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Ruby Conference Review: Mountain West Ruby Conf 2016

This is the fourth article of a multi-series blog post about Ruby and tech conferences that @thomas_witt visited in 2016.

The setting

Mountain West Ruby Conf 2016 (@mwrc) took place on March 21-22, 2016 in Salt Lake City, Utah for the 10th and sadly the last time. The venue was the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, which is a nice and convenient theatre.

The conference

This conference is tied to one name, and that's Mike Moore (@blowmage). He has been organizing MWRC for all these years, and despite I couldn't be part earlier, I've heard that it's been great all the times before.

As Mike is organizing pretty much everything at this conference, it has overall a very personal touch. He was caring about pretty much everything from sponsoring to registration well as being the Master of Ceremony.

Which is great, because Mike is simply a very sympathetic guy. It's hard not to like him. :-)

With Scrivito being a sponsor at this conference, I especially like how he pointed out every company which contributed during the welcome speech. It wasn't just “Hey, yeah, thanks to all the sponsors” (as so often), he rather found some nice introductory words for each of them.

As this was the last MWRC, as you might imagine, his good-bye speech to this conference was very much moving and the audience was cheering afterwards.

The talks

The conference was single-track and the quality of most talks was really high. The conference was recorded by Confreaks.tv like most Ruby conferences in the US.

The Keynote “How are method calls formed?” held by Aaron Patterson (@tenderlove) was really outstanding. It was funny and insightful at the same time – if you haven't seen it, I highly recommend to watch it. Aaron is simply an outstanding speaker.

Ryan Davis (@the_zenspider), the maintainer of minitest, held a talk titled “Writing a Test Framework from Scratch” which was really outstanding – lots of stuff and methodology to learn from. Also a good intro to testing frameworks in general.

My personal highlight was Brandon Hays' (@tehvikin) talk, “Surviving the Framework Hype Cycle” which basically covered all the strange hype within our industry about new technologies. You know: Don't learn Rails anymore, JavaScript is the new thing. Ember. Angular. No, React. Ah, forget about all that, Elixir is the only thing you'll ever need – this kind of stuff. The talk was very inspiring and showed in a funny way that a proven technology like Rails might be still the best choice for many use cases.

Brandon Hays (@tehvikin) at Mountain West Ruby Conf 2016 

As a talk more on the non-technical side, I highly recommend to watch “Orders of Magnitude” by Davy Stevenson (@davystevenson) about how unable your brain is to handle and scale magnitudes.

@mwrcbot talking a picture of Michael Ries (@mmmries) on stage at Mountain West Ruby Conf 2016

The most fun talk was definitely “Ruby Is For Fun and Robots” by Michael Ries (@mmmries), who had built a movable photo robot with face recognition, based on Ruby running on an Raspberry Pi. Watch the video, it's just too funny.

And don't miss the pictures the little @mwrcbot took at the conference. Again a nice demonstration how easy it is nowadays to glue technology together and build something great.

Socializing, networking and meeting people

The conference had – as already mentioned – a very personal touch and there were quite a few opportunities to socialize with people during breaks and lunch. Many people who attended were actually really from Utah, so it also had a kind of a regional touch.

There weren't that much of planned social activities outside of the conference. Many groups formed themselves and went to different venues. As a consequence of that I had the feeling that mostly people got together who already knew each other from other conferences. This wasn't necessarily negative and it's obviously always up to you what you make of it, but if there was another MWRC, I'd say, there's definitely room for improvement.

On Twitter, there was a considerable amount of live tweeting going on (#mwrc), which is also worth taking a quick look.

What else?

I'm sure that Utah might be a great state with a lot of possible activities like skiing, hiking etc., but besides of the conference it was simply a bit boring for me. Salt Lake City is – no offense meant – in my humble opinion not exactly a super-exciting and appealing place where you'd stay a day longer or two.

Would I go again?

The question does not really arise as this was the last MWRC. The location is not really exciting, but given the quality of the talks, it was definitely worth attending.