When we decided to start Ruby Manor, as well as putting on a fun and
interesting conference about Ruby, we had some more philosophical
goals. You might remember them from the original announcement:
1) it should be affordable — we didn't understand why conference
ticket prices were several hundred pounds, and there seemed to be a
lot of fat that could be trimmed (catering, wifi, swag).
2) it should be transparent — you should know where your money is
going, but more importantly you should be able to see AND influence
how the content of the day is put together. The more-typical CFP
leads to panicking speakers and a lucky-dip for attendees
3) it should be relevant — we were tired of war story presentations
that leave you wondering why you bothered getting out of bed so early,
and presentations where the speaker didn't address the points that
were most interesting for the attendees.
We think we've done really well with the affordability. Without any
sponsorship, we've shown that you can run a good conference and charge
less than a round of drinks for it. We're really proud of that.
However, we're not sure how successful we have been with our
transparency and relevancy goals. We hoped that a mailing list would
encourage discussion and debate of topics to cover, and help the
speakers develop and refine their ideas for presentations, but
activity on the list was quite low.
We're not sure if people find this a valuable process, or if they are
happy enough (or would even prefer) to entrust the content development
So here's the question - what do you think? Is Ruby Manor a great,
affordable little local conference with a few quirky mechanisms, or is
it an opportunity to explore what conferences should and could be?
Where does its value lie for you? Would you care if it was run in a
simpler, more traditional way?
We still feel strongly about our goals, but Ruby Manor has always been
about the community participation and more than just what we want from
it. There is no wrong or right answer; we really want to know what
you, individually, think. Your thoughts and ideas will directly
influence what we personally will do with Ruby Manor.
You can either reply here (hopefully everyone can be mindful to keep
the thread relevant and spawn any tangents or off-topic asides as new
threads), or to us directly if that is easier.
I've only attended the one last year.
On Fri, Oct 1, 2010 at 11:37 AM, James Adam <ja...@lazyatom.com> wrote:
> So here's the question - what do you think? Is Ruby Manor a great,
Yes it is, I found it useful, talks were done well.
For me the highlight was the gem-this presentation.
> affordable little local conference with a few quirky mechanisms, or is
Speaking as an attendee, I didn't see any quirks. The conf just rolled smoothly.
> it an opportunity to explore what conferences should and could be?
For me it was on par with other conferences in relevance and due to
its size it feels more personal, people aren't on their laptops
reading their mail, everybody is paying attention.
I agree with Glenn that it would be good to make the conference
available to more people. I seem to remember stalling on buying a
ticket last year and by the time I knew I could make it, all the
tickets were gone. Maybe you could gauge interest by having an early
signup form and people who register on it are guaranteed a ticket when
they're released (but aren't committed to one). This will give you a
fairly good idea of how many want to attend and, whilst some people on
that list will inevitably not buy, there will most likely be more who
didn't use the interest form but do want a ticket.
Bigger doesn't necessarily mean better but it would be nice to see
more people from places other than London.
I love RubyManor, it has the perfect spirit for the open source community
we work and live in.
Whenever I read about some conference (e.g. SchnitzelConf) where the
organizers prefers fancy location over affordable prices I wish
it would be more like RubyManor.
So, bring it on, I want to book my flight to London early.
> However, we're not sure how successful we have been with our
> transparency and relevancy goals.
Who are you and what have you done with the real James Adam ?
Sorry, I'm struggling to imagine the acid tongued presenter of 'gem that' getting hung up about 'transparency and relevancy'.
The conference is universally considered a success - selling out before the line-up of talks is announced.
People have a good time during and in the bar afterward.
Ruby Manor rocks so why the need for a navel gazing exercise ?
The seats were more comfortable at the second one, important if you're sitting still for something like 8 hours straight.
Not having talks distracted by noise next door would make it marginally better.
Personally I like to see a second room devoted to hands on coding exercises: katas, API walk throughs etc but that's about it.
One thing I hate about traditional conferences is that the selection process for sessions is completely opaque. This makes proposing a session more stressful than it needs to be, especially if it's something off the beaten track or which you know contrasts with the views of the organisers. Having attendees vote on which sessions should be held opens the field considerably and seeing those discussions in public gives at least some insight into what the audience is really hoping to get from a particular session. It's also got advantages over the unconference approach - fun though that can be - that half the day isn't spent trying to figure out what's going on and who actually knows what they're on about :)
And I'm still astounded that you guys can put on a top notch Ruby conference in one of the most expensive cities on Earth at £10 per head and still have money left over for the after party bar tab. I guess the only thing I'd change about it is maybe adding a second day that was just for practical hands-on stuff, but then the added complexity would probably change the whole cost balance and risk turning it into just another bland mainstream con.
Games With Brains
raise ArgumentError unless @reality.responds_to? :reason
> I wanna come too...
> do it in January!
and close to the usual LRUG meeting please ^_^
Ruby Manor is an almost perfect gathering.
Perhaps you could allow people to buy (and hence reserve) tickets
before you decide on the venue, so you can choose a venue with enough
I was very disappointed to miss out on the ticket lottery last year.
Last year I gave one of the first talks on Go outside of Google at Ruby Manor and it seemed to be pretty well received so I don't think either of those things necessarily matter as long as attendees are interested in your subject and it has a Ruby connection.
Having said that, I definitely enjoyed some talks more than others.
