What if We Had a Party, but the Entertainment was a Conference: Tokyu RubyKaigi 14 Recap

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Michelle Tan

Software Developer at TokyoDev

Tokyu RubyKaigi is a regional ruby conference held in Tokyo. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the event, the last Ruby conference I went to was RubyKaigi, but since this event attracted a similar audience I was keen to go.

What makes Tokyu RubyKaigi stand out from other conferences I have attended is, it’s actually a lightning talk tournament with potluck catering.

There were 27 speakers on the schedule, and if we include the sponsor talks, the talks from the winners and other impromptu talks I’m sure there were more than 30 lightning talks on the day.

Tokyu RubyKaigi was held at Speee’s office in Roppongi Grand Tower. In contrast to our fancy surroundings we were seated on blue tarps spread out on the floor. This set the tone for the event, it was very casual — much more casual than I’d been expecting. Speakers gave their lightning talks while attendees listened, ate, drank, chatted and mingled at the back of the room.

I’ve never been to hanami (having a party under sakura trees) before, but as I sat there listening to speakers and chatting with the people around me, I thought ‘this must be what hanami is like’.

The lightning talks covered a range of topics, from what people are currently working on, to coffee making, to a peek behind-the-scenes of running events. A gong offstage loudly signalled when the speaker’s time was up.

Aside from time constraints, it was all very casual — one speaker finished their talk by showcasing their balloon sculpting skills, another speaker was out sick and instead we watched a portion of his youtube video. The winner of the ‘LT King’ crown delivered a talk that was just titled ‘5’, and consisted of five individual short lightning talks delivered at high speed one after the other.

It felt like a warm, relaxed, and friendly audience to give a lightning talk to. I couldn’t follow everything, but I did understand the host telling us we’re concentrating too seriously, and that we should help ourselves to more food and drink.

The food and drink for the event were supplied by the attendees, and there was a huge variety to choose from. There were multiple versions of karaage (fried chicken), sushi, desserts, and even a pot of motsunabe (intestine stew). Drinks included plenty of Japanese sake, beer, soft drinks and Starbucks drip coffee.

Attendees were encouraged to bring enough for 1-2 people, but there was no limit on how much you could bring. Supplying food or alcohol put you in the running for the title of ‘Food King’ (飯王, meshi ou) or ‘Alcohol King’ (酒王, sake ou), so if you brought enough for everyone to have a taste, you could score more votes.

The event also had quite a few un-scheduled lightning talks.

During the first break, the LT Lottery was held and a few participants were chosen at random to give a lightning talk at the end of the day. I hadn’t realised the lottery included all attendees, but thankfully my name wasn’t drawn. Despite saying she didn’t come prepared for this, @enorima pulled off great lightning talk, advertising the upcoming event Oedo RubyKaigi 10.

The two crowned Food Kings and single Sake King also had to deliver a short speech. At a more formal event this would be a daunting prospect, but not here. One winner, who had brought motsunabe made according to his Grandpa’s recipe, tried to call his grandfather on stage (unfortunately neither his grandpa or grandma picked up the phone). The Alcohol King had actually been aiming for Food King, and so delivered the food presentation he had been hoping to show had he won his intended title.

The event was so much fun, I loved seeing so many people enjoying themselves and showcasing things they’re passionate about. I really want to try giving a (scheduled) lightning talk next year! I feel like it’s a recurring theme when going to Ruby-related events in Japan, they make you so excited and eager to dive into Ruby. The Ruby community is so welcoming and enthusiastic, and their passion for the language and learning is contagious.

If you have interest in Ruby, can understand Japanese, want to connect with new people, and are not daunted by the prospects of giving an impromptu lightning talk, this is the event for you!

More about the author

Photo of Michelle Tan

Michelle Tan

Software Developer at TokyoDev

Michelle is an Australian software developer who moved to Japan in 2022. An active community member, she has a passion for travel, illustration, mentoring and promoting diversity and inclusion in tech.

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