RailsConf Europe notes

I attended RailsConf Europe 2007 in Berlin last week. This has already been blogged to death I suppose, but here’s my take on a few items:

Bratwurst on Rails

The local Berlin ruby brigade organized this event; The night before the conference began, over 400 rails nerds gathered to eat freshly-made sausage and drink beer. This was a great way to start things off, I had lots of interesting conversations with a variety of people.

Networking, in general

All throughought the 3+ days I was there, I had the opportunity to meet and speak to so many people doing so many interesting things. Anywhere you turned, you could find people ready and willing to strike up a conversation about rails, programming in general, business strategies, or anything else you might think of. This was just a great, friendly crowd to hang out with. Extra props to Thoughtworks for picking up the tab for everyone to get a beer or two at the hotel bar one evening!


There was lots of emphasis on JRuby. Thoughtworks and others are pushing JRuby on Rails as an easy way to get Rails into the enterprise, since you can deploy on any standard Java app server; Sun includes support for JRuby (as well as normal Ruby) in NetBeans; and Ola Bini’s new book on the topic has just hit the shelves, and there’s a lot of interest and potential in JRuby overall. But at the same time, I’m somewhat skeptical of Sun’s involvement. It seems great that they’re embracing JRuby, but hopefully they won’t somehow turn it into the sort of bloated mess that Java has become. And frankly, I’m not convinced that the Java app server stack isn’t a part of the IT bloatware beast that Thoughtworks’ own Cyndi Mitchell was railing against during her short talk.


This was a hoot. The idea is that any presentation that had been rejected by the conference organizers, plus anything else that anyone wanted to present, could be shown in a severely time-limited format (20 seconds per slide). Lots of interesting presentations, in a short time and fun, friendly atmosphere. Unfortunately the venue was a little too small, it was tough to get close enough to be able to see and hear much, but hey.


Throughout the conference (including RejectConf), the presentations that were the most consistently funny and entertaining, while remaining informative and valuable, were almost always led by Australians. Make of that what you will.

The occasional bad presentation

I’m not going to name names here. But one presentation, held on the final day, was really a waste. The guy started off by telling us that some time after his topic was approved for the conference, further development of the topic revealed to him that what he was going to present really wasn’t working out that well in practice. Now this could have been interesting in and of itself, to see in detail how a seemingly-sound concept breaks down when pushed a bit farther. Instead of that, however, the audience were treated to a lot of hand-waving and disclaimers of “I’m not going to show you the code because it won’t work for you anyway”. When there was still half an hour of time left, he was completely out of material and stopped; At that point, at least a third of the audience had already given up and left.

DHH Keynote

I don’t think I’m going out on a limb if I say that DHH’s public speaking is known for balancing a fine line between self-confidence and arrogance. I think this one was edging towards the latter. Sure, it’s great to hear that Rails 2.0 is approaching quickly, etc, but the part of the speech where he was proclaiming that the Rails revolution is already over, we’ve won, and now we can rest on our laurels and “enjoy Rails”? I think he’s putting the cart before the horse. Maybe DHH is at this point surrounded by so many yes-men that to him, Rails seems like it’s truly the only game in town, but in reality it can still go so much farther, be applied to so many areas, that it strikes me as premature to proclaim victory. In some places and markets, Rails is still a very difficult sell; In Stockholm where I live, for example, as far as I can tell most of the big consulting firms that have dipped a toe into Rails development have had a really hard time making inroads into the Swedish enterprise market.