Back from Lone Star Ruby Conf 2011

This last weekend I drove up to Austin for the Lone Star Ruby Conf 2011 (LSRC). This has been my first Ruby conference, and I was really looking forward to it. I’ve enjoyed the conference, and I’m likely to come back next year. 

Cost

Compared to overpriced conferences such as TechEd and PDC (now “BUILD”), paying $250 for the 2-day LSRC conference was not a problem. There are several conferences that are either free, or that just charge a very small fee, and I guess “free” is usually good, but I don’t mind paying 250 bucks for good content. 

It was also interesting that there was no “sponsors booth” (I think there was only one sponsor’s desk in there, and that was it). It made walking around the conference much better (it wasn’t crowded with booths and people).

KeynotesIMG_1438

The keynote was not about pushing whatever “the latest integrated product that will solve the world’s hunger problem” down everybody’s throat. Instead, we heard about things such as the importance of testing, and when it may not make sense, bringing the “science” back to “computer science”, and being a culture that *reasons* together (well, that’s a very different tone from most conferences I’ve been to).

In another note, we heard that “Agile hasn’t been proven to be the best way to do software, but it is the better way we know of today“.

And the closing keynote was about serving customers. Great stuff! Not products… not languages… not geekness… just people! Yes, there’s a bigger reason why we write software: people! Chad Fowler‘s talk was really inspiring. 

45-minute session slots

As a presenter I’ve never liked the 45-minute session slots; it always feels like I can barely touch on the surface of whatever I’m presenting on. It’s been a while since I’ve actually sat through sessions, so it was good for me to get an idea of what it feels like to the attendee. 

Right now I have mixed feeling about session length. Depending on the session’s content and presenter’s style, 45 minutes seemed good enough for me, as an attendee, to get the gist of what the thing is all about, take some notes, and understand whether or not I want to look deeper into the topic on my own. In certain cases, 45 minutes seemed to short: when I was really grokking the topic, the session ended, and I’ve ended up with that “dang, gimme more of that!” feeling.

I have to say that a couple of the sessions have flown way over my head, but I was kind of expecting that, given I’m new to most of this stuff.

Some numbers

  • There were 260+ attendees. Two people have attended 5 years in a row, and the vast majority was there for the first time.
  • Two concurrent tracks
  • The youngest developer there was 20 years ago
  • There was a guy who maintains a 17-year old application
  • I’ve counted two laptops running Windows; everything else was a Mac

Session notes

These are just some quick notes of things I wanted to remember to look more into:

  • Rails 3.1
    • Asset Pipeline
    • HTTP Streaming
    • CoffeeScript (default now). Ben mentioned the PeepCode video on it is really good.
  • 10 Things I hate about Ruby
    • Relieve to see some things that are confusing to me are also confusing to somebody who knows a lot more Ruby than I do. Things such as “many different ways to objectify code” (lambda, proc, etc.), or a notation such as “class << self”
  • Meta Programming
    • I definitely need to finish reading “the book” on it. I’ve been enjoying it, and what I’ve read so far has helped me keep up with a session on this subject.
  • Titanium
    • I had a note in my todo list to look into this tool for cross mobile device development, but I’m hearing lots of mixed feelings about it, so I’ll put it in the back burner until I heard a verdict from my buddies who are messing with it.
  • View layer
    • Right after getting into Rails, I wondered whether it was a common to write something like ViewModels for the Views, and I was told that wasn’t the norm. There was this session where the speaker talked about this very concept. I need to look more into his work (the Draper gem), and the feedback he is getting from Rails developers.
  • JavaScript
    • Despite the fact I need to start taking a serious look into CoffeeScript, I still need to get better at JavaScript. I need to check out the “JavaScript: The Good Parts” book that Jesse recommended.
  • Jasmine
    • As I get into JavaScript/CoffeeScript, I totally need to use Jasmine: it’s RSpec for JavaScript (and yeah, totally must use CoffeeScript for it). Totally dig it. Also need to look into “Rosie” (which is like “factory_girl” for Jasmine). “Try Jasmine” also looks promising.
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