Some thoughts on RubyConf India 2011

I was thrilled to be able to attend RubyConf India once again this year, both as a speaker and as a fan of the local Bangalore Ruby user community. Herein, some belated impressions.

First and foremost, a big thank-you to the organizers. The whole thing was put together extremely well and went off without a hitch. I was also taken good care of as a speaker. Thanks guys!

Because I was preparing one-and-a-half talks myself, I spent a lot of my time practicing and polishing my slides, so I didn’t get to really attend as many sessions as I’d have liked, or give my full attention to those I did attend. But I do want to mention one talk in particular that I really enjoyed: I managed to make it to Janmejay Singh and Pavan K Sudarshan’s talk on Test Load Balancer which, while a little bit heavy on bullet points, went really deep into the technical end of the spectrum. The conference needed more talks like it.

The reviews I heard were a bit mixed on the content of the talks themselves. Many of them stayed towards the shallow end of the spectrum, which is a problem that I’m afraid my own talks probably contributed to. I think that conferences and communities tend to oscillate; in a growth year, people who are new to the technology complain that the talks are too deep and the community too narrow, and once the community is more mature people complain the talks aren’t quite techie enough.

If the complaints veered towards “too shallow” this year I think that’s great news; people are hungry for more! A major goal for the India Ruby community in the coming year should be focusing on encouraging hackers and speakers at the local user-group level that can put together a kickass program in 2012.

One thing that might have helped the problem would have been to offer birds-of-a-feather sessions or lightning talks, or even plain old hack sessions. The venue for the conference, the Royal Orchid Hotel in Bangalore, doesn’t really have any side rooms or areas for breaking sessions—there are two conference rooms separated by, well, the rest of the hotel, including the lobby—so I understand that making this happen would have been difficult. Still, it’s something I think would make a great addition to the program next year.

As for my own contribution, the first talk was titled Ruby Plus Rails Plus Your Application Minus Rails, in which I wanted to discuss the pieces of an application that Rails doesn’t cover. This amounted to haranguing people into learning Ruby a little bit better and testing more, and introduced a couple of patterns; and while those are, I think, both worthy rants, it didn’t deliver the kind of technical punch that it should have, and for that I apologize. Here’s that presentation:

Finally, my friend Srushti Ambekallu and I co-presented a talk on Continuous Delivery in Ruby. We had a ton of fun delivering this talk and I think it showed. I’m a maintainer of CruiseControl.rb, a continuous integration server, and Srushti is working on another CI server called Goldberg, and that made for a healthy and (I hope) entertaining rivalry, and in our attempt to explain the reasoning and history behind CD we intentionally adopted extreme stances on testing and deployment, and allowed the content to flow from there. This also didn’t go into a huge amount of technical depth, but I hope at least people had a good time. Here are the slides for that:

I’d like to close by mentioning how much fun I had and how privileged I feel to be able to come out to Bangalore, which I miss, and spend a few days with the community there. Thanks to the sponsors, especially those folks I met at Castle Rock, Heurion, and the Best Banner winners, Multuuuuuuuuuuuunus; my employer, ThoughtWorks, for their tremendous support of both me and the India Ruby community, and my friends at C42 for an always-warm welcome. See you in 2012!

Five Ways to Speed Up Your Database-Backed Rails Test Suite

Everyone's an Idiot Some of the Time