This month I had the opportunity to attend a Ruby conference called Sapporo RubyKaigi. Sapporo RubyKaigi is a Japan regional conference which has been held each year since 2008.
Why Sapporo RubyKaigi 2012 was a major Ruby conference
There are traditionally in Japan two types of conferences about Ruby. RubyKaigi, held in Tokyo, which aims at having an international impact, and some regional conferences organized by local user groups.
After the explanations I gave you, you may wonder why a French guy decided to attend some regional conference in Japan and not the big one in Tokyo.
Well, there are a few reasons.
First, Ruby was created in Japan and is still developed there as the vast majority of the maintainers are Japanese. In other words, Japan is definitely the heart of the action when it comes to Ruby, and if you want to have the chance to attend some particular conferences you'll have to fly there. Second, there was no international RubyKaigi in 2012 and somehow, slowly but surely, Sapporo Ruby Kaigi became the big thing this year. It even gained an international reputation thanks to the Sapporo RubyKaigi staff who invited international guests.
All the informations about the conferences were also provided in English which happened to be very helpful when you don't speak a word of Japanese like most of the international attendees. For instance, two out of three keynotes were given by non-japanese participants. Long story short, this conference was three days of high level talks given by Matsumoto Yukihiro himself (aka Matz, creator of Ruby), Ruby commiters and famous Rubyists. An international touch was also given by the presence of Heroku that has invested in Ruby for several months now by hiring Matz and Ko1 (main developers of the Ruby vm).
It was definitely the place to be!
Let's get something clear: the Sapporo RubyKaigi staff made a hell of a good job. From the venue, the communication, the use of ustream (Room A and Room B), the translation of talks on a side screen, to the bottle of water provided to resist the temperature of 30°c - 86°F (which is probably a record at this time of the year in Sapporo), everything was definitely perfect!
Everything related to the conference was just top notch. Period.
I won't speak in details of the talks, since I couldn't attend all of them but I will discuss here the main topics of this 2012 conference.
By the way, some talks can be seen at vimeo if you are interested.
A few talks were about Ruby internals, like the improvements made to the ruby VM (this will lead later to some specifics blog posts), and Garbage Collection in Ruby. Very interesting talks, but definitely not the most simple ones to follow because of their focus on C.
Better use of Ruby
How to use Ruby in a more efficient way has become a recurring topic nowadays in the Western Ruby community. It can include issues like how to write some complex rails applications and keep them easily maintainable with DCI and better object orientation but also some less common yet interesting subjects like functional programming with Ruby, or the use of Pattern Matching.
How to work with Legacy
Ruby is almost 20, and rails is 8 so Legacy is becoming more and more a reality now. The talks mainly focused on the problems present in those applications, and how to solve them, since maintaining a 1.2 rails application is not an easy task…
Getting better as a coder
"Do it yourself", "Make clear code", "Have fun", "Keep learning" were at the center of those talks, very community oriented and in line with the idea behind the creation of Ruby.
Talks and serious business were not the only events of this conference. On Saturday, a party and an after-party were organized by the staff. It was the occasion for the community to talk for a few hours around some good food and drinks. It was quite a cosmopolitan crowd, with people coming from all over the world and from various regions of Japan, but nevertheless sharing a common idea about Ruby and code. Most of all, everybody there had a common desire to exchange and learn from each other.
At lunch time, some events were also organized and I had the chance to participate in a workshop about Druby. Druby brings distributed object to Ruby (but that's another story that will certainly be discussed in another blog entry).
Well, let's face the truth, it was a Japanese conference which happened to have an international flavor but yes, as you may guess, most of the talks were in Japanese. However, the staff did their best to provide the best experience possible for non-Japanese speakers: during all the talks, a team of translators provided a translated version of the talk on a side screen, which was absolutely awesome when you don't speak a word of Japanese. What a great idea!
I'm pretty sure I forgot to mention some other awesome events, but well, it's time to conclude.
Sapporo RubyKaigi took as baseline "We code", and we can say that it was the main theme of the whole conference. Most of the talks were really code oriented, about problem solving, about sharing ideas, and about getting better as a coder. Long story short, it was real pleasure for a ruby coder from Day 1.
If you have the opportunity to attend as a simple participant lost in the crowd or, even better, as a speaker, you definitely should go. You will learn so much, and have the opportunity to meet some awesome people who have a real passion for Ruby.
And, as a bonus, Sapporo is really a nice place to see.
I will definitely try to participate again next year!