June 04, 2008

Posted by John

Tagged railsconf and railsmachine

Older: Getting Down To The Core Of It

Newer: Available For Hire

RailsConf 2008

So I took a different approach to RailsConf this year. Last year I blogged my little heart out. This year I decided to soak it all in and see what I remembered, so here goes nothing. I’m not even going to look at the schedule to remind myself the talks I went to.


Arrived around 12PM. Hung out with Chas and Erik, former co-workers, for a while, after which we met up with Jesse Newland in the Double Tree bar. We each got a sampler platter of beer. It was tasty. After that we headed to my hotel (Jupiter) to meet up with my roomies (Daniel, Brandon and Brian of Collective Idea). It was a good day.


Joel Spolsky (interview) was the opening keynote. I’ve never been a Joel on Software reader and was wondering what he would be like as a speaker. Several said he was chauvinistic and unfunny. Maybe I’m of lesser intelligence and tact, but I enjoyed it. I wasn’t expecting much, so I was pleasantly surprised by how much I laughed.

The first talk I went to was Dan Benjamin’s Entrepreneurship on Rails. The talk was packed and we ended up getting kicked out due to fire code. From what I saw it was a very common sense approach to all the things you should be aware of running your own company. Dan isn’t a dynamic speaker but a very solid presenter. He is always prepared and knowledgeable.

Next up was The Big Rewrite of YellowPages.com. After the first few slides, I was worried this talk was going to suck. Every slide had a boat load of bullet points and text which sets me off. I’m glad I stayed though as the speaker, John Straw (interview), had an interesting sense of humor and basically laid out a near perfect plan for creating apps. Don’t gather requirements, instead gather stakeholders. Involve them early and often. Keep the main development team small and farm out anything that isn’t critical. Give yourself an extremely short amount of time to complete the project and make sure someone is in charge. Good points. He also had a cool chart of their apache/nginx/mongrel setup. Interesting to see what it takes for a site with their traffic to run.

I think the next one I went to was The Profitable Programmer. It was a panel with Ben Curtis, Tom Preston-Werner, P.J. Heyett, Chris Wanstrath and Geoffrey Grosenbach. Chris was dynamic as usual. He’s just a funny guy. Geoff mostly moderated but thankfully towards the end started talking about peepcode. I’ve been pretty curious about peepcode so it was interesting to hear the numbers. I thought Ben Curtis had some interesting points but he was kind of quiet. I almost wish this would have been even more informal than it was but I still enjoyed it.

I closed out the day with Chris Wanstrath’s Do’s and Don’ts of Real Life Deploys (github interview). I don’t remember much about it but I remember enjoying it. Helpful, right? I do remember the statistic charts he showed on the difference between temporary and real traffic.

DHH’s keynote (bootleg video, interview) closed out the day of sessions and was enjoyable as always. I like the less technical spin he put on the presentation. It seemed to be more about how to balance your life, which is something I’ve been trying to achieve of late.


The morning started off with a keynote by Jeremy Kemper (interview). Jeremy seems like a nice guy and he obviously knows his stuff. Also, he committed my first and only patch to rails core. Just a little tidbit. He went through all of the new rails 2.1 features, which was released during the conference. It was a very similar keynote to David’s last year.

Next up was Scott Chacon’s Git presentation (video) which set a record with 500+ slides. I can promise you it didn’t feel like 500. Scott is a wonderful presenter and wow does he know the internals of git. I would recommend flipping through his slides for the visuals, watching his gitcasts and maybe even purchasing his peepcode pdf on git.

Holy sharding was scaling a hot topic at RailsConf this year. The next panel I went to was Scaling Rails (video), starring Blaine Cook, Ezra Z, Bradley Taylor and some dude from AOL. The AOL guy had some good cracks, especially at the end about poo and fans. Overall, this session was really boring. I almost left but just like a bad movie, I have to know how it ends. Scaling really doesn’t matter in my opinion. Charge a fair price for your app and you’ll have plenty of money and less pressure to figure out the problems if and when you hit them.

Scott Fleckenstein of Get Satisfaction talked about how to use EventMachine to fake concurrency. EventMachine is pretty cool but the gem install kept FAILing me and I didn’t feel like figuring out why so I’ll wait to use it another day. He actually showed some live, in production, code that they use to send emails and such.

I skipped the next few sessions and started hacking on my amazon web services wrapper gem. The last event of the night was Kent Beck’s keynote. I’m familiar with Kent Beck but haven’t read any of his books. He was just told a bunch of stories and it was a lot of fun. Definitely a comfortable speaker but I couldn’t summarize his talk with justice here so if I were you, I’d attempt to find a copy of it somewhere.


Saturday night took the cake as it was the RailsMachine party in the Sky Room of the Red Lion. There were quite a few more people but it was still a blast. Bradley knows how to throw a shindig. I’d like to see a whole RailsMachine conference as he seems to have a firm grasp on what geeks want. What makes it rock isn’t just the free beer, but rather it’s that he always picks a spot where there is room to mingle and you can actually hear what the person beside you is saying. Lots of companies throw parties in loud bars and such and it kills the conversation. Cheers to Bradley!


Oh, The Fail I’ve Known by Adam Keys and the Rails Core panel were the only sessions I went to on Sunday. Spent most of the day chatting with people and coding. Adam’s FAIL was a great talk. I’m always impressed with his talks as he has a unique ability to teach the obvious, stuff that most of us take for granted but not everyone knows. It helps that he’s a pretty funny guy too. The rails core panel was good but didn’t shake my knickers. I do want Koz’s accent. Anyone know where I can buy one? David had a plane planning FAIL so he had to leave early but I appreciate how open the core team is and how patient they are with the occasionally stupid questions.


I think the conference content was better than last year and I really enjoyed meeting so many people. Here’s to next year in Vegas! raises glass


  1. I’m glad you enjoyed our Successful Side Projects panel.

    We re-presented it on Sunday and it did end up being more informal. It was great to see that so many people are interested in the topic.

  2. @Geoff – A panel like that you could probably double dip and learn something both times. :)

  3. I’m glad that you stayed and that you enjoyed the talk. I was also afraid that it would suck, especially when I realized how different my slides were from the conference house style. :) But I wanted to stick with what I had, since that was what I had practiced.

    That’s a really good summary; I may steal it if I end up giving the talk again!

  4. @John – I charge a fee for summaries. :)

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Authored by John Nunemaker (Noo-neh-maker), a programmer who has fallen deeply in love with Ruby. Learn More.


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