Steel City Ruby 2014

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Steel City Ruby 2014

The weekend of August 15 and 16 I went to Steel City Ruby with my boss and another coworker. It was not only my first SCRC but also my first Ruby Conference as well. In this post I want to give a brief review of the conference. This was my 3rd programming/tech conference I have ever been to; the others were an ExpressionEngine and CodeIgniter Conference and GothamJS, so I might not be as experienced as others. But you’re here, so you have to read it!


SCRC was held in downtown Pittsburgh in the New Hazlett Theater. Has nothing to do with the actual conference, but Pittsburgh is pretty nice. Both days of the conference were beautiful for walking around town for lunch or afterwards.

new hazlett theater

The theater was an average small theater, but there was plenty of seating for everyone and you could easily see the speakers and the projector screen from anywhere in the room. The theater had two other areas to hangout between talks, the lobby and backstage. Backstage was where SCRC had a nice setup for attendees to have a place to sit with WiFi and code, chat or both with others.


Steel City Ruby swag

In the lobby, all the sponsors were setup with their tables to talk to you about either their products or about career opportunities they had available. Everyone there was super friendly and the best part… they all had T-shirts. Oh so many free T-shirts, plus other swag such as pens, bottle openers and stickers.


The talks were very interesting. There was a less code to concept ratio than I would have expected, but I still enjoyed most of them. Here’s a few of the highlights:

Charles Nutter

Charles talked about JRuby, which all ruby programmers have probably heard of and maybe even know the concept of it. I had a very broad overview understanding of JRuby but didn’t know any of the real benefits. I don’t actually think I’ve ever talked to anyone who used it to write ruby so I never looked further into it.

In his talk JRuby: The Best Parts, Charles explained the benefits of JRuby over other ruby versions. The biggest being speed. Ruby is known for not being the fastest language and JRuby works to combat that. He had quite a few impressive graphs showing the ridiculous speed difference between JRuby and others.

Keith Bennett

Better Coding with Ruby Lambdas was not the most well received talk at the conference, I would say, but I not only thought it was interesting but learned quite a bit. I had always used lambdas in a very limited way, mostly in validates methods in Rails models.

In all honesty, I never really put together what lambdas really were. I knew how to use them for very specific things and never really looked much more into them.

Keith’s talk not only cleared up the point of lambdas but also clued me into the new syntax since ruby 1.9.x.

  multiply = ->(num1, num2) { num1 * num2 }
  multiply.(2, 8) #=> 16

Pretty cool stuff. Essentially for those who don’t know what lambdas are, think of them as anonymous functions in JavaScript and that’s exactly how Keith was proposing we as ruby programmers should use them. Usually nested within a ruby method like so:

  def do_something num
    multiply = ->(num1, num2) { puts num1 * num2 }
    num.times do
      multiply.(num, 3)
  irb> do_somthing 4
    => 4

Timothy Uruski

Timothy went into great detail about RubyGems and how different ruby management systems handle them. I was very interested in this talk, unfortunately, being a much more code heavy talk, I really wish he had more time for it. He did a great job getting through the material but we could tell that he was hurrying to get everything into the half hour and that there was probably more that he would have shown us if he had had more time.

Bryan Helmkamp

Entrepreneurship for Engineers was the title of Bryan’s talk and despite my severe lack of wanting to start my own company, Bryan was an expressive and interesting speaker. His passion for his story and his company’s successes and short comings made the talk something everyone in the room could relate to and get excited about.

Seth Vargo

Seth’s discussion was not what I was expecting this talk to be about. I pictured a talk on maintaining and distributing open source projects, and working on teams to update and refactor those projects. What Dealing with the Demands of the Open Source Community was really about was the Open Source community as a whole and the problems that arise from more non-developers or newer developers in GitHub having direct communication with the creator and/or maintainer(s) of a project, plugin or gem.

This, Seth explained leads to a sort of bullying from the people who are having issues with or have pending pull requests for these projects. Someone reports a bug or requests a feature to be added and it opens up a slew of Me too! or +1s in GitHub that just fills up the developer’s inbox.

Seth also had a number of suggestions on how to deal with these situations. The most important that I felt made sense were, be quick to respond that you are aware of the situation. A “Thank you for reporting this. I’ll look into it when I get home from work” or “I saw your issue, let me look into that and get back to you.” Simply responding even before you have looked at the issue/request let’s the person know that they have your attention.

Secondly and more importantly to me, is the idea that if you are overly frustrated or upset with an issue or request from someone; take a day to respond. Let your temper cool and your thoughts process for a bit before you get right on the computer and write a nasty response that will just further escalate the situation. He pointed out that these two contradict each other but it really is a per situation basis.

Sean Marcia

This was probably my favorite talk of the conference. Sean discussed a project he is a part of to research and hopefully save the Honey Bee from extinction. Saving the World with Ruby was a clever name for the talk.

Sean used a Raspberry Pi, Ruby and Sinatra to build a monitoring system for a bee hive’s temperature. He explained how he got started in the project, the importance of it and the small application he built to make the data monitored in his app easily accessible for sharing and analysis.

This talk has convinced me that I need to buy a Raspberry Pi and do something with it. I am not exactly sure what at this point but I know it’ll be something cool.


scrc after party

The after party on Friday night was incredible, they definitely spent some money on it. They rented out a large part of the skybox section of the PNC Park stadium, where the Pittsburgh Pirates play, and from 7 to 10pm they had an open bar. Super sweet.

The food was really good, with fruit and veggies, cheese and dips and then tons of appetizer sandwiches. So very good.

There were pool tables, an area where people were playing board games and of course the stands where you could overlook the field and talk with others.


Had a great time and learned quite a bit. Really enjoyed most of the talks and loved spending time in Pittsburgh. I would definitely go to the conference next year.

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