I just came home from the RailsConf Europe 2007. It was my first software development conference ever and it was pretty exciting.
Here are some random observations I made at the conference.
- The hottest technological things right now seem to be the various alternative Ruby implementations. JRuby is great because, among other things, it enables you to deploy Rails applications on Java servers almost like native Java applications. Rubinius promises to be the much needed reference implementation that everyone can understand.
- The preview of the upcoming Rails 2.0 didn’t create much buzz. Rails seems to have matured to the point where evolution comes from a large number of small improvements and not from radical new things. Calling the new version 2.0 may create false expectations, but it makes sense since the removal of many deprecated API methods breaks compatibility with 1.x versions.
- Restful controllers from Rails 1.2 seem to have been widely accepted as the Rails way. Interestingely, Roy Fielding (the father of REST) called for parameterizable routes in his keynote speech – that’s essentially what the routes used to be, as David Heinemeier Hansson (the father of Rails) pointed out. They can still be used, and as far as I know, are not going to be removed in 2.0.
- ThoughtWorks was by far the most visible company. A large chunk of their business comes from ruby-related projects. According to one presenter, they have to turn down Rails projects because they don’t have enough Rails programmers.
- All the four big sponsors made pretty much the same claim: “Rails is ready for the enterprise. It is just a matter of how you market it.” An application has to fit into the infrastructure ecosystem of the company. What ThoughtWorks is doing with JRuby and RubyWorks Production Stack is one way to lessen enterprise resistance against Rails.
- Dave Thomas delivered a wonderful keynote on the relation between art and engineering, beauty and practice. This is the stuff that makes managers cringe, but we developers love it. The main suggestion was (again) to sign your work; to take pride in what you do.
- My favorite presentation was “Teaching Rails at a University” by Prof. Carsten Bormann. He had held an extremely intensive 12-day course called “Agile Web Development” in the University of Bremen, apparently with great success. I’ve been pondering myself on ways to teach agile methods effectively in a university. This could be an answer.