Should you go to Rails Camp?

I was completely overwhelmed by Rails camp. Nimmo couldn’t go, I knew one of the sixty people there, there was nowhere to go and hide and I was terribly worried I didn’t know enough code. For the first few hours on Friday night, I thoroughly wished I hadn’t come.

But that night we started playing Werewolf. Setting aside how fun the game itself is, it was set up so that if you wanted to accuse someone of being a werewolf, you had to know their name and if you didn’t know their name, you had to ask. It was a great way to get to know a lot of people right at the beginning of camp and I feel like attention to small details like this is a big part of why the Ruby community is so great.

Saturday didn’t start with code for me. There was a crafting table with embroidery, crochet and knitting, people jumped in and tried out new things and made beautiful stuff! Knitting is well within my wheelhouse and I helped a few people with new things they wanted to learn or bits they were stuck on. I was in a happy place where I felt competent and it was hard to put down the knitting and take out the code I wanted to work on. Worse, I wanted to find somewhere to sit where no one could see what I was doing because, in the face of all the evidence that everyone there was lovely, I couldn’t shake the feeling that someone would laugh at me for knowing so little, or disapprove of me playing with Swift at a Ruby camp. When I finally pushed past all the nonsense and got out Swift, I remembered why I had stopped the last time. I was thoroughly stuck.

Then a kindly Ruby person, who didn’t care a fig that it wasn’t Ruby and it wasn’t complicated, sat down and helped me out. His help was kind and non-judgy and didn’t make me feel stupid and it unlocked a new level of understanding in my brain about how the code works. That was pretty exciting, but a more exciting thing occurred to me later. I had been helping people with their knitting that day. I’m always happy to teach knitting or fix mistakes or show someone how to fix the mistakes. If you give me a piece of knitting with a mistake, I can “see” the mistake and how to fix it (without starting again) even in complicated work. I can do it because I’ve spent quite a bit of time knitting, spent a lot of time fixing and making mistakes, and I started when I was very young. And I realised that’s probably where the person who helped me with code is at. And that fills me with quiet comfort. I know how I got to where I am with knitting, so I just have to do the same thing with code. Learn from good people, do it a lot, make mistakes, ask for help, fix things and feel confident that one day I’ll be able to “see” code the way I “see” knitting.

Even though I did some coding on the Saturday, on Sunday (from a combination of too much Werewolf on Saturday night, a market on the grounds of the camp (they had hot cinnamon donuts!) and wanting to play boardgames with the new people I’d been meeting) I did none. I’d had a goal to do quite a bit more code learning that what I achieved, so I’ve been grappling with the idea that I failed. I wasted the weekend. I wasted the opportunity to ask knowledgeable people for help. But I think that’s undervaluing what did happen over the weekend. From the games of Skulls and Roses, Crossing, Codenames, Two Rooms and a Boom and (particularly) Werewolf, I learned a lot about the way programmers think and, between the games and the crafting, I feel like I got to know people well enough that I’ll be happy to ask for their help at the next camp. My goal now is to learn enough by the camp in October to have a personal project I can work on or a game I can build for people to play by the end of camp.

It was the most amazing weekend, filled with amazing people. My heart is full of their kindness and inclusiveness. They made me feel like I belonged even though I don’t know much Ruby yet. I didn’t sleep enough, I didn’t code enough, and I also spent a fair bit of time playing Mario Kart. And, while Mario Kart maybe didn’t teach me a lot, it was (like the rest of camp) bloody good fun and contributed to my sense of ease in this new group of people and maybe that’s what my first camp needed to be. So, I’m very glad I went, and yes, absolutely you should go to Rails camp.