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Madison Ruby 2012

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Please note: Madison Ruby photos are now online at Flickr.

I’m working off the conference hangover. Email catchup, priotizing tasks, etc. took up my time this morning, but I couldn’t let Madison’s premier software conference fade without writing down some thoughts.

Firstly: much love to Jim and Jen Remsik as well as all the volunteers, speakers, and organizers that helped make v2 of Madison Ruby even more fun and entertaining than the inaugural conf last year. The diversity of topics was again front and center: from team dynamics, to talks about social justice, to funky drummers, to sources of inspiration and the finer points of immigration law, the organizers found a way to communicate technical content while advancing the community in other areas as well.

First up was the Design Eye for the Dev Guy or Gal workshop on Thursday. I misunderstood the focus, which is mostly because I signed up for it before a comprehensive description had been published. Wynn Netherland did a great job laying out the finer points of HTML5, Sass, Compass, and more. I had expected the workshop to range more towards the philosophy of web design, rather than a technical how-to around using the tools. Even so, however, I learned a lot about Compass. My previous aversion stemmed from when compass and blueprint were sold as a boxed set, but I’m definitely going to check it out on the next major project.

Highlight: In a discussion about the ubiquity of Twitter Bootstrap Wynn asked how many folks were using Octopress for their dev blog, and then added, “You know, you don’t HAVE to use the default style… you can add some color in there.” sheepish grin

I may have had a little too much fun at the Github-sponsored drinkup on Thursday evening; waking up and riding my bike downtown at 7am was a monumental task.

Friday’s talks were very interesting, especially the Anti-Opression 101 talk by Lindsey Bieda and Steve Klabnik. Though I had seen it a previous Mad-Railers meetup I also enjoyed Matthew Rathbone’s talk about how Foursquare uses Hadoop for its various data processing needs. Unfortunately, I had to take off early on Friday and missed some of the afternoon talks, including what I heard was a fantastic 45 minutes with Clyde Stubblefield.

Saturday I was feeling a lot better, and hit the Farmer’s Market early for coffee and pastries. I’m embarassed to say that I hadn’t looked at the schedule closely enough and so it was an extremely pleasant surprise that the first talk was by Paolo Perrotta, author of the best Ruby book in existence: Metaprogramming Ruby. It was a great talk about ghosts, fake ghosts, and all manner of potential problems one will encounter when using the metaprogramming aspect of the Ruby language.

Later in the day were several successive talks that excited the hell out of me, but none moreso than Leon Gersing’s talk on the Weird in programming. Difficult to describe so I’ll just say that if he’s speaking at a conference make sure you get your ass to that talk and be prepared to enjoy it.

The Teaching Rails panel discussion late in the day on Saturday was interesting. I almost didn’t attend because I thought it was going to be about how best to teach Rails to new folks. Instead it was more about the business of teaching Rails and how each of the four panelists approached it. Ultimately the panel dovetailed into a talk about certification, payscales, and other highly interesting topics to any software developer. I felt that Jeff Casimir’s innocent suggestion of some kind of certification was not considered for a single second before being shouted down by everyone else on the panel and in attendance. In particular, I think his idea has merit but the operational reality is bad, which is why everyone just said “NO CERTIFICATION” when I think what is needed is a discussion about what certification is trying to accomplish and how it can be done without turning into a paradise for grifters and dummies.

This was just a taste of the goings-on at Madison Ruby 2012. Others will likely have a fuller rundown of the events so I just hit what were, to me, the highlights. If you’re down on the Ruby tip I highly suggest you try to get to Madison for next year’s conference. You can already hit the Very Early Bird registration page and get a ticket for the low, low price of $199. Do it, and come hang out with me next year!