Professional Events

I generally don’t make New Years Resolutions.  The entire process is so arbitrary and self-loathing, it plays into the whole annus horibilis bollucks.  If you’re going to improve your life, just do so; Don’t wait for some arbitrary point to go this is the year I will be self fulfilled, all my dreams will approach realization, I will open my code chakras and purge my stale git stashes and finally learn how the hell to use Vim.  If you’re constantly trying to learn new things you’re going to be better off then it you wait to be pushed by the last two digits of the date++.

At least pick more then one point in the year to fix ALL The Things.  One thing a month.  You’ll get continuous benefits for your life and won’t be exhausted from trying to change everything all at once.  You don’t want to go through all the stress of making a change, just to suffer from a fit of Extinction Bursts all at once.  Failing at multiple goals at once can lead to feeling like a children’s toy that’s been run over, by a leaking sewerage truck, in the rain: Useless, disgusting and prone to making gross squelching sounds.

However.  It’s excellent blog credit to give a list of your New Years resolutions; Gotta get those views, that’s how you get that Internet Monies from the Internet People (Or so I hear).  So instead of giving my resolutions, I’m going to make some suggestions that everyone else could adopt.  Please feel free to give me all the credit for these, despite the willpower being expended by you and you alone.  There’s going to be twelve in total, one for each month.  Here are the first three, and I’ll publish the rest every quarter, just to kill off the temptation to start them all at once.

Improvement One: Learn a Tech

Learning a new technology has an obvious benefit: It makes you more employable.  Personally I think this is the least beneficial aspect.  Learning a new tech, especially one that is wildly different from what you do day-to-day, makes you better at your current job.

It’s been solid advice for a while, that learning a different programming paradigm makes your code better in all languages.  I don’t actually buy this.  “writes Java in Ruby” is the same as “acts Functionally in JS“; they’re both paradigm contamination.  I think that practise makes you better, but that’s a very different thing.

No, the reason that I think learning a tech makes you better at your job is it lets you talk to other developers in their language, shows you the strengths of technologies that might make your own specialty more useful, and allows you to better boot-strap individual projects.  A shinier prototype is more likely to be turned into a Real Project.

I personally really like Code School for learning new tech.  I gave up on books because it’s difficult to know what’s worth reading and what isn’t, until you’ve enough experience to evaluate the content and, well… that experience is what you’re reading to build.  I like Code School because it treats the viewer like an adult (unlike at least one competitor) and because it builds in logical, sensible ways.  I’m not getting paid for this recommendation (although if Code School wants… call me!), I just like the product.

Improvement Two: Take a Step to Better Financial Management

Capitalism is pretty gross.  It’s also widely entrenched in society and unlikely to be replaced by anything better before the AI post-scarcity uprising, and I hear that project didn’t meet its KickStarter goal.  Money is here to stay, and Money roughly correlates with ability.  Not ability to accomplish tasks; ability to get others to help (or at least get out of the way).

Spare funds give you the ability to quit and find a better job.  Spare funds allow you to buy tools for your hobby and improve your mental health.  Spare funds let you travel.  Spare funds let you start a side project, that gets profitable, that makes you more spare funds.  It’s kind of crap that having money makes it easier to make money.  It makes life less stressful.  It literally makes you less sad and maybe happier up to a point (The literature is mixed.  This is a nice summary. TL;DR Money gives you options.  Wow, what a familiar argument…).

This is not financial advice.  I do not know what your goals are… But maybe you’re lucky enough that with focus and willpower, you can put yourself in a place with more ability to achieve them.  Maybe start with an Emergency Fund?

Improvement Three: Be a Part of your Tech Community (more)

This one is pretty easy: Get more involved in a tech community.  The cold hard reason is that it’ll serve as good networking.  Screw that.  Tech is (or should be) fun.  Tech people are some of my favourite kinds of people.  There are meetups for languages and tools and industries all over the world.  Go to a conference (like RubyConf.au!) and deliberately talk to people you don’t know. Head to your local meetup.  Join and post to some Open Source Mailing lists.

