Image: Rails Girls traditional group hug. Credit: Bronwen Zande.

Is it a party? Is it a class, a seminar, a workshop?

If it’s the Brisbane Rails Girls’ event playing with Ruby on Rails the answers are yes!

Friday night was set-up time. This involved installing the proper tools on the laptops and an intake of beer and pizza.

Saturday it was heads down and start coding. By Saturday evening it was time to celebrate again.

Who is Ruby and why is she on the Rails?

Rails Girls uses Ruby, a software language, and a web application framework called Rails. The marriage is known as Ruby on Rails.

“Ruby on Rails,” says Tim O’Reilly of O’Reilly Media, “is a breakthrough in lowering the barriers of entry to programming”.

“I was blown away. I have *never* seen so many females in the same room to do tech, let alone coding. I was, and still am quite speechless. Definitely a Girl Geek stampede,” writes Miriam Hochwald on the Facebook page.

Dayle Parker thanked, “the mentors and everyone who organized this awesome event! It was a blast!”.

Running in tandem with Brisbane’s Rails Girls geekery was Rails Girls Beijing and a Skype session shared the fun.

Rails Girls is global. Between now and September there will be Rails Girls events in Maribor, Slovenia; in Lima, Peru; in Houston Texas and eight other cities.

Goals, building and excitement

Slides from the Rails Girls presentation –  Goals, building things and excitement. Credit: minh mcCloy.

One Rails Girls’ motto says ‘get excited and learn to build the web!’ And there was excitement.

Jeya Karthika was an enthusiast: “Vibrant Atmosphere. Friendly Mentors. Excited Women. Friday Hugs. Witty Questions. Fervent Coding. This is how I would describe the event”.

Apparently, as often quoted in Rails Girls circles, Ruby is “optimized for programmer happiness”.

Why code?

Why is it important for women to learn how to code?

There is a general shortage of coders. This means there are jobs out there for women who code.

Peta Ellis of River City Labs, (a sponsor and host of the event), spoke of, “breaking down the barriers to entry into technology”.

Adrian Smith from Ennova, a company that uses Ruby to develop and customise web applications for projects said, “Rails Girls is a global movement aimed at building community and providing useful tools for women to understand technology and to build their ideas.” Ennova was one the sponsors and several mentors were from the company.

According to the Rails Girls website, ‘…women make up only 2% of the open source community.’ (Ruby on Rails is an open source tool.)

Satu Suuronen of the original Rails Girls team from Finland says it is important to have women coding because, “technology plays such a significant role in our day-to-day lives, it would be good to have a more heterogenic group of people designing systems”.

Nicholas Skytland from NASA says, “the future of technology will be largely determined by citizens who design, build and hack their own”.

He was speaking in the lead up to the National Day of Civic Hacking in the United States which aims to bring together, ‘…citizens, software developers, and entrepreneurs from all over the nation to collaboratively create, build, and invent new solutions using publicly-released data, code and technology to solve challenges relevant to our neighbourhoods, our cities, our states and our country’.

Mentors and participants at Rails Girls Brisbane

Mentors and participants at Rails Girls Brisbane. Credit: Bronwen Zande.

This civic hacking event has a real Rails Girls feel to it, but massively scaled up.

During Rails Girls Brisbane ideas were built, challenges met and skills developed. Cooperation and sharing energised the process.

Simon Baird, one of the mighty mentors, tweeted at the end of the day, ‘Congrats attendees & everyone involved with #railsgirlsbne especially @adrianlsmith @nr99 @brizstartninj a @RiverCityLabs. A success I think!’

Sponsors, mentors and participants

What made Rails Girls Brisbane such a success?

There were some womenfolk curious and keen to learn the intricacies and creativity of coding – the participants.

There was the generosity of various organisations to fund the basics – the sponsors.

And there was the willingness to share skills and the generosity of spirit of the mentors, who were essential to the success.

Bronwen Zande, from Soul Solutions, another generous sponsor, said in a wrap-up post on her blog – “We knew from the registrations we had a massive range of ages and experience. One of the questions on the form was ‘What OS are you running?’ and at least one of the answers was ‘Laptop’. This was really going to challenge some of us I think. How to step back from our tech jargon and try and explain the bits we do every day to normal people?”.

But the mentors handled it magnificently. They were like expert elves floating in to assist when needed and then leaving you to delve into the pleasures of problem solving on your own.

Simon Baird, “I saw a (non-ironic) ruby inspired fist pump and a room full of brand new developers learning & building stuff \o/ #RailsGirlsBNE : )”

For participants thinking about where to from here, there are options.

Sponsors and those magnificent mentors

Slides from the Rails Girls presentation – sponsors and mentors. Credit: minh mcCloy.

There are plans for another Rails Girls Brisbane.

Robert Regan Feldman suggests doing the free Startup Engineering course being offered through Stanford Online.

A Rails Girls Summer of Code will entice some participants to further development.

Joining the Rails Girls BNE on Facebook is a useful place for the curious and the committed.

The five goals of Rails Girls Brisbane were: To learn about web development, get inspired, build something that works, meet people, have fun.

Jeya Karthika said on her blogpost, “I was able to check all the boxes”.

If there was a box for the organisers, sponsors, mentors and participants which said, ‘Did we do well?’ there would be a large glowing tick.


More about Rails Girls:

Rails Girls takes over the world

Bronwen Zande’s ‘Rails Girls Brisbane – wrap up’

River City Labs

Open source is changing the world

On Twitter #railsgirlsbne

Rails Girls Brisbane on Facebook

National Day of Civic hacking

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported.

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