RailsConf ’07 wrap up

Portland is rapidly fading into the distance as I fly back towards Raleigh. I’ve enjoyed the past six days immensely. The Ruby/Rails community continues to surprise me with its passion, dedication, and downright uber-geekiness. The highlight of the conference for me was the time spent between talks and during meals, sharing ideas and experiences with other developers. I’m totally worn out now, but I’m already looking forward to next year’s Conf.

Not everything was peachy keen, though. There are several things that bothered me about the Conf this year…

  • For the first time at an international Ruby/Rails event, there seemed to be a fairly strong vendor presence. Several of the talks were marked “Product/Services” which I took to mean that a particular product was being promoted during the talk, as opposed to the talk being purely about Ruby/Rails. Even a few of the keynotes overemphasized a current product or company. All purely my opinion, though. The vendor presence certainly wasn’t as in-your-face annoying as it can get at conferences like Java One, but it was no NFJS either.
  • Most of the talks seemed pretty basic compared to last year. It would be nice if, in the future, talks were marked beginner/advanced as necessary. When I submitted my proposal, I was required to specify the target audience for the talk. I’m not sure why O’Reilly didn’t include this information in the conference material.
  • Overall quality of the speakers wasn’t as good as last year. I’d say about half of the talks I attended were given by speakers who either didn’t fully prepare their material, or just weren’t very experienced at delivering a presentation that would keep the audience tuned in. It’s almost as if speakers need to go through
  • some vetting process in the future before being allowed to speak at the conference.
  • Some of the staff (would you call them ushers?) seemed to be somewhat paranoid about where people sat or stood in each room. They didn’t want anyone sitting if they didn’t have a chair, and they didn’t let anyone stand in the doorways. This is a stark contrast to last year when some talks packed the geeks in like sardines. I’m not sure if the staff belongs to the convention center or O’Reilly. I can understand mandating a certain level of safety, but what they were imposing was unreal.
  • There was much more profanity used by the speakers this year. I’m dissapointed about this because it reflects badly on the Ruby/Rails community as a whole.

For balance, here are some things I really enjoyed…

  • Dave Thomas’ keynote. As always, he gave a talk that was fascinating and relevant. Even though I had heard a good portion of the material he delivered at NFJS last year, he still kept my attention.
  • DHH’s keynote was, in my opinion, far better than the keynote he gave last year, and another highlight of the conference for me. It’s interesting to see what’s coming in Rails 2.0, and I’m relieved that another large feature like REST isn’t in the pipeline.
  • The Oregon Convention Center was fabulous. It’s got to be one of the largest convention centers I’ve ever been in. The facilities people were just awesome. They had the rooms partitioned off in a matter of minutes after a keynote, and had the partitions stowed away just as quickly at the end of the day.
  • The Courtyard Mariott I stayed in was a few blocks away from the OCC. It was delightfully clean. The bed was more comfortable than my bed at home. They also had a pretty decent restaurant attached to the lobby that, while a little overpriced, was quite convenient. Denny’s was a block away too, which made for some awesome breakfasts.

Am I glad I attended this year? Absolutely. Speaking at the Conf was a blast and I enjoyed visiting a new city. Next time I’ll book my flight with Southwest, though, instead of through Travelocity. That’s another post in itself.