If you’re already involved, step it up.  Pitch talks to conferences and meetups.  Organize an event.  Go to a longer event or workshop (Rails Camps are amazing).  Mentoring is a huge benefit to our industry, so find a junior dev and offer.  Help less-connected people get integrated by going with them to events and introducing them to others.

Especially try to find unique and interesting voices and share them with others.  We can be faddy, prone to hero worship and appealing to authority.  Mix it up!  Share things you don’t often here, from people who aren’t often heard.  Everyone gets better that way.

Postscript: Sorry to Preach

I really really can’t stand New Years Resolutions, which is why this post is deliberately delayed.  All of these are suggestions of things that I’d like to accomplish myself, and may be helpful in your life.  They’re not aimed at anyone in particular, nor do I warrant their practicality or easy.  Any feedback, leave a comment below!

 

Rails Camp and You.  And Me.  And 89+ other Rad people.

I went to Rails Camp once.  OK twice.  OK several times, and I also hosted one in Brisbane.  They’re excellent places to learn, socialise, ‘network’ (socialisation’s creepy, selfish and greedy cousin) and hack.

They’re also terrifying if you’ve never been to one.  Stuck at a remote campsite with people you don’t know, no internet access, and having to write good code?!  That’s legitimately terrifying.

But!  It’s OK.  Deep breath.  Here’s some truth:  No-one cares about the code you’re writing on Rails Camp.  For Reals.  Spouses, don’t read this next bit: Rails Camp is a really awesome way to work on your Ruby experience for everything except code because it’s not actually super professional learning code times.  No-one will judge your code unless you want them too.  You’re free to do as much serious or silly hacking as you want to.  Or play some boardgames.  Or go on a photo walk.  Or talk to people about hiring or salaries or managing minions or learning JS (you’ll find friends doing just that!) or just… being chill.  The Rails Camp people are super excellent.  Every camp is run under the Ruby Australia Code of Conduct.

The remoteness and the lack of Internet… That requires some more planning to deal with.  I’ve got a good feeling about this upcoming Rails Camp, and I want you to, too.  (Awkward sentence that.  Ahem).  So here’s the list of things that you can do to enhance your Rails Camp experience, in time order.

The Big List of Stuff To Panic and Do Today for Rails Camp Tomorrow

Now in Rough Chronological Order!

I’m about as organised as a bowl of cooked spaghetti.  But I’ve tried to put this list in chronological order, so you can read each heading in order and do the items.  Anything starting with italics is only relevant if you’d like to bring that thing.  If something takes a long time (like a backup), kick it off and go to the next section until it’s done.  It should go without saying that you should ALSO bring anything the organisers have emailed too you or posted online.

Laptop

  1. Back it up.  For Reals.  Start backing it up to something you’ll leave at home.  You do this regularly anyway, right?
  2. You’ll need that backup for the next bit, in case everything gets SNAFU’d.
  3. Update ALL THE THINGS!
    1. Homebrew (Mac only) - 'brew update && brew upgrade'
    2. RVM - 'rvm get head'
    3. Latest Ruby - 'rvm install ruby'
    4. 'git pull' in any projects you want to work on
    5. 'bundle update' ditto
    6. All the gems you might need - There's usually a Rubygems mirror but it doesn't hurt
    7. Dash (Mac only)
  4. Break anything?  No?  SUCCESS!
  5. RE Dash:  Dash is an awesome offline documentation tool for Mac an iOS.  You can download it here.  It’s free with nagware and otherwise not too expensive.  Once installed, make sure you’ve downloaded and updates all the docsets you might need!  I’m using Ruby 2, HTML, Capybara, bash, Ruby on Rails 3, Ruby on Rails 4, Sass, RSpec Expectations and selenium-webdriver.
  6. Go close all your browser tabs.  If they’re action items, stick them in a list somewhere;  Nothing’s worse then getting distracted from fun hacking with that cruddy work stuff.

