September 19th, 2007

adventuress

Ich bin ein RailsConfer

Well here's my second attempt at blogging the second RailsConf Europe, iJournal having eaten my previous attempt.

What can I say about Berlin? Well it seems like a really nice city and it has some amazing architecture. We (that's spikyblackcat and I) arrived on the overnight sleeper from Brussels at 08:11 on Sunday morning and spent the day exploring the city/looking for food/getting our bearings. I should have been fixing some code at that point, but with the sun shining and the prospect of several days buried in conference it was good to act like tourists for a few hours. We saw the Brandenburg Gate, took a detour into the former Eastern Zone and did our best to avoid the party attitude around Potsdammerplatz. But that's not really what I want to talk about this morning, just like I don't want to discuss the hotel and its fun-loving staff who give it a bit more human a touch than many 5-star corporate venues.

I don't even want to dwell on the tutorials we missed by diligently fixing our sample code, or the missed DHH keynote that coincided with my morning shower. No, for me the real eye-openers were Dave Thomas's presentation, which focused on accepting the art that lurks beneath the surface of our developer talents. We are artists afterall, regardless of the insecurities of a prevailing DIlbetian culture that values specifications over working code. I'm not one of these wild-eyed Agile Developers who suggests we should ditch every other existing technique and design principle in order to embrage Agile. Way to go Dave for getting to the heart of our scene's Mac fetish >8D

The other keynote that grabbed my attention and held it for considerably longer than one would expect, was Roy T. Fielding's discussion of the REST architectural style. I suspect that at some point in his life Roy has been to that very special place where the whole network spreads unclouded by human intervention, and whilst I doubt he'd approve of our ideas I consider him a fellow-traveller. Whilst his presentation technique is very typical of academic conferences, don't let that and his self-effacing tone get in the way of seeing his ideas for what they really are, the classical physics of the hypertext environment. David Black introduced him as the inventor of REST, but I think it's more accurate to describe him as the discoverer of these principles as they are a natural consequence of the network usage encourage by using hyperlinks to marshal data.

Of the conference sessions today, shouts go out to: Jens Krämer for his informative presentation on Ferret, plagued by technical difficulties he still soldiered on; Sergio Espaja and Santiago Bel for an informative presentation on Bayesian Networks and Genetic Algorithms; and of course Charlies O. Nutter and Thomas Enebo who are the driving force behind the JRuby project.

Our own sessions went surprisingly well, with double last year's audience and a very successful BoF session in the evening. I'm always a bit reticent to talk about our work, partly because it's difficult to sum up in brief blog entries, and partly because we've been biding our time over announcing it to the world at large, but for those who want a quick peak take a look at our latest slideset for a brief intro to some of our obsessions. This conference is the first step in a more general move to get our ideas to a wider audience so I'll probably soon be spinning off a separate technical blog for that purpose, and judging from the positive reaction we'll have a few regular readers. Better yet, we now have several invitation to talk at smaller events and present the same material again, justifying the effort we put into our 45 minutes of RailsConf fame!