3 min read

RailsConf Wrapup

I had a really great time at RailsConf. I met a ton of really cool people bursting with enthusiasm for great projects. I sort of knew this already, but now I know it viscerally: the diversity of things that people are doing with Rails far outstrips the ability of those most deeply involved in building it day-to-day to anticipate. What was also really great was that so many of the ideas people asked me about could be answered by pointing at new extension points or modular APIs that we're adding to Rails.

About my talks: let's just say some of them could have been better. I'll post the slides inline below with my personal wrap-up of each.

The jQuery Tutorial

The slides for the tutorial are available on this blog; the code is at Github. I had high hopes for this tutorial initially, but a few things (mostly my fault) made it worse than I expected.

First of all, I lost my co-presenter around a week before the tutorial. Thanks to Andy Delcambre, this did not catastrophically destroy the tutorial, but it did add additional challenges. Had I been better-prepared, it would not have been such a problem, and Andy performed very well under pressure, getting into the flow in a week in which he was also preparing the Flex demo for RailsConf.

Second of all, I didn't specify the required skill level for the tutorial, which led to a wide disparity in the skill level of the attendees. I expected an intermediate group, so the focus that should have been on the introductory section and the labs was spread out to parts of the tutorial that we never really got to (e.g. evented programming). As a result, almost all of the feedback was either "that was wayyyy too introductory" or "that was wayyyy too advanced." Again, this is something I should have prepared for, so definitely a mea culpa on my part.

All that said, I thought the content and labs were really good for the portion of the audience in the sweet spot (knew some JavaScript and CSS, but still needed more training in jQuery).

Technical Deep Dive

No code or slides here; the entire session was Carl and I talking through the recent architectural changes. For an evening Birds of a Feather, we got excellent attendance, and almost exclusively positive feedback. I thought it went very well, and really enjoyed the opportunity to share the gory technical details with the folks who took a night off of Vegas to stay for a very low-level technical talk.

Russian Doll Pattern

Again, this didn't go as well as I'd hoped, but I'm still relatively pleased with the outcome. It was the first talk given jointly by Carl and me, and our relentless focus on getting the Rails code we're working on ready for RailsConf left us with less time to get our delivery anywhere near as smooth as the Ruby standard-bearers for joint talks, Joe O'Brien and Jim Weirich.

The talk is available from this blog as well.

We also focused heavily on the concept of mountable apps and addressed a lot of the concerns that people have made in the past, as well as focused on appropriate techniques for building applications that could be reusable. Unfortunately, we're not yet at a point where we can show a final DSL for the specifics. What I find personally frustrating is that for a lot of the most interesting projects, the hard work is the first 98%, after which there's nothing "cool" to show. The final 2%, which is usually a day or two of work, produces the whiz-bang demos. For a lot of what we've been doing in Rails, we're at the 90% or so mark, which means that the underlying infrastructure for doing really cool stuff is in place, but we don't have the whiz-bang demos yet.

Thankfully, there was a great complementary talk by James Adam at RailsConf which covered the state of the art of engines as of Rails 2.3, so I was happy focusing our presentation on the likely future. Still, the "unicorn", ethereal focus definitely detracted from what was otherwise a good first showing for the pair of Carl and me.

If anyone attended any of the sessions and has questions or constructive feedback, I'd love to hear it. Please feel free to comment below or email me at wycats@gmail.com.