Here are the notes that I took from day 1 of the Ruby Hoedown conference. I hope I didn't misquote anyone too badly, but these are the points that stuck out to me the most.

Ruby: A Year of Innovation

Jason Seifer and Gregg Pollack

DJ Ango

Above: Jason as "DJ Ango" (in reference to the Django framework)

  • This talk is not 100% Rails (it's a Ruby conference, after all)
  • We'll be talking about several cool Ruby libraries:
  • Rack
    • Framework A --> Rack --> Web application server
    • Serves as an adapter between numerous Ruby frameworks and web servers.
  • Phusion Passenger
    • I needed a blog for my user group.
    • I chose TextDrive for hoster, and it was painful.
    • Switched to DreamHost, but it turned out to be HellHost.
    • Was too slow, needed something more powerful, but wait - it's just a freakin' blog!
    • Phusion Passenger came out (and it's compatible with Rack!) so you can use it with any framework (not just Rails).
  • Github
    • What do you get when you mix SourceForge with Facebook? [Some people from the audience yell] GitHub! [I think one of said people was Chris Wanstrath, a co-creator of GitHub]
    • Features include Hardcore Forking Action!
    • GitHub is more than a year old, but it's adoption has taken off in the past year.
    • Many well-known projects, such as Rails itself, are now hosted there.
    • [I've been hearing so much about Git, it reminds me that I really, really need to get out of my SourceSafe and Subversion habits and try a distributed version control system like Git or Mercurial]
  • Ruby EventMachine
    • Event processing library.
    • Like Twisted for Python, Apache Mina for Java, and Poe for Perl
    • You can do this stuff with threads, but its slow (and potentially deadlock dangerous).
    • Evented Mongrel took EventMachine and applied it to Mongrel, but there's a catch - EventMachine is best for fast requests that aren't long-running.
    • Recently built into Merb.
    • Use like so: deferred_requests["/uploads", "/long_process"]
    • Other alternatives: Thin, Ebb, and Starling.
  • Redmine
    • For awhile, Trac was the only good project management application.
    • Redmine is a project management app written in Rails.
  • Pool Party
    • Cloud EC2 computing made easy.
  • make_resourceful
    • Scaffolds make it easy to generate data access code, but much of the code is duplicated.
    • Helps to eliminate duplicate code from scaffolding.
  • Various screencast series have launched
    • Railscasts
    • Peepcode
    • Pragmatic Programmers screencasts
    • And soon.... EnvyCasts!
  • Hpricot
    • doc ="") and then work on the doc object.
  • Juggernaut
    • Server push with Rails (uses Flash)
  • Praun
    • Ruby PDF generation
  • Capistrano
    • Deployments made easy
  • Ruby Virtual Machines
    • JRuby for the Java VM
    • IronRuby for .Net
  • Skynet
    • Clones Google's map reduce functionality
  • DataFabric
    • Allows DB sharding for scalability
  • merb
    • Everything that Rails isn't
    • Lightweight, JavaScript library agnostic, DB access agnostic, but still with a strong set of defaults
  • Sinatra
    • Very lightweight web app development.
    • Hello world web app in Sinatra:
      require "sinatra"
      get "/" do
          "Hello world

The Future is Now: Leveraging the Cloud with Ruby

Robery Dempsey
  • I'm angry because people say Rails can't scale.
  • What is scalability? The ability to expand gracefully under load.
  • What do you need?
    • Servers
    • Storage
    • Access to other utilities
    • Not have to buy everything up front.
    • Can you do that with Ruby? Of course! ... that's the cloud
  • Other ways other than using cloud computing.
    • High availability cluster. A set of servers that constantly ping each other. If one goes down, then another takes over.
    • Load balancing cluster. A routing mechanism directs traffic to various servers based on load.
    • Grid. A loosely coupled group of servers
  • A Gartner study says that by 2011, startup companies will start buying a significant portion of their infrastructure on demand.
  • Amazon EC2. Neat, but you need to build reliability in yourself. I've had EC2 instances vaporized upon restart. If this is the only copy of your server, you're screwed.
  • There are alternatives to manual Amazon EC2:
    • Morph
      • Uses EC2, but has a custom, rigid deployment mechanism.
      • Doesn't even allow file-level access.
    • RightScale
      • Lots of configuration options.
      • $2,500 setup, $500/month plus Amazon fees.
    • Heroku
      • Free (for now!)
      • Later, will be charged based on... units of work kinda... (it's sketchy)
      • Everything is done in the browser
      • Automatic scaling
      • Work locally, then deploy
    • PoolParty
      • Uses an Ubuntu EC2 AMI (Amazon machine image)
      • Not production ready
    • Scalr
    • ElasticRails
  • So, if you go straight with EC2 yourself, a standard EC2 deployment will cost $432 for a good-sized app.
  • And you have to do a lot of configuration yourself.
  • His suggestion of 3rd party tools (from cheapest to most expensive and scalable):
    1. Morph
    2. Scalr
    3. RightScale
  • There are Ruby libraries to interact with various Amazon services such EC2, S3, SimpleDB, and SQS.
  • [There was a comment from the audience about a problem having mail sent from Amazon serves flagged as spam]
  • [There was another comment wishing that IT department would embrace cloud computing more]

