You might be wondering what’s up with the strange title. It’s just one of those conference things – you come to the end of a conference and you are on a “conference high” and cant stop reminiscing about what went on and who did what, etc. You’re sad its over – why can’t we do this every day? You start applying things you did at the conference to your daily routine, and it starts getting kinda weird.  What goes on at RubyFuza should probably stay at RubyFuza. But there are some sweet things, like Rolo’s, that just need to be shared.

So RubyFuza 2011, held here in Cape Town, has ended. It was the first ever African Ruby conference. I think it was a great success, having spoken to others who have been to a number of Ruby conferences around the world.

As a ScrumMaster (and 1 of 2 ladies amongst a sea of Ruby men!!) I found the event somewhat interesting. I thought it was great to spend time at an event like this and immerse myself in the world of deep tech. I guess there were times when there was no way I was going to be able to take in what was on the screen, but I did learn from the experience for sure. The most striking thing I learnt was how different Ruby developers really are. Good different, that is.

There are relatively few South Africans with knowledge of Ruby and the Ruby on Rails framework. This is a common theme that plays out among any group of Ruby enthusiasts in this town. How do we educate and spread the knowledge, and ultimately strengthen the community? Dave Hoover gave a great talk on apprenticeship and how we should be involving ourselves in mentorship programs, and creating the kind of environment and culture in our companies that would facilitate this type of learning. I’m happy to say that at Unboxed we live Dave’s vision.

But not everyone has opportunities like this, and Ruby is not something that is taught in our schools or universities. So the fact that there were very few developers, if any, under the age of about 25 at RubyFuza spoke a thousand words about the Ruby community here. These challenges are what make Ruby developers different.

The Ruby community generally seems to involve people who have explored beyond the standard languages taught elsewhere, and its members seem to hold a real passion about the subject. They don’t seem to be the kind of people who are likely to follow a technical spec without any knowledge of what they are doing or why. They generally have a drive to understand the real need and solve real world problems, and if they are lucky, they are able to do it in their daily lives with their awesome Ruby skills. The world is their oyster when it comes to creative problem solving. They are not spoon fed information; they always seek to learn, in their own ways and often in their own time.

They seem to have agile tendencies. By this I mean that they are happy to be learning and sharing new things all the time, and will try anything once, adapting accordingly to change. It doesn’t mean they are always good at it in the beginning, but then there is always someone who is a willing mentor to help them along. It says a lot about Ruby and Rails itself. The enthusiasm around it seems to highlight its real benefits – a straightforward language that is quickly and easily built upon to produce the desired result, allowing time for more and more refactoring to be done, and thus producing a high quality of code that is fit for purpose.

This combination of a great platform/language and a true passion also gives way to a community that invites creativity and thinking outside of the box, a community that is happy to help each other out wherever possible without turning their noses up, and a community that, in its strength, ultimately drives the quality of what is produced, just by continuously giving.

I felt very lucky to be part of the first African Ruby conference, and I hope that one day I will attend another Ruby conference in South Africa, 5 times the size, and think back to the time when there was only one room full of people. I’ll know that this one room full of people inspired the next room full of people to be different – good different.