Today was my first day at RailsConf in Portland.
We started the day with a keynote from Joel Spolsky. He gave a very entertaining talk, with good visuals and a lot of jokes. The theme was on what makes software good, with a lot of analogies to architecture, fashion, and even sociology. He’s written about all of this before, in bits and pieces.
My first two breakout sessions weren’t a great start to the conference. John Lam gave a talk on the IronRuby project, where Microsoft is porting Ruby to run on .Net and in Silverlight. The topic was very interesting, but the talk didn’t give any background, and was full of acronyms and jargon specific to either Microsoft or the IronRuby project, and he never defined any of. The second session I attended was “10 Things I Hate About Web Apps” by Micah Martin, which was billed as being about a new open source client-side tool that would eliminate all those bad attributes of web apps. Well, the tool is Limelight, and it eliminates web app problems by not being a web app. It’s a new client that runs on JRuby (Ruby on the Java virtual machine), and is conceptually similar to Flash or Silverlight. I’m more interested in standards-based web applications for now.
Things picked up for me after lunch (which was a real break, unlike at Google IO, with decent food and a good job managing serving and seating so many people). First, I deliberately attended a session that was effectively an infomercial for a conference sponsor’s product. I was skeptical about this track, but the talks were clearly and honestly labeled, and this one was interesting. Guy Naor of Morph Labs showed off Morph Appspace, a free Rails hosting environment with good deployment tools. It was all hands on and live; there were a few glitches due to typos and such, but everything worked and worked well. I’ll probably give the product a try. And I think it’s cute that they registered their domain in the Philippines to spell “Mor.ph”.
I closed the day by attending two sessions each absolutely jam-packed with people. Neal Ford of ThoughtWorks talked about Design Patterns, and how a lot of the existing way of looking at them is obsoleted by languages like Ruby. His slides are available for download. And Ryan Singer, a web designer at 37 Signals, gave a great talk on how designers and programmers can work as a team, instead of effectively having a wall separating them. His perspective as a designer, instead of a programmer (like most of the attendees) gave us all a fresh look at things, and the audience really responded to him and his talk.
So, even though the first few sessions seemed a bit weak to me, the conference as a whole is shaping up to be quite worthwhile.