Ruby Nation: Day 1 Wrap Up

by Justin Spradlin


Ruby experts and enthusiasts from around the country met in Washington, D.C. today for the first annual RubyNation conference. I always think it's awesome to get together with industry leaders to absorb and share new information and insights. I've been to quite a few tech conferences in the past, but I've never been as engaged and attentive as I was today. There is an energy around Ruby and Rails that I have yet to witness with other technologies. I continue to be amazed by how passionate and open the community is as well. I met and talked with more people today than all of the other conferences I've attended combined.

In case you weren't able to make it, here's a quick rundown of today's events:

Opening Keynote: Ceremony vs. Essence - Neal Ford

Neal Ford is a seasoned consultant and speaker that I've seen present on more than one occasion. I've always enjoyed his presentations, but his talk today really hit home with me. Neal's talk basically boiled down to the fact that we developers need to Keep It Simple (KISS) and avoid the "accidental complexity" that is often unnecessarily added to the problems we are trying to solve. I've listen rhetoric like this a 1,000 times, but I've never heard it articulated so elegantly. It was literally like he was looking inside of my head and expressing the way I (and likely a lot of developers) feel about the current state of the industry (especially if you are a Java programmer like me).

DSLs and Ruby: Blurring the Lines Between Programs And Data - Russ Olsen

I used to work with Russ at a FGM so I was really looking forward to hearing him speak. Russ has become quite a leader in the Ruby community especially after publishing his first book: Design Patterns in Ruby. Russ's talk centered around Domain Specific Languages (DSLs) and how relatively easy it is to implement one using the Ruby language. During his presentation Russ put together a simple Internal DSL for example purposes and also discussed use cases for when it is appropriate to create a DSL to solve a problem.

The Culture of Innovation in Ruby - Glenn Vanderburg

Innovation in testing frameworks in Ruby was the topic of Glenn Vanderburg's talk. Glenn discussed some of the interesting testings frameworks available in the Ruby community (Rspec, Mocha, Flex Mock, Shoulda) and compared them to some of the stagnant frameworks in the Java community (JUnit, TestNG). Glenn also pointed out how Ruby's testing frameworks tend to make it much easier to mock objects and create more thorough tests with much less effort than the equivalent tests in the Java world.

Living on the Edge - Yehuda Katz

Yehuda Katz of EngineYard talked about some of the new(er) technologies that are emerging in the Ruby community including Merb, DataMapper, Sake, Thor, YARDoc, and GitHub. DataMapper looks like an especially interesting alternative to the incumbent ORM ActiveRecord. It promises thread safety and increased performance which are obviously two great things. GitHub looks pretty cool too. I'm not quite ready to abandon Subversion just yet, but I will definitely be checking out Git in the near future.

Lightning Talks

Chris Bucchere, David Jones, Simon Kaczor, and Bryan Liles all gave lightening talks today on a variety of topics including social networking, state machines, command line libraries, and testing respectively. All of the talks presented useful information, but Bryan Liles was without a doubt the most entertaining speaker of the day. He made it through about 65 slides in 15 minutes and was still able to convey a very important message about how often developers should be testing their code. Check out his blog at: http://smartic.us/

Archaeopteryx: A Ruby MIDI Generator - Giles Bowkett

I actually wasn't able to attend Giles Bowkett's session because I had a previous engagement to attend, but I did get a chance to view some screencasts that show off his Ruby MIDI Generator. Pretty cool stuff.


Tomorrow looks to be a pretty exciting day as well. I'm especially looking forward to talks from my former co-worker Dave Bock and author Stuart Holloway.

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