Thursday, May 31, 2007

I attended RailsConf 2007 in Portland Oregon and had a great time. The Rails community is growing so large its unbelievable. Its starting to get all 'enterprisey' as well.

I wrote an article for Lxer summing up some of the events. I'll reproduce it here:

Railsconf 2007

  • "Make no small plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably will not themselves be realized." -Daniel Burnham

  • "Form, ever, follows function." -Louis Sullivan

  • "Less is more." -Mies van der Rohe

What do these three have to do with Ruby on Rails and the second annual Rails conference in Portland?

Daniel Burnham and Louis Sullivan made their names designing and re building the city of Chicago after the great fire. Mies van der Rohe, later, gave the ultimate expression to the modernist style inspired by Sullivan. Their work was given life because of the development of a new disruptive technology, structural steel. This was the same steel developed to make the rails. The rails carried the goods, and the goods paid for their works.

Ruby on Rails was also born in Chicago. Rails was extracted from a working application because its creator, David Heinemeier Hansson (DHH), saw that he could re use the framework for other projects just as the steel rails were extracted from their original application and used to build skyscrapers. David and the team at 37Signals released Rails as an open source project and the Rails community has been building outward and upward ever since.

  • Rails lets you make big plans
  • Rails projects follow a form based on the MVC framework (their function)
  • With Rails 'convention over configuration' philosophy, less really is more

Rails is proving to be a disruptive technology in the development community, but the main disruption is due to the fact that web development does not have to be so difficult, and so barroque.

As with the first conference in Chicago, 2006, there was a pre-conference day of tutorials. The money raised for the pre-conference tutorials is donated to various charities. By the end of the conference more than $33,000 had been donated by the Rails community for various charities.

The highlights of the show included keynotes by Rails notables David Heinemeier Hansson, Dave Thomas, Avi Bryant, Michael Koziarski, Jamis Buck, David Black, Chad Fowler, Rich Kilmer and others. The two Davids were the bookends beginning and ending the conference. The keynote by DHH outlined some of the changes coming in Rails 2.0.

Tim Bray of Sun gave an interesting keynote. Sun has noticed Rails and is no longer ignoring or laughing. They don't intend to fight because they can sell servers for Rails clients just as well as for Java clients. The JRuby implementation should open some interesting new opportunities for developers.

Many of the other Rails community members, as well as Rails based companies gave keynotes and regular talks. There were four main tracks of talks each day with alternate tracks, BOF's, lightning talks and reject conferences day and night. Ze Frank's keynote Friday night showed that the Rails community is unique for its mix of developers and designers, and that the Rails community still maintains its irreverence even for all of the new ‘enterprisey'-ness.

A summary of the talks, coverage as well as photos and movies can be found:

Many of the talks feature the slides used. A quick trip to youtube or technorati and a search on Railsconf will show many more highlights showing up. (Some of the shots from Saturday's lunchtime marching band may not be suitable for the office).

Portland, Oregon is a beautiful city and the conference facilities are top notch. O'Reilly and the other major sponsors provided a fantastic venue. Last year's Railsconf was bursting at the seams and the team at Ruby Central and No Fluff Just Stuff did their best to accomodate, but the Rails community is growing too fast. This year's conference had three times the attendance of last year's.

The Rails community is thinking big and moving fast, but they are keeping Rails agile and light. If you are unfamiliar with Rails watch the videos available at the Ruby on Rails site. Rails is released under the MIT license.

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