Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Lone Star Ruby Conf 2009: an Interview with Jim Freeze

With Jim Freeze' recent Lone Star Ruby Conf (@lsrc) Call For Speakers, I decided to run a quick interview with him. Jim's been a big part of the Ruby community for a long time, and LSRC seems to be one of those great regional conferences that's helping drive Ruby at the local level.

What motivated you to organize a regional Ruby conference?

Jim We talked about it for years, and finally one day at a Ruby lunch, we decided we were just going to do it. The scariest part was taking the financial risk. At the time we didn't know if we could get 30 people to attend. We ended up getting over 200.

Who else is/has been involved in organizing LSRC?

Jim There are quite a few individuals who have contributed significantly to the success of LSRC. I hate to mention anyone for fear of forgetting key individuals. Formally, we organized Lone Star Ruby Foundation, a non profit 501(c)(3) corporation to handle the finances of the conference. I am the President, Gerald Bailey and Mark Mims are also board members. Gerald took the place of David Bluestein last year and was, in essence, a co-coordinator.

Others who have help significantly are Mars Hall, Wayne Walker, Taylor Carpenter, Sarah Brumfield, Ben Brumfield, Alan Whitaker (and other LMP members). I know there are others, but these come to mind for helping with key logistics.

We've also had some great keynote and invited speakers. And I recognize that they have also spent their time and energy to help support our conference.

Who's the target audience for Lone Star Ruby Conf? How are you reaching out to them?

Jim Our target audience is anyone interested in Ruby. To contact people we still use email mostly, my out of date website and twitter. Others, like Damon, have been good about getting us posted on various news boards and such.

It seems like the regional Ruby conference field is getting congested. What's your take on things?

Jim Yes it does. I'm am also surprised this year that, with the economy situation, that conferences have been selling out. That tells me that Ruby is growing!

A lot of regional Ruby conference organizers tout something unique about their conference. What makes the Lone Star Ruby Conf special?

Jim We're the best! And we're in Texas! :)

Just kidding. I don't really know that we have focused on just one thing. We try to make the whole conference as good as possible. This will be our third year at the same conference center, so we keep ironing out little problems and improving them. This year, our last two major bugs to iron out are chairs and wifi. We'll be bringing in more comfortable chairs and adding more wifi points.

And while I think we have good talks, we also realize that it's the people that make the conference. We try to have a relaxed atmosphere, where people are free to socialize or code, as they see fit. And we are pretty lax with our sponsors. We like for them to be a part of the show as much as they want to be. I think employment is a good thing and like to promote the interaction between hiring parties and those that want to be hired.

My basic philosophy is to treat LSRC like a cruise — over scheduled and over fed. You don't have to attend everything, but there is plenty to do and plenty to eat. And we have had many good compliments on the food. When you consider that the conference ticket includes all meals and snacks, it turns out to be a pretty good deal.

You've had a couple of great conferences the last two years. What are your favorite conference memories?

Jim My favorite conference memories are that it didn't bomb. I'm usually too tired and doing too many things during the conference. However, I did just watch the panel discussion from last year (thank you confreaks) and it brought back some good memories. It was a great panel, but it was at the end of the conference and I think alot of people were very tired. Only the truly devoted were remaining.

One good memory we had was last year before the conference. Matz came in early and we had a chance to show him around. Took him shopping at a Western store and took as Segway tour of Austin. It was a blast riding on the Segways and hanging out with Matz.

It's one little perk that we get as conference organizers.

If someone wants to get a regional conference started, what advice would you give them?

Jim Don't....but if you insist:

  • Be prepared for a lot of work.
  • Start with Chad Fowler's list of things to prepare for a conference.
  • Join the Regional Ruby Conference Oraganizers Google group.
  • Get some volunteers.
  • Have a lot of fun.

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