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The Mega RailsConf 2009 Round Up

By Peter Cooper / May 12, 2009

A week ago, RailsConf 2009 kicked off in Las Vegas. As usual, it didn't fall short on drama, interesting sessions, and inspiration for the 1000+ attendees. This post is an after-event summary and long-term source of links to the best RailsConf 2009 related content found so far (a bit like our mega RailsConf 2008 round up post). If you have anything to add, post a comment and it might even be added to the post!


Rails Magazine Special Edition: Issue #2 of the Rails Magazine is a special edition dedicated to RailsConf 2009. The PDF edition is free but you can also buy a print copy. There are a couple of articles and interviews with Geoffrey Grosenbach, Ryan Bates, and Ben Johnson.

RailsConf 2009 Notes: Nick Quaranto live blogged throughout the conference, resulting in 16 awesome posts covering the talks that Nick managed to get to.

Tutorials Day Video: Gregg Pollack of RailsEnvy made a video capturing some of the atmosphere of the tutorial day (Monday).

Tuesday Video: Gregg Pollack returns with a video covering Tuesday, specifically asking attendees to recommend a gem, plugin, or library that they've used in the past few months. My choice was Chronic but I had trouble thinking on the spot and I'd probably say Nokogiri now ;-)

Wednesday Video: Gregg Pollack concludes with a video for Wednesday. He asked attendees what they'd learned at the event.

RailsConf 2009 Dictionary: Christian Neukirchen put together a Devil's RailsConf 2009 Dictionary to summarize his thoughts and opinions on the RailsConf 2009 goings on. Fun reading.

RailsConf 2009 Day One by Solomon White: Solomon White of wrote a comprehensive summary of day one of RailsConf. Quite a lot of detail. There's a similar post for day two, too.


Photos: James Duncan Davidson took a selection of photos of RailsConf and put them on Flickr. Oddly, they're not Creative Commons licensed so I'm not sure whether you can do anything useful with them, but they're pretty to look at anyway. If you're aching for more, there's an even bigger set to check out.

RailsConf Community on Blip.TV:> A collection of videos taken at RailsConf and placed on for public viewing, including that of Jake Scrubb's "Using metric_fu To Make Your Rails Code Better."

Presentation Files: O'Reilly has released the presentation files from most of the presentations given at RailsConf this year. A lot of it doesn't make sense without the more physical aspects of the presentation but it's worth a browse for code examples and diagrams.

Presentation Files on Scribd: Scribd has also hosted many of the presentation files. I find this a better way to look through them than the O'Reilly page above.

Fabio Akita's Audio Interviews: Fabio Akita interviewed several different RailsConf attendees (Joshua Timberman, Sean Schofield, the Scout guys, James Lindenbaum, the Maglev team, and Ilya Grigorik) and published the interviews on his blog.

Keynotes / Plenaries

Opening David Heinemeier Hansson Keynote: In the opening keynote, David Heinemeier Hansson quickly covered the role of controversy in the Rails community (and its relative unimportance to other tasks) before going into a summary of five key features of the forthcoming Rails 3.0. You can watch it here.

The Tim Ferriss Q&A: Billed as a "keynote," we instead got a cosy interview between David Heinemeier Hansson and Tim Ferriss (of The 4-Hour Workweek fame). On reflection, the content wasn't too bad but the expectations and atmosphere on the day made it a total bust with hundreds of developers walking out mid-session (putting a slow interview after a 10+ hour day of sessions wasn't a wise idea). Despite that, it's not so bad to watch online. Tim covers his own path to success, how to use your time effectively and how to exercise to increase your productivity.

Chris Wanstrath (of GitHub) Keynote: I missed Chris's keynote but you can watch it here. He titled it "How To Become a Famous Ruby Rockstar or Rails Ninja" but it's partly tongue-in-cheek and moves into other territory. Nick Quaranto took notes, but these extended notes are pretty much a transcript of Chris's talk. It's totally readable without needing the video.

The Robert Martin Keynote: Everyone was pretty excited about Bob Martin's "What Killed Smalltalk Could Kill Ruby, Too" keynote after the dull Ferriss session of the previous day. It went down pretty well with Bob's proactive presentation style winning the audience over regardless of the content. Nick Quaranto took live notes.

Bob talked about language design and unfortunately compared C++ and Java as testosterone and "inspid" estrogen (he apologized). He focused heavily on testing and test-driven development and stressed that TDD has to be an absolutely essential part of Ruby development if Ruby is to not suffer the same fate as Smalltalk (which died because it was "just too easy to make a mess"). Giles Bowkett quickly called bullshit in his "What Killed Smalltalk: My Balls" argument and a discussion ensued.

The Ruby Hero Awards: John Nunemaker, Pat Allan, Aman Gupta, Luis Lavena, Dan Kubb, and Bryan Helmkamp won Ruby Hero Awards for their services to our communities over the last year. Congratulations!

The Rails Core Panel Q&A: Coming as the final session of the entire conference, the Rails Core Panel Q&A featured David Heinemeier Hansson, Yehuda Katz, Jeremy Kemper, Rick Olson, and Michael Koziarski taking questions from the audience, including "Are you guys letting Yehuda turn Rails into Drupal?" A pretty poor selection of questions overall and answers mostly orienting around "F yous" to numerous quarters.


Rubystein - A Ruby clone of Wolfenstein 3D: There's already been a post about Rubystein here on Ruby Inside, but there's also a video you can check out if you want to learn more direct from one of the developers, Ninh Bui.

Exciting Commerce Developments at RailsConf: Sean Schofield, developer of the Spree open source e-commerce system for Rails, has written about the exciting commerce developments at RailsConf 2009.

Build an App, Start a Movement: A session at RailsConf about building mini applications. An audience member took this reasonably good video of it.

The RailsConf Video Petition: On Rails Inside, I started a petition for O'Reilly to sort out proper session recordings for next year. They did a great job with the keynotes this year, but it still wasn't quite up to Confreaks' incredible standards. It found popular support and O'Reilly responded that they had heard our cries. Let's see what happens next year!


  1. Derek Kastner says:

    My wife's laptop is cranking away on encoding and uploading some more videos in its free time. I have about eight more talks coming. They're definitely not confreaks quality, but it should be enough to let you see the live coding demos and hear the audio as you follow along with the slides.

  2. rick says:

    "answers mostly orienting around "F yous" to numerous quarters." -- what?

  3. Ben Scofield says:

    I wrote a couple of summaries - one on some of the sessions I attended and participated in, and one on my conference experience as a whole.

  4. Daniel Berger says:

    As conference size increases, food quality decreases.

  5. Peter Cooper says:

    Rick: The whole "people who don't use modern browsers with JavaScript turned on" not "likely to be any use to us anyway", etc, bit was a bit of an F-you. Some of the people I spoke to immediately after thought it was an affront to people with disabilities using screen readers, etc, or old hackers using Lynx or whatever. There was also the portion about plugin developers that some on IRC seemed to interpret as a F-you to them, although I didn't really grasp this section. Some of the stuff in the alternative frameworks answer was mildly contentious too (though not on a testosterone/estrogen level ;-)) but this is what panels are all about. Still, not as productive as the awesome 2007 panel, alas.

    I'd need to watch the video of the session back again to really elaborate on any of this, but ultimately it doesn't matter because no-one is going to change their mind on anything as we learned with the drama of two weeks ago.

  6. Preston Lee says:

    Also note that there are couple audio Rubyology podcasts now available with wrap-up content and commentary.

  7. Joe Fiorini says:

    I just posted by review of Railsconf 2009. Mostly it's about how I learned about being a disciplined developer from Railsconf: Great post Peter!

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