TechHui

Hawaiʻi's Technology Community

Featured Techie: Seth Ladd, Organizer of Aloha on Rails Conference and Ruby on Rails Guru

On October 5th, the "Aloha on Rails" Conference kicked off at the Marriott Waikiki Hotel. The event was one of the top Ruby on Rails regional conferences in 2009. These conferences bring together practitioners of and experts in Ruby on Rails, a software development framework that has become increasingly popular in the world of the Internet. If you use Twitter, Hulu or YellowPages.com, then you are using Ruby on Rails (RoR). The Aloha on Rails event drew 160 top-notch attendees, roughly 50% of whom flew from the Mainland to attend and pay the $400 conference fee. The man with the plan behind the whole event was none other than Seth Ladd, a Kailua resident and rising star in the technology firmament. Naturally, he is also a member of TechHui.

Ladd conceived of the conference, organized the event and served as the ringmaster and chief bottlewasher. Building a quality conference meant recruiting dozens of speakers and planning out myriad training programs to ensure that ever aspect of developing applications with RoR was covered. "It was one of those things I wanted to do and if I had known how hard it would be to do it, I might never have tried," admits Ladd, who initially feared that he might have trouble driving attendance. But Ladd was floored at the outpouring of interest in the conference once he put out the word. "When I put out a call for presentations, we got 50 or 60 proposals right off the bat and from some really big names in the field," says Ladd, who actually has a full-time job developing RoR applications for Camber Corporation, a systems developer and IT provider focused on government contracts.

The success of the conference is only one of the reasons we wanted to highlight Seth at Featured Techie of the Month. Aside from running a mean conference, Seth has lots of other skills. He is the rare techies who can literally tackle every aspect of a complext Web application deployment, from coding Web pages to configuring the databases to writing the underlying Internet applications to setting up hosting in the cloud. Seth can do it all, and people like that are incredibly valuable everywhere -- but especially in Hawaii. Why is that? Having someone like Seth on board is the equivalent to having three or four part-time contractors fulfilling different roles with none of them having an entirely clear holistic view of a project. These are precisely the types of Internet engineers needed to get applications up and running quickly and well in a world where writing a new Web app can mean a weekend in the garage rather than a year in beta-testing.

Seth started out as a lowly PC consultant before going towards Web design and coding. Not satisfied slinging HTML, he then learned administration skills to ensure that the back-end of sites worked well before jumping into the Java language that became (and remains) one of the most critical frameworks for Internet-based enterprise computing. Seth then became an experts on the Spring Framework, an application framework designed to make it much easier to build software either in Java or .Net (the other prominent enterprise Internet applications development language). He continued to "climb the stack" (geek speak for moving into more levels of complexity), doing projects with data warehousing, exotic storage structures, and parallel processing applications. His past list of clients reads like a "Who's Who" of Hawaii tech startups and tech projects including: eHawaii.gov, Camber Corp,, Chi.mp, and ChipIn,, among others.

As Kailua resident, Ladd has planted roots in Hawaii where he hopes to live forever and raise his family, including his three-year old son. Seth has managed to strike a nice balance between working for local companies, such as ChipIn, and doing work for Mainland enterprises, such as Errorlytics (a tool that helps Websites avoid showing visitors 404 errors). He is highly active not only in TechHui but also in other technology groups such as Manoa Geeks. The next time you see Seth at an event, introduce yourself and ask him about the next Aloha on Rails conf. It's slated for 2011 and we can't wait.

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Comment by Brian Kirsch on November 10, 2009 at 9:47am
Go Seth!
Comment by Seth Ladd on November 7, 2009 at 8:57am
Thanks, it's really a testament to the Rails community. They have such energy, excitement, and passion for what they do. I've never been part of such a creative and collaborative community. I doubt I could have pulled this off if it was for any other web framework.
Comment by Daniel Leuck on November 7, 2009 at 1:02am
There have been a number of failed attempts at tech conferences in Hawaii over the past couple years. The economy hasn't been kind to conferences in general. Pulling off an oversubscribed tech conference that attracted world renown talent in Hawaii during a down economy is a truly impressive feat.
Comment by David Neely on November 7, 2009 at 12:53am
I attended Aloha on Rails and learned a lot. The panelists included programming rock stars Chad Fowler and Obie Fernandez. The pace of the event and the more than ample supply of electrical outlets made for a highly enjoyable conference. The food was great too. I'm looking forward to the next one.

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