RailsConf – Day 1

Rob and I woke up early and made the trip to Chicago for RailsConf. The conference has the general feel of other Jay Zimmerman directed conferences I've attended.

Following a fairly brief welcome from Chad Fowler, Rich Kilmer and David Black (Ruby Central guys), Dave Thomas took the stage to deliver his keynote. The concept of the talk came from an address given at the International Congress of Mathmaticians in 1900, by David Hilbert. In that talk Hilbert outlined 23 Unsolved Problems in the field, basically providing an outline of what would be studied in the 20th century. For the sake of time constraints, Thomas was able to skim his list down to 3 Unsolved Problems:

  1. Data Integration
  2. Real World CRUD (aka. "Better Scaffolding"
  3. Deployment

My favorite (and certainly most memorable) session of the day was "AC/DC, Stravinsky, and Rails" with Adam Keys. I have to say, I never thought I'd hear AC/DC played on an accordian at a conference! The talk compared and contrasted the good and bad of each. AC/DC has the appeal of consistency; It's easy to follow, easy to play, and you just generally know what you're going to get. Stravinsky is on the other end of the spectrum (esp 'Rite Of Spring'); Beautiful in the complex details; Intentionally complex and difficult to play. Rails of course was cast somewhere in the middle. Capable of being beautifully simple while also being able to get down and dirty to handle a hairy problem.

The evening featured two great keynotes. The first was Martin Fowler discussing why Ruby works for him. I say "discussing" intentionally – his style was quite conversational and engaging. He began with the disclaimer that this may be the strangest keynote ever – He was talking at a RubyOnRails conference although he has never actually used Rails! Something tells me he knows more about it than he lets on 🙂 but the talk centered largely on Rails (at a high level) and Ruby itself. He discussed in depth Ruby/Rails ability to free the programmer from technical implementation plumbing, allowing them to concentrate their efforts on tackling real business problems.

To end out the night (for me… I didn't stick around for the band) was a keynote from Paul Graham on the pros and cons of being an industry "outsider". That is: the advantages Microsoft (today) has over some guy working in his garage – and conversely the advantages the guy in the garage has on Microsoft. Before getting into it he warned us: "I'm going to contradict both the New Testament and Yoda". As with his other talks, this was very entertaining and was a great close to the day.

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