Rails Camp 2014: Highlights of Codegolf, Kea, Werewolves, and Villagers

Patrick Davey
Mar 17, 2014

Each year in New Zealand we have a Rails Camp. Developers from all over the world meet up for an unconference — an event where participants make up their own agenda and presentations. If you have something you want to talk about, you put the topic on a white board and people come if they're interested.

This year Rails Camp was held on the South Island, on the top of Mount Cheeseman skifield.

Mt Cheeseman Skifield in Clouds

What a simply stunning vista! I had opted to camp (rather than stay in the hostel) because I quite like camping and hiking (or tramping as we call it here) and there's more space to spread out. What I hadn't properly factored in were these guys: mountain parrots called Kea.

I put up my tent and had a good nights sleep on the Friday night, but by Saturday afternoon they'd found the tent and were busily trying to open the zip and get in. Fortunately for me I was alerted, but I ended up having to take the tent down and only put it up just before going to bed. They still came back at 06:30 on the following mornings for another go at getting in. Very clever birds, but very annoying when you're trying to sleep!

The Code Golf competition was one of the highlights. The idea is that you have to write a solution to a problem in the smallest possible way. This generally means the solution is quite unreadable as you do not write expressive method names etc. For example, instead of writing def calculate_invoice_total to define a method which calculates the total of an invoice, you'd write def c saving 22 bytes in the process.

Big Hall at Mt Cheeseman Skifield

One participant, Daniel Fone, wrote a code golf competition server which he has open sourced on GitHub. Everyone had 18 holes of golf, and as you submitted your solution, you would instantly be compared to all the others. It was heaps of fun, there was a reasonable amount of cheating done, and some really inventive solutions. My personal favourite was the 99 bottles of beer hole.

Finally, no Rails Camp would be complete without multiple games of werewolves & villagers (also known as Mafia). In this game you are given a card which says whether you're a werewolf, or a villager.

At night, the werewolves become active and kill a villager. During the day, the villagers try to work out who the werewolves are and then lynch them. It's a psychological thriller and a really fun way of getting to know your fellow developers.

Another brilliant Rails Camp, which also saw the creation of the official Ruby New Zealand society, a momentous occasion.

Rails Camp 2014 Cheeseman Group Photo

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