RubyConf 2009 Recap

Tony Pitale, Former Viget

Article Category: #Code

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I was one of the fortunate few able to snag a coveted ticket for RubyConf 2009. The conference was excellent. The talks were some of the most information-rich and inspiring I have seen. I would like to share my reaction to a few of my favorite presentations, as well as the evening events. If you too were able to attend, please share your thoughts in the comments, or better still, on SpeakerRate. If you were not able to attend and have a question about one talk or another, please feel encouraged to ask in the comments.

Favorite Presentations

Jim Weirich

Prior to RubyConf I’ve only ever been able to see Jim Weirich speak on video. Even in that medium, Jim is an exceptional storyteller. This talk's story was The Great Fire of London in 1666. The point of this tale was to poke fun at Agile (note the big A), but more importantly to illustrate the question “What is good design?”

Jim goes on to speak about the SOLID principles, which were created for statically typed languages. The remainder of the talk was a study of how useful these same principles are for other languages. In our case, this is Ruby.

I found Jim’s talk to be the most inspirational and one of my favorites.

Michael Dirolf

Michael Dirolf is a developer at 10gen, the sponsor of MongoDB. His presentation was about MongoDB and solidly covered the basics of usage. I’m already using MongoDB for a couple things, but I enjoyed the talk and found some new information and a little bit of inspiration for a new project idea. I hope Michael will push further into some details the next time he gives this talk, but I had a great time talking with him afterwards. Overall, I expect people were motivated enough by the talk to try out MongoDB. I encourage you to do the same thing, as it’s a great project.

Laurent Sansonetti

I’m an Apple fanboy. Let’s just get that out of the way. Prior to chatting with Laurent about a personal project at RubyConf, I had only contacted Laurent via Twitter with questions on MacRuby. Laurent is one of the most talented, yet humble, rubyists I have ever met. Laurent gave a solid presentation of MacRuby’s abilities, some of the underlying technology, and where the project is headed. He even gave a nice demo of a MacRuby Twitter application, despite internet troubles (and a suggestion to tether to an iPhone). Although MacRuby is one of the numerous specialized ruby implementations, I think it resonates with the many rubyists who use Apple computers.

Tom Preston-Warner

Tom Preston-Warner, a.k.a., mojombo, of the über-talented GitHub Team spoke about BERT (Binary ERlang Term) and the RPC protocol and server he built with it. The talk had great information about the specification for BERT and the protocol, but it also had a message of experimentation, with some of Tom’s guidelines tacked on. I’m not sure if this approach was effective. His message encouraging rubyists to experiment came across in many ways as pontification. I hope attendees were generally able to look past this to absorb the quality message and all of the great information Tom presented.

Worst Ideas Ever

The final talk I attended, and the hands-down funniest presentation I (or anyone else I spoke with) had ever seen, was co-presented by Ryan Davis and Aaron Patterson. The talk was not about poorly designed or built software, but rather, about software for which the idea or impetus was an “abomination.” The talk culminated with a presentation of Phuby on Phails (the ‘ph’ is from PHP). Need I say more?

After Hours

Github Meetup

After first day of the conference presentations, there was an evening GitHub meetup at a fantastic bar called Zeitgeist in downtown San Francisco. It was an excellent choice for venue, with a great beer selection and a really cool outside area. Thankfully, the area was large enough to hold the multitude of attendees who came from the conference. I was lucky enough to have some good conversations with a number of people. I spent most of my time chatting with some of the folks from Planet Argon (great meeting you all) before taking the BART and a taxi back to the conference hotel with some nice developers from Canada.

Startup Crawl

On Friday night after the conference, Ben Scofield, Anthony Eden, and around a thousand (no exaggeration) other people went on the Startup Crawl. Startup Crawl was organized by Jim Meyer of Scribd. I only managed to make it to 6 or 7 startups before the final buses headed back to the hotel. Scribd (where we started) was a very impressive space, as was EngineYard. Most of the other offices were smaller than these two, but for good reason. All in all, it was a great way to spend an evening.


The conference as a whole was excellent, well run, with great presentations. Of note was the distribution of Poken to trade contact information among conference attendees. I hope more conferences do this. This was a fantastic solution to the problem that I had, as usual, forgotten to bring more than three business cards. It was great meeting everyone.

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