Camera

  1. Empty out your memory card/s onto your favourite mass storage device.
  2. Charge it.
  3. Make sure your lenses are clean.
  4. Pack your memory cards.
  5. Pack your camera.

Other Entertainment

  1. It’s going to be cold.  No-one will notice under your jumper that you’re wearing the same clothes for three days in a row.  Thus, we’re going to pack fun stuff first.
  2. Boardgames.  People tend to play games after dinner, so if you’ve a favourite feel free to bring it along!  Don’t worry about bringing Cards Against Humanity.  Someone’ll have it covered.  (I’m bringing Boss Monster!)
  3. A Tipple.  Rails Camps are not big drinking events.  But some people like to have a nip or two of Scotch at night.  I will personally judge you if you bring Malibu, because I am a jerk and that’s tacky.
  4. Sportsballs?  IDK.
  5. Drones, fancy colour changing lights, Arduinos and other tech toys.  ‘Nuff said.

Luggage & Clothing

  1. Cold Weather Stuff.  It’s going to be cold.  This goes double if you’re from QLD like I am.
  2. Kigurumi.  There’s usually people bringing Kigurumi.  Kigurumi are awesome.  I’m a legit adult.
  3. Other dorky but comfortable gear.  Some people bring wearable sleeping bags, like these Selk Bags.  Those people are awesome and you should buy them a beer whenever possible.  I may be one of those people >.>
  4. Sleeping Bag.  Even if you hear you don’t need it, it’s never a bad idea to be prepared.  There’s some team has that as a slogan…
  5. Thongs for the bathroom.  Flipflops if you’re Podean.  Jandals if you’re Antipodean, but the other kind.Take this from a Scout — Cold grotty shower floors aren’t any fun.  Neither is getting your feet cold when dashing to pee in the middle of the night.  For the non-Aussies; Thongs are flip-flops.
  6. Suitcase. Duh.
  7. Any Meds & First Aid Supplies.  Just in case.
  8. CPAP Machine.  Pretty sure you won’t forget this one if you need it.
  9. A Towel. You want to make sure you can dry off after getting wet while swimming or bathing, and also show that you’re a hoopy frood.

Electronics

  1. Pack your laptop power brick in your backpack.  If you have a spare, put this in instead so you don’t take your primary out to use it and then forget to put it back in.
  2. Pack a powerboard.  Just in case.
  3. USB charger for your phone.  Even if you don’t have internet access you know you’ll get the shakes if your phone starts going flat.
  4. Chargers for anything else you’re bringing to play with.

Consumables

  1. Coffee.  You’re a developer.  Worse, a Ruby developer.  Chances you’re into wanky coffee are higher then chances that a Rails 2 app on Ruby 1.8 has security holes.  While most camps provide coffee (and some have rad baristas!) the coffee nerds often bring their favourite blends and coffee making toys.
  2. Cancer Sticks.  I’m asthmatic so I get judge-y, but addiction is a beast and it’s not cool to be jonesing all weekend;  There’s often no stores nearby camp, so make sure you bring enough to get by.
  3. Chocolate and sweets.  Because what’s a better thing to share with your fellow devs then Vegemite Cadbury!

 

From the beginning of my career, I’ve been tending smaller and smaller. From consulting gig, to Government enterprise, to 300 person company, to smaller Government enterprise (never again) to a publishing company… Each one getting smaller in size, and feel. Agile, dynamic companies full of smart people is where it’s at.

I’ve also realised that I want to make things that matter to me, and one thing I’m really passionate about is developers. I *love* helping people and I love making cool shit, so being able to help people make cool shit is really exciting to me. I also think that people need time to think, to work and act… Doing things manually that aren’t valuable wastes the most valuable thing any given person has, their mind. I want to help free them.

