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Brighton Ruby 2023 - the Unboxed review

Celia Collins and Rhian Lewis, Aug. 21, 2023

At Unboxed, we are a diverse development team working in a number of different programming languages, but the one thing we have in common is experience working with Ruby on Rails - and a genuine love of Ruby.

Unlike many other languages, the Ruby community is far more than just “people who happen to develop in this particular language” - it is an actual community. If you want to experience this community at its friendly and inspiring best, a pilgrimage to Brighton Ruby is a must-do.

My Unboxed colleague Celia Collins - along with various other Unboxeders - had been to Brighton Ruby before and from her account, I knew it was one not to miss. So a few weeks ago, we headed off to the sunny seaside to hear some great talks and meet other Rubyists.

Here is what we thought of it:

Rhian writes: While I’ve been to many different tech conferences over the years, I just knew Brighton Ruby was going to be a unique experience from the minute I turned up and saw the piles of stickers with which we were invited to customise our conference badges… not to mention the table of excellent Ruby socks and some other cool swag.

After meeting up with Celia and spotting a few familiar faces, we joined 500 other keen attendees to hear an inspiring and entertaining intro by organiser Andy Croll and a most excellent talk by Eileen Uschitelle on the magic of Rails.

Celia writes:

The first talk of the day was by Eileen Uchitelle, who spoke about the magic of Rails. As a core contributor, she has some excellent insights about how it works, why it was designed that way, and gave us an inside look into it. I’ve always been a bit too intimidated to poke around Rails itself, but this was an excellent taster into some of what I call “Rails black magic”. Eileen was so passionate, and gave a rallying cry for us all to help shape the future of our framework. A great start to the day.

Rhian writes: Ruby is not *just* Rails, however - and it’s always really interesting to hear about other DSLs and frameworks. Nick Schwadereder channelled the spirit of legendary Ruby enthusiast _why in his talk on Shoes, the UI toolkit originally developed by _why himself. The presentation was cartoony and fun, but one theme in common with Eileen Uschitelle’s talk was a call to action to get the Ruby community making open-source contributions to the projects that we care about and which make our jobs easier.

The next two talks were not framework-specific: Kaitlyn Tierney drew on her previous experience as a librarian to explain how to produce great documentation, while Noah Gibbs produced a list of when not to use Rails.

Brighton is an awesome destination for foodies, particularly if you happen to be veggie or vegan, so we took the opportunity to head out at lunchtime to Purezza, for some delicious vegan pizza and pizza-adjacent food. Heeding Andy Croll’s pre-conference instructions to talk to someone we didn’t already know, we joined a table of other Rubyists and enjoyed a chat over lunch.

I always really enjoy lightning talks, and all the ones we saw were excellent and could easily have been turned into much longer presentations. The Rubocop one was my top pick.

Next, Tim Riley treated us to some Ricky Martin-inspired singing and dancing during his informative Hanami presentation.

The day wrapped up with two very different but very entertaining presentations a whodunnit by Nadia Odunayo, which cleverly used a quirky narrative style to impart some important lessons about the unexpected inheritance behaviour of class variables, and a non-Ruby but highly interactive session by Joe Hart that could best be described as code comedy.

Overall, the day was a great blend of information, entertainment and socialising - and we’re already looking forward to Brighton Ruby 2024.