Steel City Ruby Conference 2013

August 16-17, 2013

Pittsburgh, PA



Carina C. Zona

Carina C. Zona is a web developer and consultant. She has taught for Girl Develop It, Black Girls Code, RailsBridge, PyLadies, and RailsGirls. She served on RailsBridge core team and Women Who Code core team. She is also a certified sex educator. In her spare time, she engineers baked goods.

Handcrafting Community


Community-building can seem like a herculean effort that must be coordinated among many. But it doesn't have to be. One is plenty.

How can we handcraft a fulfilling code career? How can we support peers in developing theirs, whether newcomer or artisan? How can we contribute, without having to be expert? How do we develop social capital among community members, and channel those investments into people who are just entering? How will we craft a thriving community, using only simple tools & scarce local resources?

We'll examine the history of major successes -- in Ruby community, Python, and well beyond -- and extract lessons to apply generally. It's a story that weaves in personal narratives of rising into that, both well and clumsily. It's about transforming minor ambitions & frequent iterations into a scope of change that looks amazing. By making choices to do small things well and thoughtfully, rather than with concern for how they scale.

Julie Pagano

Julie is a software engineer who likes to focus on the front-end and user experience. When she's not working at her day job, she focuses on championing diversity in tech and building the Pittsburgh tech community. She co-organizes and teaches classes for the Pittsburgh chapter of Girl Develop It, an organization that helps teach women how to code.

Julie is also known for her smashing Feminist Hulk impressions and her Roomba-powered cat army. If you listen carefully, you may be able to hear her screaming her catchphrase, "my technology will be intersectional or it will be BULLSHIT!"

I Am a Front-End Web Dev (and so can you!)


Want to improve your front-end web development skills, but aren't sure where to start? Then this is the talk for you! We'll learn about HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and more. This crash course will give you a jumpstart and point you in the right direction to learn more.

Greg Baugues

I started programming on a TRS-80 when I was seven years old, and have spent most of my professional career straddling the line between programming and client facing work. For the last six years I have worked at Table XI, where I currently serve as Director of Client Services. I live in Chicago with my beautiful wife, Rachel.

Developers and Depression

I am a developer, and I have Type II Bipolar and ADHD.

Over the last six months I've been writing and speaking about mental illness in the developer community, ever since we lost one of our coworkers, Caleb Cornman, to untreated mental illness. There's a lot of shame around being sick, and mental illness is treated much differently than physical illness, which causes people who are suffering to avoid finding help.

In this talk I will share the story of my struggles with depression, and getting diagnosed with ADHD and Bipolar, why it's especially relevant for developers, and how we can help those around us who are suffering from mental illness.

Lightning Talks

Angela Harms

Angela Harms is an agile developer, coach, facilitator, and instigator. She loves beautiful code that emerges from collaboration, and learning new ways to make it work. She lives with her unschooling family and a bunch of other nerds in Cleveland’s historic Ohio City.

Being Human: a collaborative approach to making

Hey, nerds. How good are you at real collaboration? I don't mean cooperation, where everyone's doing their part. A collaborative solution is more than the sum of those parts. And I don't mean choosing the best idea among the competitors. Collaboration lets us create new ideas that none of us could have come up with on our own. Let's talk about what gets in the way of that kind of juice. Open up, make mistakes, learn, grow, and watch what emerges when we collaborate.

Ashish Dixit

Ashish is a developer eagerly plotting his path along the lifelong journey of becoming a better problem solver. His current focus is to become a full-stack developer who can solve interesting problems through technology.

Though he knows his journey has just begun, Ashish is a key member of the Groupon Engineering team where he collaborates with talented individuals to build internal tools. While he is not coding & learning from awesome people around him, Ashish likes to dabble in cooking, occasional running & bike rides when the weather is nice, and excessive tweeting about any delays involving trains, planes and automobiles.

Channel your inner Jason Bay: How to be productive on a new Team

You've landed a great opportunity to work with some of the smartest people in the industry. You can barely contain the enthusiasm to learn and contribute to the team. You may not have all the required technical skills on day 1, but you are confident that you will get there with the support from your team. It's exciting & stressful at the same time because you need to start contributing right away.

A lot of developers find themselves in these shoes, just as I did in not-too-distant past. This talk offers specific strategies developers of all skill levels can use to start making an immediate impact. These strategies have enabled me to contribute quickly on a new team and I want to share it with you so that they can help you on each new project or team you work with. I also want to share specific gotchas and share some tips on how to adapt and continue to improve once you have become productive member of the team.

The talk will primarily focus on:

  • Techniques for quickly learning a new codebase
  • Finding ways to have a significant impact quickly
  • Ways in which you can continue to be more awesome

Jim Weirich

Jim Weirich first learned about computers when his college adviser suggested he take a computer science course: "It will be useful, and you might enjoy it." With those prophetic words, Jim has been developing now for over 25 years, working with everything from crunching rocket launch data on supercomputers to wiring up servos and LEDs on micro-controllers. Currently he loves working in Ruby and Rails as the Chief Scientist at Neo, but you can also find him strumming on his ukulele as time permits.

