On Friday, I got the opportunity to attend the excellent acts_as_conference right here in Florida (over in Orlando). The conference is a one-track Ruby conference that had about 130 attendees show up. I was excited by both the schedule and the attendees, and though I was only able to attend on Friday, I wasn’t disappointed.
The conference opened up with the Rails Envy guys doing a talk on Rails Innovations. Some of the ones they listed included:
- Sample Applications
- webrat (Seconded!)
- Open Source Social Networks
They then went into a talk about Scaling Rails. I found this extremely interesting because anyone whose ever had to deal with deploying Rails Apps may ask themselves Can Rails Scale? The answer now is a resounding yes with a combination of caching and deployment strategies, and the excellent Passenger deployment.
They finished up their talk by announcing a series of free screencasts that are being sponsored by the great guys at New Relic on Scaling Rails. It’s available right now at http://railslab.newrelic.com/scaling-rails. Go get ya some!
Next up was a live Q&A; Session with the man himself, DHH. I think that out of all the things from the conference, this stood out as being the cornerstone of how awesome the Ruby community is. No question was off-limit, and unlike other conferences where people can get into details for whatever silly secret thing it is (or worse, get into details that never get shipped), everyone seemed to feel comfortable talking about, well, whatever. Some example questions:
- What led to the Rails/Merb merge? (Short Answer: About 90% of the things the two frameworks wanted to do were similar, so why not?)
- What cool new ideas are coming for 3.0? (Short Answer: Revamping approach to AJAX and APIs for how routes work)
- Dave Thomas wants to see different flavors of Ruby, like parallel_ruby. What about something similar in Rails? (Short Answer: Working on modularizing everything to make scenarios like that much easier
- Do you TAFT? (Short Answer: No. But absolutely vital for anything larger than a trivial app)
- When are you going to change your hairstyle? (Short Answer: Never)
- If you could have, for the rest of your life, either cake, or pie, which would you choose? (Short Answer: Banana Cream Pie)
Ok, so things got a little goofy. And DHH did look like a giant blue smurf on the screen because his white balance was all out-of-whack. But it was still a great talk, and I highly enjoyed it.
In the afternoon, we got to hear from the guys at Hashrocket (choice quote: “If you don’t have a company that lets you test, try to get fired for testing” from Jon Larkowski). It was refreshing to hear them talking about all of the agile stuff they do – pairing, test-first, acceptance tests, stories – and not talking about it being “agile” but just “how they do it”. Professionalism FTW!
We then got to hear Jim Weirich start to talk about Fixtures, but instead lead us down the Grand Unified Theory of Software Development. His talk ended up focused around coupling and a term called Connascence. He focused on three areas: Connascense of Name, Connascense of Position and Connascense of Meaning. I quite enjoyed his talk, and talking with him throughout the conference.
The last sessions were on building Multi-Tenant Systems in Rails, Merb and the integration to Rails 3.0 (Key takeaway: The Merb team did have to give up their test framework and use the one from Rails) and a keynote on overcoming fear.
Of course, during and between the conference were all the great side conversations. My big takeaway is thinking about putting together a Ruby and Rails Firestarter event akin to the TDD Firestarter we recently did. But in general, I was quite happy to be at a product-specific conference having to remind myself that this wasn’t an agile conference – agility and openness are just a way of life with Ruby.