RailsConf 2008 Recap

rails2008_logo_conf.gifWe just left Portland today on our continuing Summer of Love trip. You wont find much about Portland from me though. Our stop in Portland for me was a visit to RailsConf 2008. Tammy did post about her thoughts on Portland. It was totally awesome that our good friends, the Tangen's were able to come out and join us in Portland. Kent attended RailsConf with me, and Maril, Simon and Caroline hung out with Tammy and Mazie. Mazie just adored Caroline the whole time. Let me share some of my comments on RailsConf 2008. I'm not going to dive into super detail on the Rails 2.1 release announced at the conference, or the details of various sessions. You can find that elsewhere online and many of the presentations and sessions are now up on the RailsConf wiki.

Sessions

Here are the sessions I attended:

Sadly, I missed Kent Beck's Keynote on Saturday evening. I hear it was really good.

Highlights

The conference started off on a strong note with Joel Spolsky's keynote. Some of you that have mentioned Spolsky to me may have heard my immediate rant. Prior to his keynote I wasn't a Joel fan. However, his keynote was great. He had a good message, presented it very well, and really got his point across. I liked it a lot, and take back anything bad I've said about Joel in the past (or at least most of it). It was really good.

I liked the Entrepreneur session quiet a bit. Unfortunately halfway through it the fire marshall ordered about 1/4th of the people out of the room because it was standing room only. Ryan Singer's session on design and Rails was awesome. Ryan was preaching what I truly believe is the model for designers and developers to engage and work collaboratively to make great things. The world needs more Ryan Singer's out there evangelizing and showing how this can be done to do great things. Jeremy Kemper's keynote on Rails 2.1 was really good as well. The 2.1 feature set looks great.

Perhaps the most high-density presentation was Scott Chacon's Git presentation. I don't think I've ever gotten barraged with so much high-density information so quickly. At one point I turned to Kent and joked "I feel stupid." Directed acyclic graphs were being thrown around as quickly and furious as could ever be done. Great presentation though, really liked his stuff. I recommend checking out his site, Gitcasts.

David Heinemeier Hansson's keynote on Friday night was a little odd. He steered away from any technical topics and really focused on giving some input on creating great products and being a great developer. I'm not sure how the talk went over with the audience. DHH is the creator of Rails, and as a result I doubt anyone would pan it that much. He drew a full crowd back from dinner at 8:00pm after all. His talk however seemed to me to be trying to get people to appreciate the aesthetics of code. To admire the beauty of architecture. It seemed clear to me that he was trying to send a message beyond Rails, to creating great things and continuing creative inspiration. I liked the message, but I wondered how many people in the room really heard it.

Lowlights

There weren't any bad sessions that I went to. Some could have been better, but I wouldn't say any of them were horrible. However, I would have liked to see a bit more technical depth and heavy lifting in the sessions. Too many of them seemed to gloss on big topics of scaling, deployment and architecture. I realize it's a big conference, but more technical depth would have been good.

The WiFi network for the conference was a general disaster. It had 14Mb and was 100% full every single day except Sunday. Not sure what was using that bandwidth, but it made even checking email painful.

With that said, I almost wish they would just get rid of the WiFi. There was simply too much social networking, messaging going on. RailsConf has an "official" back-channel in IRC at the #railsconf channel. I hopped on it at one point to see what was going on and found 200 people bitching, whining and making inappropriate comments in the channel. It was horrible. The worst of anonymous streaming spew that you could find. In several sessions I watched more than a couple of people just sit there and type into the IRC channel the entire time. Yikes!

Lastly, I really wish there was some more diversity in the developer community. There was maybe 1 woman in attendance for every 50 or 100 men. The group could use more diversity, I think it would help the developer community in a number of different ways.