EuRuKo 2011, a review Jun 2011
It all started with an email to the mailing list of the Ruby user group in Berlin proposing to bring the next EuRuKo home. With perfect timing - or others would say - seconds from departure to Krakow we managed to print a couple of T-Shirts that mainly drew attention because of their bright colors :). During the closing ceremony, enough of our supporters survived the awesome conference and the long nights in Krakow to get up on stage together to sing a Berlin song. We did that so lovely, so loud and so wrong that the competition surrendered to make us stop singing! So the famous gong was passed on, we went back to Berlin and started organizing right away.
Back home we were, energized with the idea of organizing an amazing conference. We wanted to continue the success of the past - like Paul (last year’s head of the organization team) said: “If you are doing it wrong, you can kill this conference”. Things started to get real. In the beginning, a lot of people signed up to help but dropped out equally fast. No one to blame here, it’s a natural process that you just need to take into account. The big things were clear from the beginning and we assigned them to organizing members. We needed a location, speakers, Wi-Fi, catering, a website, a design, a logo and countless other things. First and foremost, we needed money to do that.
As it turned out, money was not a problem in the beginning. After prepping a nice sponsorship brochure, that probably nobody of the local sponsors needed to see, we quickly reached an agreement with our friends at wooga, soundcloud, moviepilot and scalarium. The introduction of supporter tickets made it possible to have smaller local sponsors and still keep the regular ticket price low. Later on, bigger companies approached us for sponsorships, but we turned down their money, because we wanted to limit ourselves and keep EuRuKo a conference with its special characteristics: small in size but great in performance!
More decisions had to be made that would shape the face of the conference. That was probably the hardest part. We wanted to keep the conference small to preserve its character but at the same time we wanted to give more people a chance to attend the conference - a constant topic of discussion among the organizing team!
As the unexpected crazy demand for the tickets showed, we couldn’t make it big enough. It was also too much for the ticket processor, but gambling tickets in the future isn’t a good option either. However, the Rubyists showed their great sense of community again by the spontaneous organization of EuRuCamp as an alternative for those who couldn’t get a ticket. So a big THANK YOU to the the EuRuCamp team and all people that helped.
So next to size, what matters is greatness in performance - to achieve this we needed the right mix of speakers. EuRuKo is a community conference so we wanted to give new speakers a chance of a bigger audience. At the same time we selected very well known speakers to ensure the great quality expected from EuRuKo: a quality expected from speakers and keynote speakers! Traditionally, Yukihiro “Matz” Matsumoto, the creator of Ruby, who is an important part of every EuRuKo, has the privilege to give the first keynote. Learning from his experience was a great honor and we were happy to welcome him in Berlin!
The second keynote was held by Paul Campbell, certainly not a classical keynote choice: But what he lacks in age he makes up for in passion for Ruby and great speaking credibility. The reactions we got during his keynote were as controversial as we hoped them to be:
“Who is the keynote speaker today, and why’s he so unprepared? #EuRuKo (what’s he done, why’s it a keynote, etc?)” - @codebreaker - see the tweet
“Awesome keynote by Paul Campell this morning at #euruko; perhaps the most inspiring and empathetic I’ve ever attended.” - @marcolz - see the tweet
Yes, we questioned the classical keynote speaker choices and think we did good! Paul showed us, and at least part of the audience, that all you need is passion and finesse to inspire people.
Of course, the talks should be special too, talks that would unlikely be seen at any other conference, talks we haven’t seen before, talks we would like to hear about, talks about Ruby and the things our community values.
But certainly apart from the high quality of talks, there is more to come - first and foremost a decent location. If you happened to attend Funconf, SchnitzelConf or Scottish Ruby Conference you have noticed that organizers getting more creative in finding venues, which form the conferences’ character. Thinking about a location that would represent Berlin and its diversity we had to find a place big enough, but also with enough history and charisma to be good enough! And with the Kino International we found the perfect location, perfect in size, enough history and plenty of charisma. It allowed us to have a single track conference with plenty of room for everybody. The acoustics were amazing and the screen together with the kick ass projector were simply awesome.
The last month before the conference was the most hectic one, suddenly problems of all kind started to come up. Part of these were rookie mistakes on our side, some were just bad luck. The reserved party location was given away without notice, no affordable catering could be found for the weekend, important documents went missing and unforeseen expenses were presented to us. These expenses forced us to cancel the planned BBQ :(. But we managed to get everything in place, and suddenly the first day of conference started. Following Paul Wilsons advice - curator of the Scottish Ruby Conference - we just went with the flow and directed the chaos.
The probably most chaotic incident was finding the main party location. Believe us, even the organizers that haven’t been there before were so surprised that a location can be this remote in the middle of Berlin. As @inecas fittingly suggested: “Lets rename Tante Kathe to the restaurant at the end of the universe”. Luckily we didn’t loose anybody thanks to Twitter geo caching :). It was definitely a very Berlinesque location. We hope you liked its authentic charm and the free beers that we managed to organize spontaneously on site as a small relief for the canceled BBQ.
One thing made us very happy and that was the Internet at the venue! Thanks to the guys of New Thinking Communications and a helping hand from the Chaos Computer Club we got a rock solid Wi-Fi on site. Here are some small facts: The venue was brought online via 360 MBit directional link that was backed by a direct 1GB Fibre access. Installing that was a great adventure as you can see in these photos.
Similar to last year’s conference, it ended with a musical performance and the passing of the gong to the new team of organizers. EuRuKo 2012 will be in Amsterdam and according to the t-shirts, it will be the last one. So they better make it count.
EuRuKo 2011 was an amazing experience. For us it was a great time, we learned a lot about organizing a conference and decided to put the skills we acquired to good use for future projects. We hope you will keep great memories of the Euruko 2011 in Berlin too. We preserved its traditions by keeping it small in size and great in performance but gave it a distinct ‘Berlin’ character.
Last but not least we would like to say thank you. Thank you for attending the conference. And also special thanks to:
- The speakers, EuRuKo would be impossible without them
- The EuRuCamp team for organizing this great side event
- Our supporters
- Our main sponsors
- New Thinking Communications for the kick ass WiFi
- The Computer Chaos Club for helping us out with the internet
- Mathias Meyer for being our photographer. You can find his photo sets here and here
- Alexander Lang for filming
- Oli, the sound guy
See you 2012 in Amsterdam.
The Euruko 2011 Team
Lukas, Clemens, Christoph, John, Patrick, Tim, Nico and Thilo