Thursday, August 19, 2010

GoGaRuCo 2010: mini-interview with Josh Susser

GoGaRuCo is just around the corner (Sep 17-18), and it looks like it's going to be a great conference again this year.  I wanted to touch base with Josh Susser (@joshsusser) again to see what was going to set this year apart.  He was kind enough to answer a few questions.  If you live in the Bay Area and haven't already decided to hit GoGaRuCo, what are you waiting for?

This is your second time around with GoGaRuCo.  What was your biggest lesson from 2009, and how did it impact this year's version?
JoshBiggest lesson?  Make sure you have comfortable chairs!  Well, chairs are important, but I think most about the technical program and how to put together the best one I can.  Last year we did a mix of invited talks and talks selected from submitted proposals.  And consistently, attendees rated the invited talks higher than ones selected from proposals.  Now, I can't say what that means overall and it's certainly not a reason for conferences to stop doing CFPs, but this year I wanted to try doing a curated program where all talks were invited.  That let us craft a program that has balance, diversity and high quality.  It can be more work than doing a CFP because you end up with some speakers who take a little more cat-herding than those that are self-motivated to submit a proposal, but it's worth it.  I know we might miss out on a great proposal from someone we wouldn't think to invite, but it also lets us have speakers who wouldn't think to submit a proposal, so I think it works out in the end.
Why the change from a Spring time slot to one in September?
JoshPlanning a conference takes a long time.  For GoGaRuCo we have to get started about six months in advance, and ramping up for an April conference meant we had to start around December, which is nearly impossible given that so many people are off on vacation or focused on wrapping up the old year or starting the new.  It made things terribly difficult to get off to a good start.  The hardest part of doing GoGaRuCo has been finding a venue that was large, affordable and good enough.  We just couldn't find a venue for April, so we moved later in the year to have more time.  It's also nice that September is the best weather of the year in San Francisco, so it will make the trip that much better for people visiting us.
The Wrap was a unique feature from GoGaRuCo last year.  How much impact has it had on the conference?  Will it be back this year?
JoshThe Wrap will definitely return this year.  The initial idea for The Golden Gate Ruby Wrap was to avoid having to print color program schedules.  We've seen them at a lot of confs, and they don't seem that useful and probably only exist as a place to print sponsor ads.  The Wrap saves on paper and cost, and gives us a more long-lived place for sponsor ads.  It also serves as a rich record of the conference, something like the proceedings published by traditional, academic conferences.  I don't know how much impact it's had, but the 2009 Wrap was downloaded by thousands of people, more even than looked at the videos of the talks.  I think that makes the historical impact of the conf greater, since there is an actual record of it.
If there's one reason people should come to GoGaRuCo this year, what is it?
JoshThis is San Francisco!  It's the highest concentration of hardcore Rubyists I know of.  Last year 96% of the conference attendees used Ruby as the primary language in their regular job.  That means being at the conf you are surrounded by people who love Ruby and know how to get things done with it.  And we have comfortable chairs.

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