#ruby Jun 29th, 2023

Blue Ridge Ruby Recap

Cody Norman

It feels like we’re in the midst of a regional Ruby conference renaissance. It’s has been great seeing these types of events come back and think it’s a good sign of the health and resilience of the Ruby community.

Regional Radness

Smaller regional conferences have always been a favorite of mine. The pace usually feels more relaxed, and single tracks remove the burden of choosing which talks to go to. The smaller group of attendees makes it much easier to have multiple conversations with people and have a better chance to get to know people. These smaller regional conferences are usually more affordable and accessible making it a great way for people to attend their first conference.

Blue Ridge Ruby is a new regional conference in Asheville, NC hosted by Jeremy Smith and Mark Locklear. It’s a wonderful example of why I love regional Ruby conferences.

I had a chance to meet Jeremy Smith, one of the organizers at Rails SaaS last year and remember seeing him tweet out the first inklings of a conference idea (and was already calling it Blue Ridge Ruby). It was great to see this materialize the way it has. I’ve also never followed a conference from inception to the first one so that was a great thing to see unfold.

I’ve also never attended a conference that I saw go from idea to reality in less than a year. It was a great experience to watch it all unfold.

I grew up in a small town in North Carolina nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains. My first ‘job’ also happened to be in my Grandfather’s antique shop right off the Blue Ridge parkway so seeing ‘Blue Ridge’ and ‘Ruby’ made me instantly latch on to this conference.

Blue Ridge Ruby

The venue was located within a gorgeous theatre in an old Masonic temple. Walking up the stairs creaking with age, you past a number of old portraits from the late 1800s of old members of the lodge. They were delightfully creepy and was waiting for one to whisper in my ear each time I huffed up the stairs.

The main floor of the conference was a great setup. The theater area had a wonderful woodsy backdrop that was a great way to set the mood for some Ruby in the mountains.

There was also a balcony section with a little more room to spread out.

Outside of the main area for the talks, there was a common area filled with local fresh coffee, cold brew, cold drinks and plenty of snacks available throughout the day. There was also a great little outdoor area with a refreshing mountain breeze blowing through most of the time. The humidity in the south, even the mountains always takes me a bit to adjust to, so this became my go-to spot.

To summon the attendees back to the main hall, there was a gong place in the hallway to be bonged…gonged two minutes prior to the next talk?

The venue was also only about a block or two from the two suggested hotels and had a great selection of local restaurants. Having a 2 hour lunch break made it a lot easier to explore some of the local faire and hang out with fellow attendees.


There was a great lineup of speakers. There was a good range of talks covering some different topics that were relevant and interesting to a Ruby audience.

I enjoyed all the talks and was one of the few times where I attended every talk. I think this is related to the 30 min breaks between talks and 2 hrs for lunch. I didn’t feel like I had to duck out and recharge so that was a great part of the conference.

In addition to all of the scheduled speakers, there were a handful of 5 minute lightning talks on the second day.


There are a ton of great food and dining options in Asheville and especially beer options. The happy hour the first day of the conference was at Little Jumbo, a lovely little cocktail bar ran by one of the attendees and had a few conference themed drinks available.

A good portion of the rest of the time was spent either at the board game cafe / bar with the happy hour hosted by Wafris and JudoScale (thanks Mike and Adam!) or hanging out on one of the patios for one of the local breweries. The breweries seemed to have the most space available to accommodate larger groups so was a good place to congregate towards the end of the evening.


Being summertime in the mountains, it was a great addition to add some options for weekend activities with hiking and tubing. I thought this was a great addition to plan for some group activities encouraging attendees to explore what makes the local area special.

Unfortunately, I had to miss out and headed up the mountains to spend a few days visiting my hometown about 2 hrs away.

Before leaving for the conference, I spent some time revamping my away from home dev setup and received a few questions on my setup. While not specifically related to this conference, I wanted to include some info on what I normally pack for my conference trips.

Conference Travel and Work Survival Kit

So, saying this is a survival kit is probably overkill. Having recently made a trip to the east coast for Rails conf, I had a few things I wanted to bring to make things easier. I was planning on working 2 of the days I was visiting home and having a few things with me makes me much more productive and comfortable. Between all of this, plus some fishing gear crammed into my suitcase, I was 48 of my allotted 50 lbs for my luggage

Conference Items

Here are some of the items I always make sure to bring when traveling to a conference:

  • Ear Plugs
  • Night mask
  • Battery packs
  • Cords and adapters
  • Aspirin
  • Kindle
  • Small notebook (great for keeping stickers unbent)
  • Coffee Setup (new addition)

I typically don’t sleep well while traveling and anything I can do to squeeze out better rest is worth it to me.

The coffee setup is a new addition to the travel kit and this was my first time testing it out. The items in my coffee setup are

  • Travel Kettle
  • Aeropress with metal mesh grinder
  • Hand crank burr grinder
  • Whole bean coffee
  • Backpacking coffee mug

Collapsed Coffee Kit

Coffee Kit in Action

Albeit a little precarious to pour hot water in the tiny hole of the upside down Aeropress (upside down brewing method) from a flexible kettle, the setup worked surprisingly well. This made for a nice leisurely morning in my room before heading to the conference. This also saved me from drinking stale Folgers while I was at home. I’ll definitely be using this setup again.

Work Items While back in my hometown, I rented some office space at a newly opened co-working space to catch up on some work.

This is a rundown of what’s in my travel setup and some of the changes I’ll make before next time.

Work Setup

13 in M2 MacBook Air

The M2 Air has been amazing. I’ve been pretty impressed with it’s performance and battery life. I did a whole day at a coworking space, complete with about 2hrs of video calls, streaming and running my dev environment (normal Rails app without using Docker) all day and was left with about 50% towards the end of the day, it’s wild.

Audio Technica ATX-50s

I love these headphones and have been using them almost daily for 9 years now, I brought a 4ft 1.2m (or whatever) cable along for the trip since it seemed like it would work, and while it worked, with the setup I was using, I wish it was a bit longer. The co-working space had a standing desk and the cable was getting in the way while standing.

Roost Laptop Stand

The roost stand performed great. It was a little expensive but rock solid providing multiple angles and really portable when it’s collapsed.


I decided to bring along my Ergodox EZ with silent cherry brown switches. I recently swapped the switches for something that wouldn’t be as obnoxious in public and these have been great. I could probably reduce the noise even more by adding some o-rings. After scouring amazon, I was able to find a case with the correct dimensions to make transporting the ergodox a lot easier.

Mouse Logitech MX Ergo trackball

This is the only thing I plan on changing. It was great having something ergonomic but it’s pretty bulky. I ordered a case for the mouse before leaving, but that was one item that never showed up. It stopped working shortly after getting back home and wouldn’t be surprised if it was related to being stuck in my checked luggage for 2 flights. While I was waiting on a replacement, I borrowed my wife’s magic trackpad and think this is a much better option and will be using something like this over toting around my trackball (just got the same one with more tilt)

I hope this gives you some ideas on some ways you might be able to improve your conference or travel work setups. I’d love to hear what some of you must-have items are so let me know!