End Point's Sean Schofield recently returned from a trip to RailsConf 2008. RailsConf is the annual gathering of Rails developers which was held for a second year in a row in Portland, Oregon. There is also now a European version of the conference which is held during the fall. The conference consisted of one day of tutorials, followed by three days of sessions and keynotes.
Attendance was extremely heavy this year (over 1,800 people) which caused some initial crowding issues with the sessions. Fortunately, these issues were resolved by the second day and the conference organizers even managed to schedule a repeat of the first day's talks for those who were initially shut out.
Several notable Rails personalities were speaking at the conference this year, including David Heinemeier Hansson, the creator of Rails. Other speakers of note included Obie Fernandez (author of The Rails Way), Joel Spolsky and David Chelimsky (of RSpec fame).
Scott Chacon gave an interesting talk entitled Using Git to Manage and Deploy Rails Apps. The Git distributed source code management system has been taking the Rails world by storm this year. Two factors have contributed to this explosion in popularity. The first is the advent of the popular Github service which makes it very simple to contribute patches to an open source Rails application. The second was the announcement that the RoR project would be dropping Subversion in favor of Git.
Another very popular talk was given by Yehuda Katz, who spoke about various aspects of the up and coming Merb framework. There was a steady buzz regarding Merb that was present for the entire conference. A significant portion of the Rails developers that Sean talked with were actively considering the use of Merb in their next project (if they hadn't used it on a project already).
The single hottest topic at RailsConf 2008 was Phusion Passenger aka "mod_rails." Phusion Passenger is a replacement for the commonly used Mongrel cluster approach for deploying Rails applications. It's intended to allow for simple deployment using the industry standard Apache web server. Everyone was talking about this hot new technology at the conference, including several of the exhibitors.
A veteran of several technology conferences, Sean was impressed with the overall quality of the presentations. He considered the technical content to be highly informative and appreciated the professional quality of the speakers. Please see the conference site for a complete list of the talks as well as presentation slides.