The Journey There
Well it's taken me a few days to recover from the jet-lag, hang-overs and sleep deprivation (and yes, contrary to what goth_twiglet might claim, I do sleep most days) that resulted from my first madcap visit to NYC. I'll not tire you with the journey details as the round-trip mostly went without mishap, the only highlight being a dodgy in-flight entertainment console that reliably dumped core when asked to play solitaire. There's something strangely reassuring about watching RedBoot at 35,000 feet...
So, Friday afternoon I checked into the Ace Hotel, just off Broadway on West 29th Street. I can't recommend the place highly enough: clean, affordable room with en suite; decent free wi-fi; friendly, helpful staff; civilised check-out time. I'll definitely be staying there again.
Anyway, once my rucksack was unpacked it was off to play with the lovely folks who organised GoRuCo for the pre-conference speaker's meal. Having already played with the subway to get from JFK to Manhattan I decided to walk to the Congee Village on Allen Street, taking in the Bowery and some gorgeous faux gothic architecture along the way. New York isn't a pretty city but it's definitely a striking one and I hope to explore further on my next visit.
Dinner was a blast - and not just because of the endless supply of Tsingtao. Various Chinese delicacies circulated, the ice was broken, and when everyone was full we moved on to the Lolita Bar on Broome Street. It's a fun little dive that reminded me of certain bars I've visited in Amsterdam, and for some strange reason it has pale ale on draught - in a list of things I wouldn't have expected in New York that would have come close to the top.
Still, a few more drinks, some random and contentious discussion with local geeks, and it was back to the hotel for a quick sleep and an early breakfast. And yes, you read that right: Little Ms NightOwl was out of bed for 06:00, laptop in tow so she could finish pruning her presentation. By 09:00 I was on my way to City Hall subway station and looking forward to a fun-packed day.
GoRuCo - The Gotham Ruby Conference
There's a live transcript of all of the following so I'll keep my coverage brief. Suffice to say that the content is the strongest I've seen in several years and I think that's in large part thanks to the one-day single-track nature of the conference and the hard work of the organising committee.
Gregory Brown - Where is Ruby Really Heading
I've spoken at quite a few audiences now but I still find it a stressful experience, so I was glad to be scheduled for fairly early in the proceedings. Unfortunately that meant that I didn't give Gregory Brown's talk on the future direction of Ruby as much attention as it deserved, but from what I did digest it seemed a well-researched and clear exposition of the current state of Ruby language implementations. I'm in two minds over his assertion that Ruby-FFI on JRuby is the way to go for Windows native library access: MRI with Ruby/DL can and does do the job, even if it's not the sexy new FFI goodness. But given that his topic was pretty dry he still managed to inject humour and interest.
Eleanor McHugh - The Ruby Guide to *nix Plumbing
No need to cover my presentation as it'll be up on ConFreaks in a couple of weeks and you can all judge it for yourselves. From what I recall it was a rambling pile of crap, but as several people approached me throughout the day with intelligent questions I guess there's quite a potential interest in Ruby/Unix integration. In the meantime you can grab the slides which I ran as a slideshow with only occasional commentary.
Dan Yoder - Resource Oriented Architecture with Waves
Next up was Dan Yoder with an interesting presentation on the Waves web framework. I've been following Waves off-and-on for a while but not had a chance to do anything useful with it, so it was interesting to hear its main architect discussing it in detail. Dan has strong views on REST which aren't a million miles from my own and I like the fact that Waves is resource-oriented as opposed to MVC-oriented, although it's flexible enough to be used that way. I'll have to talk to him at some point about the similarities between his URL management approach and the DNS NAPTR stuff I work on with spikyblackcat as there appears to be an overlap.
Jake Howerton - Into the Heart of Darkness: Rails Anti-Patterns
Jake Howerton's Rails Anti-Patterns talk was for me the least engaging of the day for the simple reason that I wasn't its target audience, however the advice he gave and the examples which accompanied it were drawn from real-life and are something that many inexperienced rubyists would do well to take onboard when building that first clutch of Rails web applications.
Sandi Metz - SOLID OO Design
For me Sandi Metz was the real star of the day even though I already knew all the stuff she covered: this was object-oriented programming 101 delivered with professional polish and I wish I'd sat through something similar two decades back when I was first encountering the concepts of OOP as it would have saved me a lot of tedious hacking. From what I can tell the five rules of SOLID are all deeply ingrained in my instincts these days, to the extent that I'm not even aware of them, so it was a real pleasure to see them not only being expounded but to hear people in the audience having that penny drop moment. I also picked up a bit of jargon that various Java folks I know keep using: dependency injection. Just like the eureka moment a couple of years ago where I discovered I'd been refactoring since my teens, it also turns out I've been using dependency injection since the early 90s without realising it. I wonder what other annoying buzzword practices are in fact part of my standard toolkit?
Ben Stein - Building Cross Platform Mobile Apps with Ruby & PhoneGap
I loved this presentation. Mobile has been an interest of mine since way back in the early Psion days and though I lost faith during the Symbian years, the arrival of iPhone and Android has put the adventure back into the medium. Ben's also working on some pretty cool uses of the technology, not dissimilar to the Parliamentary stuff being done by fellow LRUGger Rob McKinnon, and as someone interested in politics it's good to see software tools designed to assist with engaging the public and holding our political class to account.
Yehuda Katz - From Rails to Rack: Making Rails 3 a Better Ruby Citizen
I guess this will have been the big draw for a lot of people, promising as it did a look under the hood of the next generation of Rails. Yehuda's work with Merb is legendary in the Rails world: the meta-disruptive technology stomping all over Rails. The two teams are now working together to deliver a more modular codebase and we received an engaging walkthrough of what that entails. ORM agnosticism will be the big step forward for me as I've played with Sequel enough to become a bit of a convert, but it'll also be good to have greater freedom in the use of JS frameworks.
If these make it to video watch out for Joe Damato's threading fix which really needs to be generalised to other platforms and rolled into MRI.
The afterparty at Ulysses on Pearl and Stone streets was a chance to relax and talk ruby in the company of Belgian beer and finger food. I had a fun conversation with Aaron and Mike of nokogiri fame about messing with pointers in Ruby/DL and how that might work with ZenSpider's Wilson x86 assembler - some dirty little hacks are starting to formulate themselves thanks to that.
Then it was on to Sing Sing Karaoke Bar for more beer, saki and several hours of tonsil abuse followed by drinks with some of the folks from EngineYard until dawn was well underway and then off to bed for some much-needed sleep.
Big thanks to Jennifer Lindner for convincing me to submit a proposal, Francis Hwang for liking it enough to ship me across the Atlantic to speak, Josh Knowles for tanking me up on Tsingtao, Shari Halter for the positive vibes and the rest of the GoRuCo team for putting on a bitchin' conference. Hope to see you all again next year.
I had a window seat for the flight and it turns out I'm no longer scared of flying. I should have guessed that on the trip over, but I guess it's only when you're watching the wings wobble in turbulence and it doesn't bother you that the change sinks in. goth_twiglet's suggested that it's because my acrophobia has also cleared up in recent months and in the absence of a better theory I guess I'll go with that.
Anyway I'll give Delta four out of five for the food and general lack of intrusion, although the breakfast of fruit and a muffin really needs some work guys.