Article | RubyConf 2018

RubyConf 2018

Excellent speakers with a wide range of topics at the Australian Ruby conference

This year’s RubyConf AU was held in Doltone House at Jones Bay Wharf, Sydney. Here’s a review of my highlights:

Sandi Metz

Sandi was the keynote speaker and she was excellent. She referred to findings from psychological studies into working in a team. She suggested you can change your experience in the team by changing yourself.

Fear is the background noise of our lives but it doesn’t matter. Within it and alongside it you are also good enough

The ‘you are good enough’ phrase was a popular sentiment repeated throughout the conference. She also talked about the ‘unhappiness of software developers’ and shared common causes of dev unhappiness:

Sandi Metz

Sandi Metz

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Mario Kart

Michael Morris selected members of the audience to play Mario Kart and he conducted a live demo. The players’ performance was live-streamed on a graph:

Michael Morris — Mario Kart

Michael Morris — Mario Kart

Humans & Archaelogy

In a previous life Eleanor Kiefel Haggerty translated Ancient Greek texts. She gave a great talk on exploring the surprising similarities between archaeology and programming to understand developer decision-making in 2018.

Our decisions, for better or worse, are preserved

Eleanor covered the importance of writing good commit messages and talked about code leaving traces, a sort of cultural history, in the way it records an individual’s presence and decisions. She discussed the importance of creating history that is flat and readable.

Why hire juniors?

Ryan Bigg talked about how companies around the world are growing their own best and brightest talent. He has started a Junior Engineering Program at Envato in Melbourne where he’s growing eight engineers through a structured program.

He covered how to interview, mentor and work with junior developers. He said that juniors make teams better. Importantly, he also said that juniors give seniors the opportunity to grow in patience.

Ryan stated that skill diversity outperforms homogeneity.


Lauren Tan is a Senior Full Stack Engineer at Netflix and she spoke about how Ruby helps the ‘teams behind the streams’ create and produce billions of dollars of original content.

Lauren talked about how Netflix built their first studio app in Ruby and how they use micro-services to increase productivity. She covered the different tools they use for activities such as deployment, authentication, internal identity service and security.

Time in Ruby — how UTC evolved

Most Ruby conferences seem to include a talk related to handling time in Ruby. This one suggested using ISO8601. We were reminded to use time libraries where possible. We also learned that the term UTC has evolved from various versions. UTC is the acronym for Universal Coordinated Time. Originally, the French called it TUC, and the English called it CUT, so finally a compromise was made to call it UTC!

Technical Writing

Alaina Kafkes encouraged us all to get writing. She suggested that Ruby’s fate rests on people who write well and gave tips for getting started with technical writing.

  • Brainstorming — you don’t need to be an expert. Write about how you solved a technical problem and what you learned about it. Don’t feel you only have to write about code

  • Writing — break it into small sections. Use code snippets and gifs in addition to words. Add a learn more button

  • Editing — hone it. Ask friends to read it and provide feedback

  • Publish — use a platform like Medium or for building your readership. Leverage popular technical writing outlets and have a call to action for people to interact with your writing eg. have your contact details in the footer

  • Reflect — be available to respond to respectful commentators and strive for consistency as you build your published writings

Alaina went through these five stages in detail, talking through the issues that can occur at each stage and how to overcome them.

The good bad bug

Jessica Rudder looked at approaching code in a way that allows us to fail in the best way. She has a passion for clean code and talked about what she calls the ‘good bad bug’. She says that programming is filled with bugs that were actually features and that we can tame our inner perfectionists while still writing great code. Jessica explained the importance of finding a safe place to fail publicly.

Technology and politics

Wellingtonian Merrin Macleod gave an excellent talk about how politics and technology can not be separated. She looked at some of the technologies that people are using to shift political realities, and examined the political ideas that underpin the technologies we use, and build, every day.

Merrin’s viewpoint was that technology is political because technology is created by humans.

Other talks:

  • Machine Learning

  • Crystal vs Ruby

  • Use of operators and other language features in various languages. Eg. how ‘===’ operates differently across various languages.

  • Techniques to operate your app at scale. You can use the Scientist gem to see the performance of your old code vs new code.

  • Using Ruby with other protocols

  • Dyslexia and developing

  • Distributed Tracing

Read more about the speakers on the conference website.

It was great to see familiar Ruby faces at the conference. My only complaint was that the Doltone House seating was uncomfortable! The food was amazing throughout the conference and the closing event, amongst the tiered pagodas in the Chinese Friendship Garden, was fantastic. The Chinese Garden Party involved sharing canapés, drinks and Messina gelato as the sun set.

A big thanks to all the amazing people who organised RubyConf AU 2018.

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