Last night I took the train into ThoughtWorks to check out the Chicago Area Ruby Group meeting. There wasn’t a planned talk, so I wasn’t sure what to expect (apart from getting a chance to chat with Jason and Chris). One thing I definitely didn’t expect was seeing close to 30 people there.

The room we met in was kind of an atrium type of space. Everyone arranged themselves into a circle, and at the center of the room there was a smaller table with 6 chairs. After everyone went round an introduced themselves the function of the central table was revealed by Joe O’Brien who got everyone to play this discussion game called fishbowl. Basically there are 6 seats, and any 5 people can sit in them at any time (always leaving one chair open). People start talking about stuff, and if at any point someone wants to join the discussion then they sit down in the empty seat, and someone who no longer wants to talk can get up and leave. At all times the 5 seats needed to stay filled.

This fishbowl actually worked out really well. The conversation ranged from ruby’s performance, to comparisons with java, rails, the community, the “Ruby Way”, joy, and practical examples of Ruby in the workplace. All in all it was a very pleasant meeting, and it was really interesting to see a good cross section of Chicago technology in an informal environment. Afterwards Jason, Chris and I went and had a few drinks at a nearby bar with Sam Stephenson and Marcel Molina of 37Signals. Sam and Marcel are both core developers for the Rails project, and recently moved to Chicago to join 37Signals. Sam is the developer behind prototype which I’ve been meaning to learn more about. Hopefully Sam can be coerced into doing a prototype talk at some point.

It’s been interesting watching local perl, python, ruby and java groups and how they regard each other. Chris mentioned that it’s unfortunate when discussion borders on digging at the other guy, and that the real thing that unites these groups is that everyone enjoys programming, and works on stuff on their own time. If the focus could brought to be that level I think there could very well be occasional cross language meetings. I mentioned to John Long that perhaps a meeting about javascript could bring folks from other languages together. He had a great idea of having someone like Sam talk about javascript, and then break off into smaller groups that talked about integration with various languages. Anyhow it was well worth the train ride in. Thanks for putting up with me being away for an evening Kesa :-)