Wow, that was fun. Here's a quick recap of my personal highlights of Railsconf 2008.
Our Modelling Dialogue session
So I'm self-centered, but this was the talk I had the most concern about since I was in it. To be honest I had no idea how this was going to be received, so I was relieved and excited by the great response. I had this vision of all our laugh lines receiving the dead silence, crickets chirping response. But gratefully this was not the case. Jim Weirich has a great recap and lists the books we recommend on his blog. The feedback was so positive that we're already cooking up ideas for other talks in this format. To all those who came up and said something to us about our session: Thanks a ton! You have no idea what a help it is to hear from audience members about how it worked or didn't work for them. In short, there's nothing like going out on a limb and having it not break :) Major kudos to Jim and Joe for the idea for this one and for doing a great job pulling it off.
Nathaniel Talbott's hacking session
This was for me the most inspiring session. In a nutshell: hacking is good for you. If it's not fun it's not hacking. Being useful is not the point, enjoying yourself is. It inspired me to hack on rubyjs some more. I had a great time, and managed to come up with something worth sharing I think (tho as I said this was not the point, just a happy accident). More to come.
I actually enjoyed this quite a bit. Some of his points I really appreciated: he called BS on the whole IMO messed up american work culture idea that working more and sleeping less makes you supercoderdude. This is total crap, makes us less effective, and it's high time someone said so. Sleep more, and find some hobbies that don't involve computers. Get a life in other words. Great stuff.
Alternative Ruby impls
There was a lot of talk at the conference about non-MRI Ruby interpreters running Rails. I went to the IronRuby session. They run Rails and showed a simple scaffold example working. But I was most impressed by their silverlight demo of ruby running in the browser. Of course, only works in windows and maybe OSX. Allegedly moonlight will catch up. I'd love to really believe MS on that, but I'll believe it when I see it.
I didn't see the Rubinius talk but the did show it running Rails in a keynote. Boy is it slow, but if they can get performance up to snuff it sure is cool to have ruby in ruby.
Maglev IMO got a ton of unwarranted buzz. The part Avi did was cool, but the next part with the gemstone guy ruined it. They are nowhere close to running rails, and the sales guy was casting these sneaky sideways slams of other impls and selling a lot of vaporware. The perf numbers are impressive, but I totally agree with Charles that they mean nothing until they implement all of Ruby. Overall, I thought it kind of FUDDY, and I was quite saddened that the community just went along with it hook line and sinker.
JRuby was there, and had some good talks but since they've been running rails for a long while this wasn't really news and didn't get so much attention. I really like the JRuby rack stuff a lot tho, it opens even more doors. And I had at least one awesome hallway conversation about some big companies adopting JRuby and doing interesting stuff.