Mock Dialogue: Conversations on Testing and Mocking

Joe O'Brien & Jim Weirich
  • [Acted a scripted simulation of two developers working through difficult testing and mocking scenarios]
  • Concept of a fluent interface. Like in jQuery:
    // hide all the labels inside the form with the 'optional' class
    // add a red border to any password fields in the form
    .find('input:password').css('border', '1px solid red').end()
    // add a submit handler to the form
    return confirm('Are you sure you want to submit?');
  • Mentioned Psychology of Builds article. The frequency of build or test runs drop dramatically when builds last longer than 30 seconds.
  • Michael Feathers guidelines for unit tests.
  • [This format of presentation seems to take you along lines of a conversation that I wouldn't necessarily go, but still, the style is differentl]
  • Difference between stubs and mocks: stubs fake objects that can give you data back, mocks are a little more involved.
  • Flexmock and Mocha mock frameworks for Ruby
  • Mocks still need to be supplemented with system tests that test the whole stack.

Ruby Best Practice Patterns

Rein Henrichs
  • Best practices are a current understanding, and they do change.
  • Now, for a little introduction / diversion...
  • The Developers Dilemma - job security decreases as code maintainability increases.
  • So, to guard against this... Unfactoring!
  • Taking well-designed code and purposefully making it obscure to insure job security.
  • "Decomposing" methods. Naming methods incorrectly, even using Pig Latin, or other obfuscation techniques.
  • But seriously, on to the real talk...
  • Composed methods - try keeping methods small.
  • Kent Beck - Smalltalk Best Practices
  • Execution around method pattern
    • How can I ensure 2 things happen? (ex: I want to open a file and ensure that it closes)
    • around_filter in Rails
    • Wrap an object in a block to make sure it has been completely initialized and uninitialized.
    • [The "using" keyword in C#]
  • Sharing objects with multiple lines in a method. Pass variable into an initializer, initialize other temp variables and have them as shared variables within the class.
  • I urge people to look into Ruby libraries or various open source projects for examples of pattern usage. Ask yourself why the writers did something in a certain way.
  • Be aware when code doesn't feel right to you.
  • Code should be fun to write and read.
  • [Comment from David Black about the idea of taste and readability. Some things he's seen that people describe as readable don't seem readable to him. Rein responds that it's a valid point; people have different tastes in music, but still humans can generally agree on what harmony is and what scales we use.]
  • [Another commenter stated that it's important to separate generic patterns from Ruby idioms.]

Lightning Talks

  • PJ Davis
    • Web interface for God system monitoring tool
  • Brian Lyles
    • Test all the fucking time!
    • Become obsessed with testing.
    • I write code to make my specs turn green.
    • Various tools:
      • TestSpec
      • Shoulda
      • Mspec
      • Cucumber
    • Do not imitate the old masters, seek what they sought.
    • Is there every a time when you shouldn't test? Yes, when you're not coding. If it works without tests, it works by accident.
  • Yousseff Mendelsohn
    • "Truthy" gem package for Ruby. Helps to ease confusing true and false evaluations in Ruby.
    • Usage: variable.truthy?
    • Only nil and false are false in Ruby. Really. That's it. Stop looking.
  • Another guy
    • Making charts with Google Charts
    • gchartruby library


Chris Wanstrath
  • No slides, I will just read an essay.
  • In the future, Ruby will be more popular.
  • People will wax philosophic about the old days of Smalltalk (when they've never actually done Smalltalk).
  • The suits will come down upon us, but hopefully Ruby will stay good.
  • [His talk is well-written, but quoted Wikipedia too much for my taste, and without visual slides and little content, the majority of it fell flat on me.]
  • PHP has a ton of helpful methods (aka a shotgun blast of functions in the global namespace).
  • I haven't made a ton of money directly from open source software, but I have gotten a lot of work indirectly from it and through my reputation gained from working on open source.
  • You need to work on a side project.
  • But, you say you don't have the time?
    • Stop reading RSS feeds, and instead rely on aggregation sites or speakers to give you the really important news.
    • Rely on people to filter for you.
  • But what if people don't like it, it's already been done, or it's stupid??
  • Forget it, just do a side project that you love.