When I heard about a Aloha on Rails, I jumped on the chance to attend a local conference. Having been to several JavaOne conferences, I knew how helpful they were they were for learning best practices, discovering what people were adopting, and getting a view of what's coming down the pike. I definitely got all of that, but I unexpectedly took away a lot more.

For one, it was my first "local" conference (well it is an airplane ride away, but it still felt local to me). I was happy to find that about half the people I talked to are developers in Hawaii and a lot of business cards were exchanged with the hope that we could all meet again at Aloha on Rails 2.

Second, it was a small conference. After the first day and a nice pau nana party put on by Agathon Group (thanks guys), everyone was starting to look familiar and we were having great discussions. The theme of the conference was talk story, and that definitely was going on both in the conference rooms and outside. Small conferences also mean that the speakers are easily accessible. Here were people that I have been following for years, like Chad Fowler, Obie Fernandez, Charles Nutter, and Yehuda Katz, that I got to meet face-to-face, as well as people I hadn't heard about but are now on my follow list, such as Blythe Dunham, Jim Weirich (have you learned to play Hawaiian Lullabye on your uke yet?), and Desi McAdam, founder of DevChix. I don't know if it is because everyone was a Rails developer (and following the Rails way), the aloha atmosphere, or what, but it really was a nice crowd of people to hang with.

Last, while there was a lot of good info about how to do Rails right and what is the best stuff to use, the bigger take away for me was how important it is to develop personal connections and get involved in communities. That seemed to be the theme spreading through all the talks...how good things happen when you connect with and share with people outside of your daily job tasks. So that is my new mantra...Get Connected. The first thing I did when I returned to work was to join an online community of tech people on the Big Island, and I have already exchanged emails with a couple of people (whoo hoo, I am not alone). Next, I need to get involved with an open source community. It might be something in the cloud, or some Rails project (maybe a cloud one), I don't know. If you have suggestions, pass them on.

So, anyway, I am pretty energized by the small conference experience. If you haven't done one, you gotta try it. And a BIG thanks to Seth for making it happen. Great job.