Sunday, May 20, 2007

RailsConf Downtime Rambling

RailsConf is winding down, and I'm basically set to skedaddle after Dave Thomas' keynote. There was a nice blend of sessions for beginners and for non-beginners as well, and for all the scorn you see on the Web about Java and PHP from the Rails community, there was a much more inclusive vibe on that front than you might expect.

I'm going to write up a little bit about Evan Weaver's presentation soon, possibly some others including Ze Frank's keynote, but for now, there are a couple pretty interesting things going on in blog-land. First there's the discovery of diamonds which indicate the possiblity that a comet crashed into the earth around 12,000 years ago. This is actually very interesting because there's a scientist with specialized knowledge of erosion who insists the erosion on the Sphinx is rainforest erosion, not desert erosion, and this is basically ignored by Egyptologists, since the area the Sphinx is in hasn't been a desert since about 12,000 years ago.

I found this on Bruce Sterling's awesome blog, which also refers to the widely-reported story that Russia may have declared cyberwar on Estonia, in that a period of saber-rattling has been followed by what appears to be a nation-wide DDoS attack on all Estonian servers. Sterling's blog points out something very important, which is that the Russian government has not claimed any responsibility for the attack, which makes it very possible that the attack isn't governmental at all, but rather an instance of political agitation.

Finally, graphic designer David Airey wrote a post about inspiration, which is part of a larger meme. A big realization for me at RailsConf is that Rails is much larger than it's been in the past, and I'm less inspired by Rails itself than I've been in the past; and yet specific parts of it are more inspiring than before. Specifically, the open source and design-centric nature of Rails have both scaled remarkably well. My notes from the conference are filled with ideas, to-do lists, and contributions I want to make to the Rails community. DHH's keynote, a presentation on plugins, and Chad Fowler's search for inspiration are all standouts in the general flow of stuff in this conference which is inspiring me to look beyond just blogging about Rails and making a living from it, to actually doing something useful for my fellow Rails developers.

On the more general subject of inspiration, I want to reiterate something I've noticed time and time again, which is that I hear and read "you should only do this if you're passionate about it" said about programming and acting constantly. I heard that same thing - only do it you're passionate about it - said about graphic design, too, back when I worked in design, and when a friend of mine tried to get me into the idea of working in video games a few years ago, I ran into it there as well. I'd like to go one step further and say that this seems to be a general trend across a fairly wide spectrum of activities. There's no point in an artist who only does art to pay the bills - nothing could be crazier - and there's only slightly more sanity in a graphic designer with the same attitude. In general, I'd say that unless you live in the Third World, or some of the harsher parts of the US that are starting to look like the Third World - if you're fortunate enough to have options about what you do in the first place - then you can almost assume as a given that "only do it you're passionate about it" applies to every possible career. It seems to be true across such a wide range of careers that you might as well assume it's true for every career.

Right now I'm in a RailsConf session on Deploying On Windows. I think the topic is silly, I just came in to feed my laptop some juice. Credit where credit is due, it's sessions like this which create an inclusive vibe; we should encourage every approach to development, really, because although opinionated software is a wonderful thing, judgemental communites are terrible. But for my part, I've always considered Windows inherently harmful to programming skill, for the simple reason that it's hard to be passionate about that. I might be wrong. I don't know. To each his own.

Finally, in a surprising piece of news, Clay Shirky, for possibly the first time ever, has written something you shouldn't read forty times, memorize, and burn into your brain. In fact, he's written something which makes me wonder who kidnapped him and where he currently is. If anybody knows who has kidnapped Clay Shirky and what we have to do to get him back, please contact me immediately. I'll bring my homeslice Hiro Nakamura and my sex-crazed groupie Claire Bennet, and we'll rescue that motherfucker real proper-like.

Update: by the way, if you're wondering what's up with the deranged oversize type, hey, so am I. Blogger's one of the most consistently surprising pieces of consumer freeware I've ever used. Also, I have to admit, Claire Bennet isn't my sex-crazed groupie. My sex-crazed groupie is Claire Bennett. Two Ts. Sorry for the confusion.

Also, the general fatigued tone of this post is due to the collision of consultant hours with conference hours. I also seem to be kind of mean when tired, sorry about that. Finally, the two most exciting parts of the conference for me were when I asked Avi Bryant a couple questions during his keynote and when I tried to get up during the open mike demo sessions to talk about Code Generation In Action, my new favorite Ruby book. I missed the whole signup process, so I didn't get to talk that time, but obviously I'm looking forward to OSCON, where I do get to speak. I'm doing 45 minutes on Seaside and Rails, and RailsConf made my job much easier there by bringing in Avi Bryant to give a keynote. Avi Bryant made my job easier too with the content of his keynote - which was quite remarkable. (I don't know if many people were persuaded, but I sure as hell was.)


  1. could you expound on the content of avi's speech? I'm really curious.

  2. Hello, and thanks very much for the link to my inspiration post.

    Much appreciated!

  3. I am so fucking bummed I missed the whole thing -- especially Avi's talk. Tell me more.


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