Last month all our developers took a trip to the south side of Chicago for WindyCityRails. It was a great conference, and afterward I talked to WCR organizer Ray Hightower about this year's event, what we can look forward to in 2013, and what other conferences Ruby developers should keep on their radars.

1. First off, how was Hawaii? 

Hawaii is wonderful! Aloha Ruby was a very well-organized conference full of smart people. I presented RubyMotion to a group of experienced iOS and Ruby developers. Some of the attendees produce the blogs, screencasts, and books that I use as reference materials. It was very challenging to have my teachers and mentors in the audience!

2. How did WCR 2012 compare to WCR 2011?

WindyCityRails 2012 was held on two weekdays, while previous years' events were Saturday-only. Last year's post-conference survey told us that attendees prefer to spend weekends with their families, so we shifted the dates to make that work. This year's attendance was higher than last year's even though we raised the price to cover two days of conference expenses. And of course, the venue was beautiful. The South Shore Cultural Center is in the middle of a golf course next to Lake Michigan. Since South Shore was so well received by the audience, WindyCityRails will return to South Shore in 2013.

3. What would you like to do differently for WCR 2013?

WindyCityRails 2013 will place heavier emphasis on the technical side of software development. For 2013, we've already confirmed two speakers who deliver large software projects on a regular basis. We will balance the increased technical emphasis with some creative ways for attendees to interact with each other. It would be great to make creative use of the golf course or the lake in 2013. Wonderful things happen when smart people collaborate, and WindyCityRails is a catalyst for powerful collaborations.

4. If you could recommend one non-WCR conference to a Rails dev, which would it be?

It's hard to recommend one, since I enjoy several conferences every year and each has special strengths. Aloha Ruby is exciting for the tech-cred of the audience and the speakers, plus the tropical island venue. MadisonRuby draws Ruby innovators from all over the world, and the organizers do a great job of bringing the local business community into the conference. If I'm giving a recommendation to a Chicago-area dev, I would lean toward MadisonRuby.

5. As a novice Rails dev in Chicago, what extracurricular activities should I be getting involved in?

Novice devs (and advanced devs too) will benefit from ChicagoRuby's monthly events. ChicagoRuby runs three activities each month, bouncing between downtown Chicago and the suburbs. Several strong groups can be found through Meetup.com, including Refresh Chicago, Rails Builders, and Chicago JavaScript. Finally, all devs grow stronger with practice. One great way to practice is to pair program with other devs.

Thanks for the tips, Ray!

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