Rails Conf 2012 – Thoughts

This year was my first RailsConf. For those that don’t know, RailsConf is “THE” Rails conference that brings people in from around the world. It features keynotes & focused talks by the brightest stars in the Rails universe. It’s story time. 🙂

Before this point, I’ve only watched keynotes like these:

… and so on & so on.

Sentiments like “I love Ruby”, “Impossible is a relative thing”, “We’re going to make rails faster by reducing the stack”, “We’re all awesome in our own way” are all over these videos.

This year’s first 2 keynotes had a very different tone. For starters, DHH’s talk was about “the skeptical developer” & “progress” and had the following points in it:

  • Don’t be afraid of change
  • Don’t overreact to change
  • Life will change
  • Rails will change

…and this point was really hammered home when DHH everyone to read his final slide aloud, mantra-style:

“I will not fear change, I will not fight progress”

I realized the decisions like the asset pipeline & defaulting coffee script but not defaulting haml have been controversial. I can understand where he’s coming from. I also understand some of his responsibilities as the creator of Rails to ensure that people are serious about the platform and where it’s heading.

Though I was excited to see DHH, I was really excited about seeing Aaron Patterson’s keynote. I mean, did you see the “Double Dream Hands” video from last year? This year, Aaron’s talk was way more serious and ended with a slide that simply said:

“We need to be prepared”

I don’t know if you follow Aaron on twitter, @tenderlove btw, but it seemed like a large departure from his standard jovial self. I mean, this is the #fridayhug guy! In December of 2011, the Rails blog stated that the intent for Rails 4 (R4) is a smoother transition than upgrading to Rails 3 (R3). So far things like strong parameters & using patch for updates doesn’t seem that scary, but the RailsConf keynotes would have you believe that something is on the horizon in R4 that might be a litte shocking.

Even if the changes in R4 are large departures, they’ll take us to places we want to (or perhaps need to) be. In addition, the existence of R4 doesn’t undo the great framework that R3 has become. Josh Susser (@joshsusser; one of the @rubyrogues and all around great guy) has a really good & concise slide deck on prudence in which he says:

“I have a limited budget for risk in my projects [&] I hate having other people spend my risk budget for me”

I completely agree with Josh. Fortunately, even though my production budget is super tight, my “personal time” budget has wiggle room. When R4 comes out, I’m not going to flip our production servers to it on the first day. I WILL, however, start using it ASAP in personal projects. I’ll also soak up resources from RailsCasts & Destroy All Software. Basically I’ll do what I’ve always done to stay current. Thousands of other Rails developers will be doing the same. Rails is an exciting and moves fast and we’re all on board.

The second day of RailsConf had an impromptu panel which featured Aaron Patterson, Yehuda Katz(@wycats), Santiago Pastorino(@spastorino), & Jim Weirich(@jimweirich). The serious tone of the keynotes had time to marinate inside me. When Even Phoenix (@evanphx; this years MC) opened the floor for questions, I stepped up to find out what happened to Aaron & the keynote.

When I finally got my chance to ask my question, my fandom started bleeding through my words. I’m a fan of everyone sitting on the panel who make it possible for me to do what I do. I’m a fan of RailsConf & how much I knowledge I’m taking back home with me. Most importantly, I’m a fan of the rails community and how empowered I feel to be a part of it.

If I had the moment to do over again, I’d have reminded Aaron that we’re all here to work together. I’d also toss in a line like “Change isn’t bad news, it’s just new. New things can rock too”. I’ll have to hope my hug said it all. 🙂

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