, theme and pacing, the two events are wildly different. Giles Bowkett is the only recurring speaker, and he's not going anywhere near last year's presentation. The social events are entirely different, and spaced out over more time; we're running the public FAILCamp event ( on its own night, and yes, we're really putting everyone on a ferry and taking them to a private yacht club on an island. There's going to be a block party on the last night. Also, there were zero Russian dancers at RubyFringe.

What's exactly the same (or evolved) is all of the logistics and attention to detail. The food and parties are going to be amazing, the swag will be exceptional and free of corporate logos, everyone will be issued a public transit pass and encouraged to walk or take public transit. It's still single-track, 30 minute talks, and no Q&A. It's still capped at 150 attendees. We try to be accessible and listen when people have dietary restrictions.

The thing I'm most proud of is that we are seeing the return of our travel companion program, which was a huge hit last year. Boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses and lovers traveling to Toronto with FutureRuby attendees have their own activity program, and they're able to join in the evening festivities. That's right... FutureRuby might just save your marriage.

InfoQ: In this cash strapped time, what's your argument for attending FutureRuby?

FutureRuby is intentionally priced in the mid-range at CAN$800 (Hurry! $900 for rush tickets after June 15th) which works out to roughly US$700. Our early-bird tickets sold out in five hours, and they were actually cheaper than RailsConf tickets; we also happen to include 5 meals and 4 catered parties with open bars in the mix. And yet, the reasons to come to FutureRuby have nothing to do with money.

Our quasi-revolutionary goal is to seed raw, chaotic innovation in our community. It's not about frameworks or test coverage, but inspiration and learning from the mistakes of others. We do our part by gathering the great minds of our time, and the people in attendance are able to react to what they see in ways that just aren't possible under normal circumstances.

If you're an analyst or start-up founder and you want access to what people are going to be excited about next year, FutureRuby is the big bang.


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