Stubborn Dreams

Getting out of my cube

RailsConf 2008 – A visitor from Java

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The Purpose of Playing the Game

I believe RailsConf 2008 in Portland, OR was the best conference that I’ve ever attended. I was a little hesitant to attend lacking working experience+knowledge with/of Ruby/Ruby on Rails. I felt like a visitor going to an interesting foreign country who falls in love with the people culture language and desires to stay and learn the language.

I’ve attended all-weekend network marketing events where they fill you up with a high-octane mix of excitement, adrenaline, and hope that you can actually do what the top (1-3%) of producers in the company do, but when you leave you revert to doing nothing/being scared to try/trying while scared (the worst). Like fast food does, these types of events fuel you with motivation that exits your system just as quickly as it entered. You go to these events, return from them, and nothing changes. Similarly, I’ve been to JavaOne and the Colorado Software Summit, where you binge on a buffet of cool-sounding technologies, and you return to the same non-sexy, PB&J technology base once you get back to work.

RailsConf 2008 was not like these other conferences. Was it the size (around 2000)? The last JavaOne I attended had over 14,000 attendees. No, it was the people. While I did meet a fair number of fellow visitors from Corporate Java land, it was inspiring to see hacker/entrepreneurial/independent consultant/startup individuals all over the OCC. I was sitting at lunch the first day and a Rails specialist from Australia introduced himself to the guy to his right and found out that the guy wrote a GEM/library that he had used successfully in one of his projects (something about queues). I loved seeing the GEM author just light up, upon meeting one of his users/fans.

Since I wasn’t there to learn Advanced Active Record voodoo, but to be inspired so I could learn enough to learn the voodoo, I went to sessions where the Rails wouldn’t be over my head.

I loved the Lightning talks, even though I attended only one of them. It was kind of like Showtime at the Apollo but with hacking as the only talent and minus the heckling/negative audience feedback. Earfl gave an amazing demo. They created a bare scaffold Rails project for a restaurant listing site, added a listing, and asked the audience to call the 800 number + VMB that the Earfl gem auto-magically made appear on the restaurant’s page. A minute or so later, they refreshed the page. And played one of the voicemails “Lunch was sooooo good”. Wow. I would have gone to the third day’s Lightning Talks but I decided to attend CodeGear’s 3rd Rail session (because the offer of the $400 software would help offset my costs of paying my own way to RailsConf). It finally hit me the other day why 3rd Rail was a clever name for an IDE (especially one competing against the legions of TextMate editor users).

I was impressed by the level of confidence of the panelists at the Profitable Programmer session. It seemed as if these people knew what they were going to do and adjusted their course, as needed. Afterwards, as I was walking out, I told someone this and he said one of the panelists, in the few years he has know him, has always been uber confident and relaxed.

I thought Joel’s keynote was a little too humorous and relied on a lengthy set piece (the MS install) but he made us laugh, and I learned about misattribution. I grew to enjoy Kent Beck’s fireplace-style, storytelling keynote. Classic understatement [birth of unit testing) “I have this class with twenty methods. Maybe you can use it”. I liked how DHH pushed the idea of investing in yourself. He is a rock-star and not just the awesome yellow-shoes. I believe Adam Key’s “Oh the Fail I’ve Known” was the best session, for me personally. I’ll try to impart the gist/importance of his talk in a separate post.

Whether from lack of Rails knowledge or plain initiative, I did not network as much as I could have. I skipped out on the parties. It was nice to see Rails entpreneurs networking. The final afternoon, when I was taking pictures of the RailsConf message board with my iPhone in an ill-fated attempt to create a collage/Flash app to preserve the message board in interactive format, I heard two freelancers talking about freelancing. How sometimes you had to dump a client like you had to dump a girlfriend. Feast or famine.

RailsConf 2008 was not a flash-in-the-pan for me. I am going to slide down and get back up and climb up the Ruby/Ruby on Rails learning curve.

Written by kleeruby1

June 4, 2008 at 6:31 pm

Posted in Programming

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