Last weekend, I attended The Ruby Hoedown conference here in Huntsville. As a mostly .Net developer, it was refreshing going to a conference where material and ideas were presented outside of my normal habits. I've been tinkering with Ruby and Ruby on Rails for awhile now, and when I saw the conference advertised and the line-up of speakers having a couple writers and podcasters that I've been paying attention to on the fringe lately, I signed up (even though work didn't buy my excuse that a Ruby conference would contribute to my .Net skills, I still decided to sign up on my own and take a vacation day).
Overall, the presentations were very exciting from what I'm used to at software conferences or meetings, and were formed from a mix of humorous images (including Chuck Norris and various internet memes), illustrative diagrams, and even screencasts of coding embedded in the presentations.
The highlight for me was seeing the guys from the Rails Envy podcast deliver the opening keynote. Their presentation seemed to have just the right balance of content, delivery, and even entertainment. As well as the podcast, they have also produced a humorous series of parody videos comparing RoR to other web frameworks. As I'm writing this, I see that they've even posted a 10 minute summary video of the Hoedown.
Going sure didn't help my feelings of OS X envy (I've never seen so many geeks brandishing mac laptops), and I definitely feel mainstream now having an iPhone. In short, an unusually stylish and hip-geeky group compared to other conferences I've been too.
On the down side, the conference did seem a little unorganized at times, and there were slight problems with communicating the agenda and delays in presentations. Also, towards the end I felt a little fatigue with how witty the presenters were trying to be, and wished that I could see a little less funny Google image search results try to pass for presentation content.
Also, much of the content wasn't directly relevant to me, but this wasn't a negative, as the purpose of going was to see something different. Even if I only understood 50% of some talks, I'm still learning new keywords, practices, and ideas, and just seeing how everyone is using tools makes me reevaluate how I use various dev tools and even web apps.
These are just some of my general impressions, but I've taken notes from many of the presentations, and I'll be posting those over the next couple of days.