Tuesday, February 15, 2011

MagicRuby Roundup

Last week, I attended the MagicRuby conference in Orlando.  Aside from all the content in the talks, I learned three important things:
  1. Rubyists are always trying something new and interesting.
  2. Disney World is a great place to hold a conference.
  3. Orlando has a fun and enthusiastic Ruby community!
I saw a lot of great talks at this conference.  I'm attempting to condense 30+ pages of notes into only the most important information.  I'll tell you (a) where to find slides/video, (b) who I think should check out each talk, and (c) what I think the most important points are.

This doesn't include every talk, but it includes most of them.


Cultivating Cucumber  (Slides)
Les Hill, Hashrocket

Who should check it out?
  • Developers interested in improving TDD and BDD practices.  
  • Developers unsure of whether to use Cucumber.
Short take:
  • Great summary of the features of cucumber:  Hooks, tags, steps, and more!
  • Good explanation of Cucmber's strengths (like the use of natural langage) and its weaknesses (like the need to maintain all those regexes)
  • Good discussion of best practices for organizing and refactoring cucumber suites.
  • I wish there was more discussion about the types of projects where cucumber is most useful.


Geospacing Your Ruby (Slides)
Peter Jackson, Intridea

Who should check it out?
  • Developers of spatially-enabled apps
  • Developers working in government, urban planning or environmental modeling.
  • Database Administrators (for those of you in the enterprise)
  • Geography/map buffs.
Short take:
  • Great overview of spatial terms, geometry, map types, etc.
  • Great overview of existing database and front-end tools for spatially-enabled apps.
  • Good suggestions for interesting spatial data to model and useful ways of displaying it.


Loving your Customers, Loving your Peers (No slides available)
Alan Johnson, Carsonified

Who should check it out?
  • Technical people who deal directly with customers
  • People who want to improve the reputation of the Ruby community
Short take:
  • A "feel good" presentation, rife with humorous anecdotes and pop culture references.
  • A good reality check for developers who are quickly dismissive of non-ruby technologies, Microsoft, etc.
  • Lots of great suggestions on how to treat customers better, how to empathize with customers, and how to enjoy your job more.


Code is not Enough (No slides available)
Gregg Pollack / Caike Souza, EnvyLabs

Who should check it out?
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Freelancers
  • Software development shop owners
  • Employees of small companies
Short take:
  • Good commentary on many important engineering management concepts:  Setting expectations, delegating tasks, etc.
  • A good discussion on software development as a craft vs an art.
  • Good suggestions for developers, like "don't be afraid to ask for help" and advice on how to "get in the zone" while programming.
  • Great advice on creating a culture of learning at your organization (especially the "book club" suggestion)
  • Good insight into effective networking and "making friends rather than sales"
  • Asserted that developing a product for another company is more difficult than developing and launching your own product (I don't necessarily agree)


Exceptional Ruby (Slides and More)
Avdi Grimm

Who should check it out?
  • Just about any Ruby developer.
Short take:
  • Good review of exception syntax and handling in Ruby.
  • Great discussion on when to use exceptions in the first place ("exceptions are for exceptional situations")
  • Review of many design techniques for handling and managing exceptions
  • Reviewed some common software design pitfalls related to exceptions.


What happened to Desktop Development in Ruby? (blog post)
Andy Maleh, Obtiva

Who should check it out?
  • Developers interested in desktop applications
  • Developers interested in the current state of desktop application programming in Ruby.
Short take:
  • Great review of current desktop development frameworks:  shoes, wxWidgets, Limelight, Glimmer
  • Excelent insight into what's wrong and what's right with each framework.
  • Great perspective on what makes a well-designed desktop app framework.


Keynote (No Slides Available)
Dave Thomas, Pickaxe Author

Who should check it out?
  • Dave Thomas fans
  • Project managers and developers looking to improve software development methodologies.
Short take:
  • Great review of what it really means to practice "agile" development.
  • Insightful  recursive algorithm for software development:  Where do we want to be?  Where are we now?  How do we improve our position? Repeat. 
  • Good use of a one-wheel balancing robot as a metaphor for prioritizing and executing incremental software changes.
  • Advocated the "ten second audit" for developers:  Why am I doing this?  Does it have to be done this way?  Does it have to be done at all?
  • Insightful, humorous commentary on overzealous cucumber evangelists and constantly-changing tools in the Ruby community. 


Crank up your Apps with Torquebox (Slides and Video)
Jim Crossley, Red Hat

Who should check it out?
  • Enterprise developers who want to work with Ruby but must develop in a Java ecosystem
  • Developers challenged with building scalable, distributed web applications.
Short take:
  • Good overview of everything Torquebox:  Configuration, JBoss, messaging, queues, processors, services, scaling techniques, and more.
  • Good discussion of use-cases for Torquebox, its performance, and potential future changes.


How I Lerned to Stop Worrying and Love the Cloud (Slides)
Wesley Beary, Engine Yard

Who should check it out?
  • Developers currently using or interested in cloud-based infrastructure.
  • Anyone overwhelmed by the choice of cloud providers.
Short take:
  • Great overview of Fog, a vendor-agnostic cloud interface that works with many popular providers, such as EC2 and Rackspace.
  • Discusses many good use-cases for Fog.
  • Helpful, tutorial-style explanation of how to use Fog to interface with a cloud provider.


Documentation is Freaking Awesome (Slides and More)
Kyle Neath, Github

Who should check it out?
  • Open-source authors.
  • Any developer who might, at some point in the future, hand off their project to someone else.  :)
Short take:
  • Very straightforward, "common-sense" talk about why documentation will help your project.
  • Discussed many useful ways to improve documentation, covering everything from the README to RDoc to Yard to "Having an awesome web page."

Please let me know if there are any errors, of if you can point me to any slides that are currently missing!


Avdi Grimm said...

Thanks for the link, glad you got something from the talk!

Rob said...

When I click on the Cultivating Cucumber's Slides link I get a 404 error.

Mike Leone said...

Rob: Thanks for the heads up. Fixed.