ArrrrCamp 2014

November 4, 2014

ArrrrCamp is an excellent conference. I was a little worried at first about traveling so far (4 hours PDX-ORD, 8 hours ORD-BRU) to a conference and that I would just be this random American in Belgium for the first time, but I really had a wonderful time. Thanks, Hannes and Joren.

I've decided that I really like the single-track small conference (~120 attendees?) and they did a lot of other things on top of that to try to facilitate people getting to know each other without going over the top. With single track, you're not worrying about whether you’re missing out on a better talk somewhere else. Also, the venue is such that there’s just the main lecture hall theater area, and then another lounge area that they set up with mostly just the tall cocktail tables, which I think helped encourage people to socialize rather than just be hacking away alone.

The 30 minute breaks between talks on the schedule meant it wasn't a big deal if someone ran over a bit, and it was long enough to be able to relax a bit and have good conversations with people. Just much easier to manage meeting new people overall.

Food for lunch was quite good, catered by the bistro next door. Good sandwiches with high quality ingredients, as well as soup.

The people there were very friendly and accommodating.

One of their traditions is a cocktail hour on the Friday afternoon but at that point, I knew if I had any alcohol, I was going to just fall asleep immediately. Someone suggested asking for non-alcoholic cocktails and they immediately mixed one up for me:

(Hannes even apologized for not having non-alcoholic drinks already available! Very sweet)

I’m pretty sure the ratio of female:male speakers was much higher than the ratio for attendees, heh. I did notice that the speakers were generally quite good about trying to be balanced in the examples they used (“Mallory the hacker,” “Alice vs. Bob” sample players in a game). There were several people affiliated with RailsGirls there, and there was a RailsGirls hackathon with dinner that had quite a few people attend. A lot of the women I talked were more junior like myself, but not all of them. Lena delivered a really well-done talk about diversity and inclusivity in the open source community.

Talk recommendations:
  • Piotr Szotkowski, "Weak References Strongly Held" for a hilarious tour through the Ruby standard library using cowsay
  • TJ Schuck, "80,000 Plaintext Passwords: An Open Source Love Story in Three Acts" with a clever use of a plaintext password list he had for a password conversion project
  • Michael Ries, "How I Accidentally Wrote the Best Code of my Career" for his presentation style
  • Aaron Patterson on improvements they've been making on reducing objects allocated in Rails, I actually understood most of this!!