Notes from RailsConf Europe 2007

I’ve only written two blogs from RailsConf Europe this year, one about Dave Thomas’ keynote; The Art in Rails, and one about David Heinemeier Hansson’s keynote, which has temporarily many-doubled the traffic to my blog after being referenced in Signals vs. Noise – thanks, Jason!

But those two keynotes was far from the only sessions I attended worth blogging about, and I have been taking 2-6 KB notes from each and every session. Sadly though, I can’t seem to find the time to write a full article about each of them right now, albeit now is the time people want to read about the conference. So I thought I’d put out my notes from most of the sessions I attended (those worth reading), with a little description with each of them. There are also select presentation slides available.

A Half-day of Behavior-driven Development on Rails
I enjoyed being taught the concepts of Behavior-driven Development by the creator of BDD, Dan North, as well as I enjoyed getting the rspec plugin explained by its creators, Aslak Hellesoy and David Chelimsky, although I noticed they had given up on trying to pronounce the name of the plugin “respec’”, as Aslak tried in vain when he was interviewed for the Ruby on Rails podcast.
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Caching in a Multilanguage Environment
Benjamin Krause has been kind enough to write two plugins for handling multilanguage routing and multilanguage caching (link doesn’t seem to be available), respectively. In his talk, he explained why current Rails routing and caching is inefficient for multi-language sites, and the rationale behind his design decisions in the plugins.
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Meta-Magic in Rails: Become a Master Magician
Dr. Nic put on a great show explaining Ruby meta-programming, stressing that introspection is the ability to look at your own code, while reflection is the ability to change your on code dynamically. He also compared Perl to a puppy (fun, but with no understanding of itself), Java to Keith Richards (not so cute anymore) and Rails to Neo (knows about and can change his environment). Finally, the good doctor demonstrated a quite useless, though fun, plugin he had created written by Chris Shea; guessmethod, which attempts to catch and correct misspelled contant and method names dynamically.
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The Forgotten Child: Powerful CSS with Rails
At the other end of the frontend-backend scale, but just as entertaining, Geoffrey Grosenbach talked about the possibilities of generating CSS. A simple approach is to add CSS as a format recognized by Rails and then generate stylesheets using ERb, but the Rails Podcast author also explained about the opportunities of SASS, a powerful Rails plugin for simplifying, beautifying and DRYing up stylesheets.
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Lightning Talks
A cancelled talk opened up the possibility for a lightning talk session, and several of the core team members was on the spot. Marcel Molina started out, demonstrating his forthcoming plugin render_with_presenter, and did an many ways a better job of explaining the presenter pattern than Jay Fields did the following day. As a seemingly more advanced alternative to the Comatose CMS plugin; Sandstone (to be released as open source) was also introduced, and Tobias Lütke did a good job of explaining the benefits of using Liquid as a Rails renderer.
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Best Practices
Core team members Marcel Molina and Michael Koziarski stressed that while there a plenty of resources telling you what you could do in Rails, they wanted to tell us what we should do. The things they said made a lot of sense (especially the notion of Skinny Controllers – Fat Models), and reminded me that I should probably spend more time learning best practices from The Rails Way.
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Building Webapps in Europe: Economy, Methodology, and Tips
Nicolas Paton’s was a bit disappointing to me, as most of the things he said was pretty much common sense. I hold a lot of sympathy for the guy though, as his nervousness was quite visible during his talk – and thumbs up for bringing attention to differences between development in US and Europe.
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Ruby on Rails Security
Heiko Webers of brought our attention to potential security issues not only in our Rails code, but also in the web server and database. The biggest take-away from his talk for me, though, was his mention of three plugins: WhiteListHelper for allowing only select tags in user-generated content, SafeERb reminding you to sanitize all your output of user-generated content and ActiveForm, which allows you to validate e.g. a search query using the ActiveRecord validators.
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Browser-based Testing of Massive Ajax-using Rails Applications with Selenium
I’ve known for a while now that I ought to improve my test base with Selenium tests, so Till Vollmer’s talk was a nice opportunity to get more into the testing framework. One of Till’s important points was that you’ll have to write your own test helper methods in order to get readable tests when testing massive Ajax applications like his Mindmeister. I also want to mention Cross Check of Neal Ford’s javascript testing talk in this context, as this application are able to emulate most known browsers – including their many bugs and differences!
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Functional JavaScript Development with Prototype
Ben Nolan managed to explain a lot of important javascript concept through his fast-paced tutorial. I for one didn’t know about javascript binding contexts before this talk, but it explained a lot of previous experiences to me! Whether you like Ben’s functional and very compact style when coding javascript, his tutorial was definitely enlightening and enjoyable.
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Teaching Rails at a University
While Carsten Bormann’s about his course in agile web development using Ruby on Rails on a German university didn’t attract a very large crowd, those of us who was there were definitely glad to hear the news that it is possible to bring Rails into such old and dusty institutions as universities. I for one feel inspired to attempt to bring it into my own school, Copenhagen Business School, because really Ruby is much better suited as first programming language than Java and C#, I think.
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4 thoughts on “Notes from RailsConf Europe 2007

  1. Pingback: Ruby, a message to you » GuessMethod 0.1.0!

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