RubyConf 2018 Recap
By Miles Z. Sterrett /

Fretless went to RubyConf 2018 in Los Angeles! This year was a sold out show—800 attendees and 38 speakers over 3 days. We love RubyConf. Not only do we get to experience a city we might not have visited previously, and get to know each other better, but we also hear great speakers giving great presentations. The most difficult part of the conference is figuring out which talks to go to, followed by figuring out which talk was best.

Though we might not have been able to choose one single talk that is clearly the best, here are talks the Fretless team wants you to know about.

The Talks

One thing we love about RubyConf is the constant of experiencing good talks about being better developers by being better humans. Dana found Humans Aren’t APIs And Your Request Is 400 Denied to be an important talk to hear. Check out her thoughts:

Jennifer Tu spoke about miscommunications and understanding how they happen, why they matter, and how to come to a better outcome the next time. I found her talk very thoughtful, and it inspired me to think before I speak and try to make myself as clear to the other person as I can. Oftentimes, that means listening more closely and asking follow-up/clarifying questions if you feel you’re being misunderstood. Her presentation outlined three parts of a communication encounter - understanding, agreement, willingness. Those could mean that the message was received, the other person/people think it’s a good idea, and he/she/they’re willing to do it. Then, she went into how to make sure all of those outcomes are achieved (or should they be?) by taking a more thoughtful approach, rephrasing the way you ask the question, and again, listening intently to the response. For example, if the person’s response is negative, perhaps give them a day to think about it, or revisit the subject when they feel comfortable and ready. “Stop, drop & listen” is a key concept that stuck out to me. Ultimately, her point was to show that you care about the person you’re communicating with, and if you do that, it’s likely you can get the best outcome the situation allows.

Dave Jones recommends checking out Jack Danger’s Designing an engineering team: Making room for everyone. Aside from the speaker having a fantastic name, he has great points to make about diversifying the strengths of your team. Here’s what Dave had to say about it:

This talk talked a bit about the fallacy that a dev team should be composed of people with similar roles, skills, and experiences. A team of people that mostly know the same stuff as each other are redundant, and don’t fully benefit from a wider skillset. What skills are core, and which are ancillary? Someone on the team needs to know how to tweak SQL for performance, but does everybody?

The speaker draws a parallel to hospitals, and how the division of roles casts a wider net of expertise. If you have a team of only surgeons, then surgery will be the solution to every problem, and without doctors, nurses and anesthesiologists, it’d be a very cold, expensive, and painful surgery at that. Also that teaching hospitals have lower mortality rates. An experienced doctor may be better today, but a new resident could likely be better in a few years due to their fresh perspective and more up-to-date knowledge from medical school, and the doctor is also better off from having to keep sharp enough to teach. I highly recommend you check it out once the talks are online.

Aubrey’s favorite talk of the conference was Baby Driven Development by Allison McMillan. Now, if you know Aubrey, you might find this a bit too on the nose, considering she’s due to have her second child a couple months from the date on this post. However, I (Miles) can back her up on this one. I know it helped me think about how Fretless could do more to help parents. I’ll let Aubrey do the talking:

As a mother of a toddler and soon to be the mother of two, I felt very connected with all the information Allison gave during this talk. It truly brought to light the struggles that parents—mothers, in particular—go through while trying to work and raise a family. This talk really made me feel like I wasn’t alone, but that there are so many others going through the same things. I also think that employers should hear this talk. I am lucky enough to work for an awesome company that understands the importance of mental health and family [editor’s note: she received no extra compensation for writing this. Not yet anyway.], but so many are not. This talk would definitely open the eyes of some employers.

Kevin Kuchta’s talk really hit the sweet spot for me (Miles). Titled Ruby is the Best JavaScript, it embodies several things I love about the community. Well, just… here:

Let’s get this out of the way first: this talk is not about replacing JavaScript with Ruby.

One of the things I’ve loved about the Ruby community since they day I started by reading _why’s Poignant Guide to Ruby is its quirkiness—its tendency to write code for fun, for whimsy, for giggles. This talk continues that tradition. It starts off with a valid snippet of JavaScript, asserts that it is actually a valid Ruby script, and then shows you how to write Ruby to get there. It has many potentially useful meta-programming tricks, but it’s mostly an interesting exercise done for fun and giggles. I love it for that.

If you know much about Fretless—and especially Davey—you might know that we enjoy supporting however we can those who have recently embarked on a career in software engineering, or who will soon be embarking on a career in software engineering. Empowering Early-Career Developers by Mercedes Bernard is a talk about doing just that in a systematic way. Here’s what Davey had to say:

Every company is eternally on the hunt for experienced, senior developers, and when they do hire early-career developers (a term that the speaker, Mercedes Bernard, prefers to “junior developers”), they often don’t know what to do with them. The speaker talks about training early-career developers not just on technical skills, but also on client management and team leadership, giving them the practice they need to grow rapidly.

Join Us Next Year?

Next November, RubyConf 2019 will take place in Nashville, Tennessee! We’re excited about the live music choices there (one of our favorite parts of RubyConf in New Orleans). If you’re near Indianapolis, it is only a 5-6 hour drive! There’s almost no excuse for not attending. Why don’t you join us next year? I can promise there will be copious amounts of high fives, in addition to all the great presentations.