Without thinking too much, the talks that I've enjoyed could be
categorised as those that are about:
* something completely outside of my day job (the best example I have
of this from Ruby Manor is Jason's talk on Processing).
* something that I have basic knowledge of that can be expanded by
someone knowledgeable in the subject.
* anything at all if the speaker is passionate/engaging.
The talks I have less interest in are those that cover subjects that I
have some knowledge of (even if that knowledge is just my having heard
of the subject) but that I can readily find information if/when I
should need to.
So, I definitely think you've produced an affordable, transparent
conference. The only gripe I might have, then, is that I didn't find
all the talks entirely relevant. *BUT* This is purely personal and
entirely obvious: it's not going to be possible to have talks that are
of interest to everyone and the transparent talk selection process
should definitely reduce this problem for the attendees as a whole.
I do wonder if there's something that could be offered as an
alternative for those talks that people aren't interested in though.
I like the idea of a general chat/hack area that people can use to
talk about things they're working on/find interesting but do wonder
how practical this would be.
I also think that my views are constrained by the conventional
conferences. Maybe there are crazy other things we could
do/approaches we could take to ensure that everyone gets the most out
of the event.
 It might be useful to know that I now work with Jason but didn't
at the time I saw his processing talk.
On Fri, Oct 1, 2010 at 11:37 AM, James Adam <ja...@lazyatom.com> wrote:
As Kalv mentions, the mailing list might not be the best way of
fostering discussion and feedback of the different talk proposals.
Maybe a simple web app where people can submit talk ideas, add
feedback and vote on the proposals.
Then once the event has taken place, the same app could be used for
attaching the slides and feedback from the talk itself.
Taking the idea of enforced participation, maybe you shouldn't be
allowed to buy a ticket without participating on the site by
submitting an idea or providing feedback on at least one talk. Or the
ticket purchase funnel could require ranking a number of talks before
leading you to the checkout.
I didn't say it was a *good* idea, just throwing random thoughts out
there to elicit discussion :o)
Personally, I think instead of improving discussion it would have the
Putting barriers like that in the way would mean people would either
fill in nonsense just to get to the next page, or turn them off
completely as you say.
The other parts, moving talk suggestions etc to a web-app could be
interesting, if only as it would be more structured and also useful
after the event itself. See Kalv's other thread for some more
well-formed ideas down that path.
"We want attendees to push other conferences out of their comfort zones".
Transparency is just one possible way of achieving that, and if every
talk was I-will-still-remember-it-in-ten-years awesome then it doesn't
particularly matter if it is "relevant".
Personally I've found the talks at previous ruby manors have been
fine, but not so good that I'm still thinking about them. This is
probably because giving a talk that good is really, really hard - you
need to have thought long and hard, possibly for months or years about
the content, and you need to be practiced enough at public speaking to
be able to get your point across effectively.
The problem with the mailing list approach is that while I think it
can be fine to get a rough idea of what people are interested in
hearing about, sometimes a brilliant talk is one you don't think you'd
want to hear, or requires an element of surprise as if you were
performing a magic trick, or telling a joke. Also, unless you have a
really deep knowledge of the subject area then the mailing list
clarification can sometimes almost do away with the need to hear the
talk at all.
One semi-practical idea: suppose that everyone speaking got together
the weekend before the conference and gave their talk a run through in
front of the other speakers. The other speakers would then offer
criticism on the content & delivery - things like:
* you spent too long on this section, I'd got the point after 2 minutes
* I didn't get the link between part foo and part bar
* I need to see more examples of X
* Stop looking at the slides when you talk - look at the audience!
This pre-conf workshop is then an opportunity for everyone to get
better at speaking. I know I would personally find this really
valuable - it isn't often that I give a talk more than once, and it is
always annoying knowing with hindsight that certain parts of a talk
could have been so much better.
This is exactly the same as iterative development - it is all very
well having a detailed software architecture / content & slides but it
isn't until you actually start doing the development / speaking to an
audience that you find out where the real problems are.
Apologies if this has sounded a little negative - it's just that I
think it definitely *is* worth the effort to try and make the day as
great as possible.
To answer Matt's point, we agree, forcing participation is not what we
want. It wouldn't get us any further down the line towards our goal.
Ruby Manor, as run by us, won't *require* participation.
That said, there is something in Richard's point too; we want to
encourage participation, so maybe we should reward those that do so.
Participation could be anything from voting (yes/no/no opinion) to
providing thoughtful, constructive suggestions to speakers. We prefer
the latter over the former, but it all counts. Ruby Manor will
For example, active participants could get first pass at tickets as a
thank-you for their hard work in shaping the day. This may still seem
like enforcing participation, but as it seems that, at least for the
moment, the number of people who want to come to a Ruby Manor would be
greater than the number of people who would actively participate. In
that way those who have nothing to add to the conversation won't miss
out any more than they would with the current free-for-all on the day
tickets are released.
- James & Murray
On Mon, Oct 11, 2010 at 2:09 AM, Ben Griffiths <bengri...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Posters? http://us.pycon.org/2010/conference/posters/accepted/
The fact that it'd be less formal than set piece talks might encourage people who don't enjoy speaking in public. I imagine it's also more interactive and maybe people would be happier to present ideas at an earlier stage.
It would also offer a nice break from sitting down all day.
On 11 Oct 2010, at 02:09, Ben Griffiths wrote: