Last weekend I attended the new Isle of Ruby conference held at the University of Exeter. The conference was advertised as wanting to “spur on members of our community to consider how the work we do affects the world around us.” That it certainly did! The talks were diverse, discussing how software can be used to help with physical and mental health, how it can affect politics and economics and how it can be used for artistic self expression.
It wasn’t a huge conference, but this meant that I quickly became familiar with the attendees, speakers and organisers. Everyone was friendly and approachable, eager to have stimulating discussions about the talk topics and beyond. Meeting this group of exciting and excited people was just as inspiring as the talks.
These discussions are fantastically important to be having because what we build as software developers does not exist in a vacuum, and we are in a position of great privilege to be able to wield tools that can be applied to a myriad of problems around us. This privilege comes with the responsibility to carefully design our solutions to address real issues without unintended, negative consequences. Isle of Ruby, by not only highlighting this challenge but giving examples through the speakers of how we can approach considered design, has left me feeling empowered to make meaningful change in the world.
Helen is the lead developer for Ethics Monitor.