RailsConf Europe 2007

I just came home from the RailsConf Europe 2007. It was my first software development conference ever and it was pretty exciting.

Yup, that’s me. On Wednesday they rotated five pictures on the conference flatscreens. They included pictures of DHH, Craig McClanahan, Dave Thomas and me.

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 area with greatest need for improvement is the automated testing of views, especially AJAX. Selenium is probably the best you can do now, but it is clunky. CrossCheck is an interesting option to testing JavaScript against multiple browsers.
  • 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.

2 thoughts on “RailsConf Europe 2007

  1. Simo says:

    I’ve written maybe 3 weeks worth of Ruby (longest work: 2-week script which combined various command-line utilities and mailed reports) and it seemed quite nice and compact. A bit more strict typing would be nice though.

    One way to compare the popularity of programming languages is to write the search word to monster.fi. Ruby produces 2 hits, Python 6, Perl 11, Php 13, Symbian 22, C# 24 ones and Java 66 hits. Ruby is a very talked-about language though.

  2. Antti Tarvainen says:

    Thanks for your comment Simo and sorry I haven’t been able to answer it sooner. I’ve been very busy with moving back to my old life in Finland.

    Regarding typing, dynamism is the very essence of Ruby and I don’t think a more static typing approach (even optional) would suit it well. Obviously some situations are better suited for static approach and others for dynamic approach. It’s interesting to try to identify situations where each of the typing approaches is appropriate. I think I’ll post something about it soon.

    It’s certainly true that Ruby hasn’t become mainstream on the job market and I am not sure that it ever will. Other oft-quoted popularity measures are book sales, newsgroup postings, and search queries. In these Ruby is doing rather well compared to other dynamic languages.

    See e.g.

    http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2007/05/state_of_the_co_10.html
    http://xahlee.org/lang_traf/index.html
    http://www.google.com/trends?q=ruby+programming%2C+perl+programming%2C+python+programming&ctab=0&geo=all&date=all&sort=0
    http://www.tiobe.com/tpci.htm

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