RailsConf Is Over: One Down, One To Go

UPDATE: The RailsConf version of the slides are over at SlideShare. The versions of the presentation I’ll be doing at @media San Fancisco and @media London will be considerably different but the kung-fu foolishness will remain intact.

RailsConf 2007 is over and I have to say it was considerably better than the previous year. Rather than last year’s overwhelmingly self-congratulatory tone (“Aren’t we clever! We use Rails!” Accompanied by much clapping, standing ovations and general whooping) it was a much more down to business affair and although it was really big (1600 people) it was friendly.

So what was the big news this year? Firstly, I got the feeling that everyone was bracing themselves for “the enterprise” with JRuby going strong and Sun looming over the proceedings. It seems that everyone’s got a new Rails IDE on the way out and the exhibition hall was full of people hawking their wares and pretty much everyone I met was a full time Rails professional. I suppose the up side of this injection of big money into Rails is the free beer but aside from that I think the transition is going to be uneasy. Java and J2EE are great for getting huge amounts of programmers to write huge things because inevitably some of those programmers are going to be shit and Java and J2EE provide a strict framework by which you can’t go too wrong. However, Ruby on Rails is great for getting small amounts of really good programmers to churn out software quickly but doesn’t provide a rigid safety net which means a bad (or even not really good programmer) can basically bring an application to it’s knees. In fact, I’ve seen some terrible code in Rails apps recently…stuff that would make Koz and Jamis turn white. Rails dev shops really need to watch for this. Quality control, people!

Secondly, there was lots of buzz about Merb which is really promising and in my opinion is starting to feel more like Rails 2.0 that Rails 2.0 is shaping up to be. It’s got all the really useful stuff that I use day to day in Rails and none of the stuff I don’t use. Better still all of the core features are really well implemented and feel really cruft-free (I read and understood the Merb source in about 2 hours). This makes it fast as well. Ezra seems committed to keeping the core pretty lean and providing most extra functionality as gems rather than plugins which seems extremely sensible. Plugins are simple are now suffering from a lot of the problems that gems have already solved (load order, dependencies, version control etc).

Finally, I was impressed with DHH’s keynote. He must be under large amounts of pressure to deliver the next new big feature but regardless his keynote was low-key and considered. There’s no big stuff on the way but what is coming is consolidating the core ideas of Rails, providing more sensible defaults, more support for REST and it sounds like some of the JavaScript helpers are being pulled to plugins (or at least some of them)....nice one!

On the social side it was great. Portland is a cool place and of course we had Robby and the Planet Argon crew to show us around and they did a great job. I think I managed to meet up with nearly everyone I wanted to, the highlight being lunch with Sam, Thomas and Seth and some chat about Prototype which has got me pretty enthused about contributing again. I even met the Rails Envy guy who is Ruby On Rails…rock on. There was a mad burlesque breakbeat marching band in the conference center at one point as well….got to like that. It was quite a Ruby moment when a guy in hot pants with a huge flag tried to dry hump Rich Kilmer. Poor dude.

My presentation, The Mysteries Of JavaScript-Fu, went down reasonably well from what I could tell (apparently, I was not slagged off on IRC…miracle!) and I’ll be putting the slides up as soon as I get a vaguely working wireless connection (I’ll update this post with the link). But Dr James’ presentation on plugins was a work of art. While my presentation involved me talking in a fake kung-fu voice, James had a gothic horror thing going on. Stupid voices from the Brits!

My only regret is that Zed Shaw won the Rails Pimp Cup ....that was main to be in my possession, damn it!

Now to get on a plane to San Francisco for @media America and a lot of footwear purchases.

12 Comments (Closed)

[...] and some chat about Prototype which has got me pretty enthused about contributing again.

Great to hear!

Tobie LangelTobie Langel at 21.05.07 / 19PM

I was at your talk. Great work. What was that lighter effects library you mentioned?

Giao PhanGiao Phan at 22.05.07 / 00AM

Your presentation was outstanding Sensei Webb – don’t forget to post the slides!

James AdamJames Adam at 22.05.07 / 02AM

You might want to check that link for Thomas Fuchs – at the moment it’s some page with a bikini’d arse and ads for strippers!

Kelvin LuckKelvin Luck at 22.05.07 / 08AM

Very great work. I saw also your other project on the dmm.

@James cu :)


Marc PfeifhoferMarc Pfeifhofer at 22.05.07 / 10AM

@Kelvin: Thanks for the heads up on that. Unsurprisingly, culo.us is a site about arses. I wish I’d bought that domain!

Slides are on the way…I’m in SF with a half decent connection now.

DanDan at 22.05.07 / 19PM

Giao: The library was Moo.fx for Prototype it’s simple but really good for smaller stuff.

DanDan at 22.05.07 / 19PM

Great slides Dan, thanks for sharing!

Tobie LangelTobie Langel at 22.05.07 / 23PM

Great presentation, I felt you gave tips that people could use immediately in their own projects. It was nice to meet you, I’ll have to head out to London one day for some home grown DnB.

Chris IrishChris Irish at 23.05.07 / 04AM

I appreciated how focused you were and that you moved quickly through what was really a lot of material! Thanks.

Grasshopper knows nothing master, may I beg enligtenment:

The Element.fromHTML thingy… I don’t completely follow the thinking on this. Do the elements passed in actually get legitimately “found out” by the dom when they get inserted this way?

Loren JohnsonLoren Johnson at 24.05.07 / 03AM

“Java and J2EE provide a strict framework by which you can’t go too wrong”.

I’m not convinced about the validity of this statement. I’ve seen people get in just as much a mess with Java and especially with J2EE.

James MeadJames Mead at 25.05.07 / 12PM

Yep, thanks for the fantastic presentation :)

SandroSandro at 03.06.07 / 19PM

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