blowmage A Mike Moore joint

RailsConf 2006: Day 1

Here are my notes from Day 1. The word of the day was "deployment". One of the reasons I'm attending RailsConf is to be considered hip and influential by those around me, but the *other* reason is to learn how to better deploy Rails apps. It looks like I'm not alone, as many of the sessions seem to touch on deployment in some way.

Dave Thomas's opening keynote kicked the conference off with a terrific look at three areas that the Rails community should address to help Rails continue to gain market and mind share: improve ActiveRecord to make better use of database features, improve scaffolding to make it usable and pretty for more complex models (kinda like TurboGears?), and improving deployment so that the various responsibilities in deployment can be delivered by more than one person. Not all developers have full access to their production machines, which is one of the areas Capistrano breaks down. Dave's vision and common sense was on full display, and his message was simple: Rails needs to see wider adoption because *all* developers deserve to be happy.

Mike Clark's Capistrano overview was excellent as well. And his session was packed. He presented the basics of Capistrano and showed real affection for it. Its too bad Jamis isn't here to take the deserved applause for creating such a wonderful tool. I'm looking forward to attending more sessions about deployment.

As Bob Silva said, if you were stuck in the next session you know who you are.

I attended the Identity/OpenID session next. I didn't realize it was a Verisign product. The first half was very much like Dick Hardt's Identity 2.0 presentation, while the second half was a quick demo showing how easy it was to start using OpenID plugins in Rails. I'm very interested in offloading the user creation experience to a third party, but there seem to be many holes in OpenID that I'm not sure its worth it yet. But I did get a t-shirt out of it. :) Cote has an excellent review of the advantages and disadvantages of the various identity standards.

Geoffrey Grosenbach of the Ruby on Rails Podcast gave a great session on deploying to shared hosts. He covered some of the design choices you can make to fit better into the shared hosting model. He said what we were all thinking, that Typo wasn't designed and for the most part isn't a good fit on a shared host. (I've really got to get around to writing my way out of Typo.) He also covered some common configuration settings for Capistrano's recipe files. Although he didn't cover it, he did mention that some folks are using Mongrel in leu of FastCGI when running on Apache. He said that it wasn't quite ready for prime time yet, but I'll have to check that out.

Martin Fowler gave the first of two closing Keynotes. He just stood up there and talked. No slides. Martin is one of my heros, and one of the reasons I love being here is because I get to meet and chat with folks like him and Dave Thomas and Chad Fowler and ... He spoke on what it is about Rails that interested him, seeing as he hasn't ever actually used it. I see him as the surrogate grand father of Rails because of the influence his Enterprise Patterns and Practices book had on DHH when he was creating Rails. The name Active Record came from that book. I have lots of notes from his keynote that I will post separately.

Paul Graham also delivered his keynote without slides. He read a very good essay about how great ideas and innovation often come from the marginalized. In many ways it is an advantage to be an outsider rather than an insider. Here are a couple good quotes:

You're on the right track when people complain you're unqualified or what you're doing is "inappropriate".

Why and his band took the stage next and delivered a great show. This is the first time I've gotten to see the Thirsty Cups and it was everything I expected. Although I think there are a number of folks here who love Rails but don't really understand Ruby and were lost during Why's show. But maybe that was the point? Either way there was way too much in the show to give it proper coverage here, so I won't even try. I can say that I look forward to see them perform again.