Friendly Flying Robots with Ruby


We use Ruby in our Web applications. We use Ruby in our scripting. We even use Ruby in our mobile phone applications these days. But here's something new: Using Ruby to control flying robots.

The Parrot AR Drone is a consumer grade quadcopter designed to be controlled from your smartphone over a WiFi signal. However, the network protocols for controlling the drone are open and published in the AR Drone SDK, so what is more natural than using our favorite programming language to communicate and control these fun devices.

This talk will cover the nature of the AR Drone protocol and the details of getting a Ruby program to communicate to and control the drone. We will talk about the challenges of remote controlling flying objects. And if all goes well, we will actually demonstrate all of the above.

After all, admit it. When robots finally take over the world, wouldn't you prefer that they are programming in a friendly programming language like Ruby?


Konstantin Haase

Architecting the Chaos


Basically a talk about the development of the Travis CI architecture, how an Open Source project without a clear team structure and initially no company behind it could become the build system for more than 36k projects without collapsing.

Stephen Ball

Stephen Ball first learned programming playing with BASIC on the family's Atari 800 in the 1980s. Now he's the Lead Developer at PhishMe, Inc. where he gets to write Ruby and Rails code from home for a living. When he's not programming Stephen enjoys spending time with his wife and two children, playing videogames, and writing posts for Rake Routes.

Deliberate Git


Your code can only say what it does right now. You can’t look at a method and see its history: the alternative approaches that have been considered, the algorithms that have already been outgrown, the simpler code that has been replaced, or the complicated code that’s been refactored.

Not capturing this knowledge is a huge loss. In Deliberate Git I'll share how to use Git to write detailed commits that craft a cohesive story about the code without giving up a good programming flow.

Lightning Talks

Avdi Grimm

Avdi Grimm has been hacking Ruby code for over 10 years, and is still loving it. He is chief aeronaut at ShipRise, head chef at, and a Ruby Rogue. He lives in southern Pennsylvania with his wife and five children, and in his copious spare time blogs and podcasts at Virtuous Code and Wide Teams.

You Gotta Try This

A talk about metaprogramming, coding for fun, and the joy of sharing.

Kerri Miller

Kerri Miller is a Sr Software Developer and Team Lead based in the Pacific Northwest. She has worked at enterprise companies, international ad agencies, boutique consultancies, start-ups, and every place in between. She mentors and teaches students and interns through RailsBridge and other programs. Having an insatiable curiosity, she has worked as a lighting designer, marionette puppeteer, sous chef, and professional poker player, and enjoys hiking, collecting Vespas, and working with glass.

You Can't Miss What You Can't Measure


Adrift at sea, a GPS device will report your precise latitude and longitude, but if you don't know what those numbers mean, you're just as lost as before. Similarly, there are many tools that offer a wide variety of metrics about your code, but other than making you feel good, what are you supposed to do with this knowledge? Let's answer that question by exploring what the numbers mean, how static code analysis can add value to your development process, and how it can help us chart the unexplored seas of legacy code.

John Downey

John Downey is a developer working at Braintree. Braintree helps businesses accept credit card payments online with great development tools and first class support. There he has worked on their highly available infrastructure and integrations into the banking system. In his free time he contributes to open source projects and mentors high school students in the FIRST Robotics Competition.

DevOps for the Rubyist Soul


Ruby developers have many great options for simply hosting their web applications. But what happens when your product outgrows Heroku? Managing your own servers can be an intimidating task for the average developer. This session will cover the lessons we've learned at Braintree from building and maintaining our infrastructure. It will cover how we leverage Ruby to automate and control all of our environments. Some specific topics we'll cover:

  • Orchestrating servers with capistrano
  • Using puppet for configuration management
  • Our cap and puppet workflow using git
  • How vagrant can provide a sane test environment
  • Some pitfalls you should avoid"

Leon Gersing

i tend binary zen gardens in Columbus, OH.

Keep Software Weird

How much code coverage does it take it ship a minimal viable product? How many Scrum Certifications does it take to make your team agile? How many languages learned make a journeyman a master? Currently, in software, there is an expressed desire to be taken seriously as craftspeople. To this end, we've introduced process, metrics and quantifiable boundaries as goal posts to hold up to those who may not understand what is involved in shipping quality software. As this practice becomes normal, developers are faced with an ever-expanding landscape of techniques, practices and pressure from thought leaders to take extra course work or certifications to validate the assertion that you are, in fact, a software developer. While some may see this as a necessary evolution of our field, I see it as a albatross round the neck of the creative developer looking to explore the depths of what is possible. While the safety of a well worn path may provide solace to the uninitiated, I find dogmatic implementation oppressive and exclusionary to those interested in exploring alternative approaches to solving problems with technology. Join me in an exploration of what I believe makes us unique as a subculture in this business world; examples of how we came to be by challenging the established idioms of the past in order to move forward into something exciting and new. To be our best we must be willing to dive into the unknown, to loose the binds of convention and explore the vast expanse of the unfamiliar. We must dare to be wrong, to be new, to be foolish, to be amazing and keep software weird.