Facilitating the Spread of Knowledge and Innovation in Professional Software Development

Write for InfoQ


Choose your language

InfoQ Homepage News Ruby DCamp is Challenging the Economy

Ruby DCamp is Challenging the Economy

This item in japanese

The slowdown in our economy has not only effected jobs but also other things developers take for granted such as attending conferences. Conference organizers are trying to up come with creative ways to attract attendees. One such conference is Ruby DCamp being held September 18-19, 2009 in Washington, D.C.

Ruby DCamp is:

If you're experienced with Ruby then you know what you like about the language. But even more importantly you know what needs work! Here's your big chance! Gather with other experienced Rubyists, discuss what's broken, decide how to fix it, and then start down that path together. Or, if you're new to Ruby, come meet with other new Rubyists and learn from experienced Rubyists who realize that there is as much to learn from teaching

It is touted as something different for Rubyists, taking from their web site:

The goal of Ruby DCamp this year is twofold: "think weird" but "think affordable".

InfoQ had an opportunity to talk with the conference organizer Evan Light about what makes Ruby DCamp different from your traditional Ruby conference.

When asked what Ruby DCamp is and how it has evolved, he explained it as:

Ruby DCamp is a Ruby Open Space/unconference. More specifically, it is an event for Rubyists where the content and schedule is decided upon by the attendees. Chad Fowler gets indirect credit for the formation of Ruby DCamp.

At RailsConf 2008, while giving his keynote, Chad said something to the effect of, and I paraphrase, "I don't do well in classroom environments".  Neither do I! And yet I frequently attend Ruby conferences where I, and others, subject ourselves to the classic lecture-style presentation. Not only that but a handful of individuals decide what content we will and won't be exposed to at these conferences. This seemed to me a poor way to learn. Out of this realization, a blog post, and several discussions, Ruby DCamp emerged. So, where more traditional Ruby conferences tend to be (albeit largely benevolently) oligarchical, Ruby DCamp is first and foremost populist.

I and a few others set the stage (venue, food, marketing, equipment, planning facilitation, and other assorted logistics -- that's the extent of our "oligarchy"), the attendees come, and then they do the real work of making an ad hoc Ruby event that best serves their needs.

Evan explains how the conference was different last year:

Last year, Ruby DCamp was held in a hotel in Arlington, VA, attracted about seventy people, and was lauded by most of its attendees. The theme was "improving the Ruby ecosystem". We even collectively specified and began work on an enhancement to RubyGems that, I am told, is about to find its way onto RubyForge and into the RubyGems distribution; it required a fair amount of coordination on the part of Ruby Central to accomplish.

On the topic of the cost of the conference:

This year, Ruby DCamp will be at Bull Run Park in Centerville, VA.  And that does mean "outdoors".  We have three covered pavilions rented that are within a few hundred feet of one another.

And the DCamp is free (as in beer).

But It's even better than that.

Accepting that the economy has been dreadful lately but that attendees need someplace to sleep, we reserved several camp sites that are being made available to attendees (by RSVP) for free (again, as in beer).

Attendees who are camping just need to register, find a way to get to Ruby DCamp, and then everything else is included. Yes, even dinners for campers.

Many conferences can be hard for developers to justify because of the costs of the conference fees themselves in conjunction with the cost of lodging but Ruby DCamp takes a different approach.  The subject is especially dear to Evan and he explains it as:

It seems beautifully incongruous, a zen-like irony, holding a technology event in the great outdoors. Besides, Rubyists self-identify as "weird" Perhaps there are even shades of Burning Man (I've never attended) as well. By taking attendees out of the typical conference space, we, myself and all of the attendees that I consulted about the idea, hope that attendees will be inspired to be offbeat.

There is, admittedly, a practical side to the choice as well: our venue is an order of magnitude cheaper this year than in 2008.

Also, I want to give Chris Williams a nod for the brilliant idea of holding Ruby DCamp outside.

By providing a free venue with free boarding for those who wish it, my hope is to make Ruby DCamp even more inclusive than it was last year.

Ruby DCamp is obviously a unique event and when asked about speakers, it was explained as:

As an Open Space event, it's up to the attendees. So, honestly, I don't know for certain yet. I won't know until after we finish our first planning session at Ruby DCamp, where all of the attendees decide what they want to discuss/learn/work on, and we have a schedule for that first day. It's all ad hoc. However, I firmly suspect that Rich Kilmer, who told me that he plans to attend, will likely lead at least one session.

Considering where the event is going to be held, certain logistics are obvious concerns such as poor weather and the wireless access all geeks need at any conference:

As the pavilions are covered, we should set in case of rain -- although it may make cooking interesting. Internet, like last year, will be provided by a LAN of four EVDO routers. To former attendees reading this: this year they will be configured correctly. ;-)

Evan Light is the conference organizer and currently a freelance Ruby/Ruby-on-Rails consultant who, until a year ago, lived in the DC area. Evan and his wife moved out to the Eastern Shore of Maryland to be closer to his wife's family.

So, signup today.  Additional information about Ruby DCamp can be found on the official conference web site. When registering, a promotional code is needed, they are available from Evan, contact him at

Rate this Article