What We’ve Lost

With a dearth of regional Ruby conferences the barrier to entry has grown

Jim Remsik
By Jim Remsik
April 24, 2024

From 2011 to 2018 we put on Madison+ Ruby, a T-shaped conference, in Downtown Madison, WI that celebrated people. Whether that meant embracing our authentic selves, searching for the Meaning of (Artificial) Life, or creating Sweaters as a Service. After a five-year hiatus we’re bringing it back in order to provide people the space, the opportunity, and a good excuse to get back together.

2014 may have been the peak of the regional conference scene. Mailing lists existed to coordinate scheduling and avoid conflicts, new voices were being introduced, and the sponsorship money flowed. All of this created a space where dozens of conferences happened across the US throughout the year.

The regional Ruby conference has been coming back to the US with shows like Blue Ridge Ruby and Sin City Ruby. These two conferences could not be more different and show off some of what we’ve been missing. They serve their audiences in two very different environments and people love them both. We’ve lost originality and choice.

The smaller conferences are often able to come together with a much smaller ticket price. The ability to attend or speak at a conference in your neck of the woods cannot be understated either, reducing travel time and budget if you can carpool an hour or three with some other locals. Additionally, traveling to Las Vegas is generally easy and affordable due to its well-connected airport, frequent flight deals, and a range of accommodations catering to different budgets. Both of these events are able to put together fantastic programs closer to home. We’ve lost affordability.

With fewer regional conferences and meetups we also are seeing fewer opportunities for people to prepare and share new ideas. If one of the few international conferences is your only opportunity to speak you might be less likely to see your path to the stage. You also likely won’t see the affirmation and praise that could propel you to try the bigger venue. We’ve lost variety.

Historically when we’ve needed to hire I’ve reached out to people in my network. Many of whom I met through conferences. In the previous iteration of my consultancy we were able to bring in several junior developers and grow them into a position where they were able to find bigger and better opportunities. If someone asks me “Are you hiring Juniors?” The answer is a little harder in a situation where I don’t know the people I could potentially hire. We’ve lost access to talent.

What we’ve lost with the lack of regional conferences is an affordable on-ramp to the community. An on-ramp where you can spend a fraction of the cost, share a road trip with friends, and possibly crash on the couch of a trusted local if need be. The ability to reach the member(s) of the community of which you are a part and learn how things work, to meet folks whom you look up to and think, “Wow, this person watches America’s Next Top Model just like me.” These are people, just like me, I can do this, I am what a Rubyist/conference speaker/community leader looks like.

We hope to see you this fall 2024 in Madison.

If you’re looking for a team to help you discover the right thing to build and help you build it, get in touch.