Both of these put me on a trajectory to one single possible outcome, which I’ve chosen to put in interpretive danceeasily digestible image format:

Technically this is the Bridge

(This is San Francisco)

"THE" Bridge.

(I am here. Over my right shoulder is the Bridge)

8057709725_7c27f8e695

DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS

I read from stdlib/json, line 23... (I am Ruby Developer Evangelist)

17 if you count our Consulting Miniature Schnauzer

(I am Employee Number 16 Here)

Which is good because it's cold.

(They even gave me a hoodie)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/antichrist/132623505/

(My job involves a lot of trips on these)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/cogocogo/6204578958/

(I’m also required to drink a lot of these. It’s a burden)

3265725073_66d6d3d7a6

4448466094_84eaa3cced

5442962755_4a87be8d7e

SeBlackRed

8291759460_307dba4bd3

(Sauce Labs do Selenium Testing in the Cloud) (Sauce Labs do Selenium Testing in the Cloud)

(It's fucking AWESOME)

(It’s fucking AWESOME)

3630920835_6a5f3a9b77

http://www.flickr.com/photos/chaunceydavis/3249393846 (You get Screenshots for every action and video of the entire test)

(And if you're not able to deploy development to the outside world, we provide Sauce Connect, an awesome VPN tunnelling solution)

(And if you’re not able to deploy development to the outside world, we provide Sauce Connect, an awesome VPN tunnelling solution)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/clango/3892009280/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/infomatique/8136256947

(Sauce Labs do Selenium Testing in the Cloud) (Sauce Labs runs our own cloud)

8328690534_6e588141bb_b

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nerdcoregirl/2614206246/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/skoett/4181589591/ (Instances run in seconds and last only as long as you need. Our CEO calls it Efervescent Computing)

(I am insanely excited to be able to work with such smart people on such a cool product)

(I am insanely excited to be able to work with such smart people on such a cool product)

My bailiwick is to make it better for Ruby developers to use the product, including improving the gems, writing better documentation and building the community. Plus, a unique opportunity to use my personality to insult people all over the world! If you want to offend your manager, disrupt your office and get kicked out of your favorite bar for getting shouty about whether RSpec shits all over Test::Unit (It does), let me know. Hell, even if you just want help with the Sauce Gem or tests from Ruby land, hit me up.

You can Find me on (T) or (E)

 

YBITS is the Young Brisbane IT Social group.

It exists so that geeks in the relatively small (But disproportionately awesome) Brisbane IT community can get to know each other in a friendly fashion.

We’re open to everyone who’s young of mind (No stories about how Punch Cards are the be-all and end-all) and working in or studying IT.  There’s no cost, no drawback and we have BEER!

The December Meeting is at The Belgium Beer Cafe Brussles, on the 2nd of December (That’s tomorrow), starting at 17:30pm.  Please feel free to let all and sundry know!

 

Linux.conf.au 2011, with the… odd… name of follow the flow, have announced their 2011 Miniconfs.  If you’re not going to LCA2011, you should.

Miniconfs are much like a BarCamp in that they tend to be ad-hoc, have lots of interesting people running them and may cluster around the topic du jour.  So they’re lots of fun for someone with a short attention span and a love of shiny things like me *{wicked grin*}.  They may be run in parallel for one or more days, so you get to mix an match sessions, or you can camp out in just the one topic if you have laser guided, aspergers spectrum style attention (I’m not mocking… We’re programmers.  Lots of people in our profession are differently wired.  We don’t judge you for having a different brain architecture.)  I like to mix sessions around, and go to some things I’ve not seen before.

You can check out the Miniconfs selected here.  I’m thinking The Business of Open Source (organised by Martin Michlmayr) and Mobile FOSS from James Purser.  Since it’s being run by all-round cool dude and RFID object extraordinaire Jonathan Oxer, I might go to the Arduino stream (and thus garnish blog credit).

All of these are now calling for papers, so if you have actual content unlike me, you can submit something cool.