June 14th, 2009

ratty army of darkness

ever so slightly better than average

The exit polls from GoRuCo are in, and I placed last with an averaged rating of 2.66 out of 5. Bah! Even Gordon Brown can do better than that.

To be honest I'm not surprised, so those of you who feel you have to say positive things about the video are now officially excused ;p It was the first outing of what is actually a very difficult topic to tackle without cutting some strange corners and I'm thankful to Francis and the rest of the team for taking the risk in the first place. I owe them bigtime.

The audience comments lead me to suspect that I need to use less British idiom next time I speak in the US (e.g. I had several people on the day ask me what 'blue sky research' is), and that contrary to my experience here in Europe I should have included more code. Overall it seems that those who took the time to comment were very disappointed by this omission and by the lack of a clear and explicit point to the talk. Hopefully when the slides are judged as an artefact in their own right that will be less of an issue, especially as I will be adding additional content in the coming months including more code samples.

It also seems my experiment with the format didn't work for many people: I hoped that having the slides running on auto whilst talking more generally about the topic would allow me to engage better with the audience, but clearly it creates a disconnect that breaks normal user expectations. That leaves me in a bit of a quandry as I find the slide-driven approach to presentation very restrictive and unless someone is discussing a very specific technical point that needs them for clarity, it tends to send me to sleep. That's doubly true if I'm giving the presentation myself and am really doing nothing more than parrot what's on the screen whilst playing "click the clicker".

As to there being a point, I wasn't entirely sure there was one myself until I was closing. After all, this is just stuff you can do in Ruby on a Unix box. But I guess that is the point. Unix systems' coding is mostly just scripting the kernel and Ruby is a surprisingly friendly language for doing that, ergo Ruby is a good systems' programming language.

I did say towards the end that if just one person in the audience got that message it justified the trip, so a big thanks to whomever wrote: "My favorite talk, very inspired to both write systems' programming scripts in Ruby and also to have a beer". I guess that sums up what I flew more than 3000 miles to share and I hope the anonymous author has as much fun doing both as I have over the last fifteen years. And if they see me at a conference sometime, mine's a pint of mild!