I was fortunate enough to be able to work out attending RailsConf 2012 in Austin, TX. This was the first time on many years that the conference was not organized by O’Reilly but rather Ruby Central, Inc.
I have to go on record and say I usually avoid cities but the city of Austin is a great place and would not hesitate to return. The people are friendly and there is so much diversity in the city that there is something new on each corner. I noticed an abundance of restaurants with so many different types of food. I can’t say I had a single bad meal during my journey. Everyone I spoke with about the trip said I had to try the BBQ, and they were right…it was fantastic.
Many of the sessions overfilled the room. This on in particular exemplifies what I’m talking about. I bet the fire marshal wasn’t aware of these. Overall the floors were pretty comfortable.
It was often difficult to decide which sessions to attend, with 3 full-tracks there always seemed to be two talks during the same time slot I wanted to take. I usually decide which sessions to attend by how applicable they are to current work.
One of my favorite sessions was by Obie Fernandez about using Redis with Rails. Although the examples of the talk were from his recent startup, they were excellent and showed integrating Redis into a Rails application not to remove ActiveRecord but to compliment it. Obie discussed a gem he released to help the integration called redis_props along with sample code used in the talk. The code is clean and concise…great stuff.
Another talk I found personal value in was the Semi Automatic Code Review by Richard Huang. Richard is the creator and maintainer of the Rails Best Practices gem. In the talk he discusses another related open source project called Railsbp.com which allows for your code to be reviewed when committing to Github. The results will be displayed on the Railsbp.com site where you can change the code right there and commit back to your repo. Very informative details produced from the site, GitHub allows hooks into the service and thoughtfully open sourced. I wasn’t aware of the site before but now I am using it regularly.
The other talk which I took a lot away from was Digging Deep with ActiveSupport::Notifications by Matt Sanders. This talk when into great detail with many examples of using notifications in your applications. It is similar to the event publishing and subscriber model from other platforms such as .NET. Having spent many years writing .NET applications this talk brought back many memories of this pattern. The techniques exemplified here I had never used in Rails but do need this functionality on a new project.
UPDATE (05/03/2012): One talk that was intended to be included here, is from Lori Olson. Her talk titled, Mobile Rage – What causes it & how to fix it (Confreaks), takes the view of web application use on a mobile device from the user’s perspective and how developers can implement very simple techniques to ease the pain. I recommend this one highly, good stuff and some tips I was not aware of. I admit I have some sites that can take advantage of this.
The final keynote of day one was from a non-Ruby developer, Rich Hickey, which seemed to be out of the ordinary. Maybe he was there to pull some Ruby developer to the Clojure world. It appears Rich is trying to convince these two Rubyist that LivingSocial would be better with Clojure. I wish I could have overheard the conversation.
There were three very large, two-sided, white boards used for companies to post jobs, and they were pretty full of opportunities. I noticed there were far too many companies attempting to make the next Facebook or Twitter and not enough companies creating really useful applications. There were exceptions from what I could see, but too few. I remember the same thing happening around 2000 and then the bubble burst. Apparently we are not better from this event in history because we have not learned from it.
I finally met face-to-face many friends I only knew from various social networks with lively hallway track discussions. I think this is the #1 reason to attend conferences. The materials from the talks are available everywhere and with Confreaks recording all the sessions, you can watch the show later. You can’t however, experience meeting new friends and seeing old ones without attending.
I recommend every Rails developer attend just one of these events, well worth the time and effort. The next on is in Portland, OR from April 29 to May 2, 2013.