Rails Camp is an event where a bunch of Ruby hackers get together for a weekend out of reach of the Internet to hack, drink and be merry. I'm currently organising RailsCamp New Zealand for March 18th -21st 2011, but this list could apply to any Rails Camp. (side note: it would also be great if events like this sprang up for other languages as well)
Rails Camp is a great place to start a project, work on something or just help out on cool things. You know everyone else is a valid target to be recruited into your latest scheme to build an open source can opener and you can kick off quickly because everyone has at least one language in common. A weekend is plenty of time to get something cool built when there's a bunch of skilled people around and plenty of urge to build things. Depending on how much the organisers have chased up sponsors there might even be prizes for best thing.
Rails Camps are cheaper than conferences. Lots cheaper. A bunk bed and decent quality food for three days does not need to cost much. So you can save money or spend that extra cash on visiting Rails Camps that are further away.
At Rails Camp people write cool programs for fun. So even if you don't want to build a whole project there are plenty of little things you can do. Write an app to swing the vote on the shared music player toward the excellent Rick Astley or an AI for some kind of crazy Rails based game.
Rails Camp just keeps going until the end of the weekend. You don't get kicked out of the auditorium and herded to dinner, you can keep doing whatever and run off to sleep when you want to. If you're in a talk and everyone gets really excited about TDD then that talk can go till 3AM if you want it to.
Rails Camp is fun. There's plenty of freedom and only the lightest of self-organised scheduling. So everyone can do what they want, which leads to more happiness. Nothing like a conference where you suddenly find you don't care about whatever the next event is and you find yourself stuck eating the leftover cookies from morning tea, instead you can wander over to someone building something, explore the countryside, play a game of werewolf or whatever.
5) No Internet
There is no internet. You get to escape for a while, you tell people you're going to be at Rails Camp and then you get to really focus on the event. Also, unlike a conference, you'll find that everyone starts talking to each other instead of liveblogging the event or tweeting about the weather.
It's an event with a lot of freedom. You're going to be in nice surroundings and out of the city. Stuff will be happening all through the weekend so there's no pressure to be up at a certain time. If you miss someone's talk you can just grab them and ask a couple of questions anyway, it's not like they're going to leave before the weekend is over.
There are lots of really good developers who come to Rails Camps and it's one place where they're all happily doing things and easy to access. Whether you go to talks, work with people on something or just ask a question. People there are knowledgeable, friendly and willing to talk about things that they might not be willing to share at a more public venue. With a centralized focus on one language there's going to be far more of direct interest and use to you than there might be at a broader event as well.
You can drink, most people like drinking.
People who go to events like this are awesome and great to be around.
You want to be awesome too don't you?
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