Peter Marklund

Peter Marklund's Home

Fri Sep 21 2007 02:01:41 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

RailsConf Europe 2007

I sometimes tell people how the best decision I made in life was to get into salsa dancing. It was how I met my girlfriend Janne and it has simply been countless hours of fun and magic. It has also made my confidence and social skills grow which has helped me in other areas of life as well. Visiting RailsConf Europe 2007 has to rank right up there with one of those great decisions and it feels like a milestone. It gave me inspiration on many levels and I enjoyed it more than I've enjoyed any previous conference. What made all the difference for me was the networking. Meeting so many friends and colleagues from the past and having the opportunity of talking to thought leaders in the Rails ecosystem is just amazing. Now that three intense days of excitement is over I miss it already.

My trip to Berlin started out with meeting Sven Guckes and Emily at the Hauptbahnhof. Sven took us to places like the Bundesrat, the Brandenburger Tor, Checkpoint Charlie and the Sony Center. Sven may very well be the most hospitable person I've met and on top of that he is a very competent Berlin guide. Many thanks goes out to Sven for taking so good care of me and Emily! I spent most of the weekend (the night time) dancing salsa at the Berlin Salsa congress. I met four other Swedes at the congress - Björn, Johan, Camilla, Lala, and Elias. I had great dances with Dace and Anja from Riga, Alex, Sarah, and Anisa from Germany as well as girls from Ireland and Zurich etc. It was a small to mid-size congress (smaller than the Hamburg, Zurich, and UK congresses) with good atmosphere and plenty of amazing dancers. There was no live band, but the music and locations were good. Especially the gala night on saturday had a touch of flair and there was a performance by Salsa Dance Squad from the Netherlands that was pure magic. It's fascinating how after having seen so many different great shows and performances, all of a sudden a single show comes on that stands out like a divine work of art and makes all the others fade into the background.

When I started out the conference bright and early on monday morning at the Maritim hotel I was already quite exhausted after three straight nights of dancing. What I probably didn't realize at that point was that the intensity was not going to go down, on the contrary. On the day before the conference I had met up with my good friend Jarkko from Finland and with Dave Goodlad, Garnet, and Martin from Canada (from Vernon?) and we ended up at the Ständige Vertretung pub by the Friedrichstrasse station. Later on Rickard and David from Newsdesk (in Stockholm) joined in. The sun was shining on us, we were by the water and in great company, and the weissbier was flowing. It was relaxing end enjoyable. For me there is always some nostalgia in drinking weissbier as it brings back the year of 2000 when I was living in Munich.

In the evening four hundred or so computer geeks met up for the Bratwurst on Rails pre-conference party. The wurst was tasty, and I met many great people such as Marcel Molina, Chad Fowler, Patrick Lenz, Lauri Jutila from Finland, David Black, Christian Dalager from Copenhagen, Paul Doerwald from Canada, Tillmann Singer from Berlin, and Timo Hentschel and Bernd Schmeil from Munich. I also met people I know from the Stockholm Ruby User Group - David and Rickard from Newsdesk, Johan Lind from Valtech, Piotr from Connecta, Markus from Stockholm University among others. The Gothenburg Ruby User Group had decent representation as well and it was great to get to know Carl-Johan Kihlbom better.

Presentations that made a particularly deep impression on me were Dave Thomas on being an artist, Jason Hoffman on scaling from the bottom up, David Heinemeier Hanson on Rails 2.0 and the never ending quest for more beautiful code, and Marcel Molina and Michael Koziarski on coding best practices. Interesting was also David Chelimsky, Dan North, and Aslak Hellesøy on BDD and Rspec (including the new Story Runner), Craig R. McClanahan on moving beyond two tiers (avoiding a dependency on ActiveRecord), Ola Bini on JRuby (book coming soon), Britt Selvitelle (Twitter) on really scaling Rails (message: don't worry about it until you need it), and Dane Avilla on the RaiLint plugin for HTML validation and on using Watir for in-browser testing.

I didn't attend all the presentations at the conference, partly because I was exhausted and concentration was waning, but also because I didn't want to miss the opportunity of hanging out in the exhibit area talking to passionate people in the community. The exhibitors at the conference were great. Sun was there with the Netbeans IDE and JRuby, Borland announced the 3rdrail IDE based on Eclipse, EngineYard was there to talk about hosting, and FiveRuns showed off their RM-Install and RM-Manage offerings. Thoughtworks explained how 40% of their new enterprise projects in the US are based on Rails and how they are working on making Ruby cross the chasm and rid the IT world of bloatware (mostly .NET and J2EE as it were). I had the opportunity of mingling with people such as David Heinemeier Hanson, Martin Fowler, Roy Singham (founder of ThoughtWorks), Tom Mornini of EngineYard, and Bradley Taylor of RailsMachine.

On the last night of the conference I was invited to a special Tapas dinner at a spanish restaurant that Bradley Taylor arranged for his European clients. It was a pleasure. Before finally going home to sleep on wednesday night, we stopped by one last time at the Maritim hotel where Marcel Molina, Michael Koziarski, Chad Fowler, Geoffrey Grosenbach, and 10-15 other Rails enthusiasts were sitting in a circle playing the werewolf role playing game. The plot is something about a village with peasants that need to figure out who the werewolfs are before being killed by them. It takes figuring out when people tell the truth and there is a lot of strategy and drama involved. It was fascinating to watch. On thursday morning I had breakfast at Starbucks and ran into Swami from the night before - a traveling Yoga teacher from France and a Railsmachine customer. Swami is planning to open a Yoga center in Slovakia. Quite fascinating.

My photos from Berlin are avaliable on Flickr

O'Reilly will be hosting the RailsConf Europe 2008 in Berlin too. I look forward to coming back then. Thanks everybody and auf wiedersehen!