RubyConf AU 2014: A review

“Well, I got to ride dodgems, which was pretty cool”. Probably not what you’d expect someone to reply with when asked about how they found the technology conference they’d recently been to.

However, it’s an answer that many attendees of last week’s RubyConf in Sydney will be giving to that question as it was held at Sydney’s Luna Park. RubyConf is without question one of the better conferences I’ve been able to attend and my company, DiUS is proud to be associated with it through their sponsorship. The facilities, location and speakers were all top notch and a credit to the organisers.

Below is a rapid summary of the talks that I found particularly interesting.

  • Cameron Barrie opened the conference asking “What is it you really do?”, challenging ruby developers to start thinking of themselves as being part of the creative class and warning of the dangers of Hipster-Driven Development
  • Pat Allen’s asked us if we were in the “Golden Age of the Internet”? His talk echoed much of the current sentiment in the ruby community around the importance of diversity and inclusiveness (a theme reflected in the upsurge of support for Rails Girls over the past couple of years). He argued for the need to breakdown what he perceived as being a “meritocracy” in the ruby community, commenting that “a culture doesn’t grow by talking to itself”
Full House at RubyConfAU 2014
  • Stripe CTO Greg Brockman in his talk entitled “Rescuing Ruby” warned that ruby’s niche was being eaten away by other languages (such as Node, Go and Clojure) and that we need to act to prevent that erosion. He suggested ways to do this through standardisation, making the ruby language a default for new sets of use cases, static analysers and building tooling and applications that other languages couldn’t easily replicate
  • “Ansible – your First Step into Server Provisioning” by Ben Turner gave a great introduction to Ansible and why you might use that in preference to one of the other provisioning tools
  • André Arko’s talk “Extreme Makeover- Rubygems Edition” gave insights into the good and the bad of Rubygems and Bundler and an overview of what to expect going forwards (and why bundle install should soon get quicker, especially in Australia!)
  • DiUS’s own, Beth Skurrie, also took to the stage to deliver a lightning talk on Pact, a DSL co-created by DiUS and REA to allow consumer driven contract testing. Beth’s slides are available [“Well, I got to ride dodgems, which was pretty cool”. Probably not what you’d expect someone to reply with when asked about how they found the technology conference they’d recently been to.
  • Nishant Modak’s talk on Rack – A Framework to Roll your own gave a solid explanation of the web framework that underpins Rails and Sinatra. He demonstrated how you could build your own Ruby giving a great insight for me into how Rails actually worked and why. Repo here:](
  • Charlie Somerville’s MRI Magic Tricks was an insightful and amusing look at how to hack the Ruby runtime. It came with a warning of not to be tried in production! From catching to Segmentation Faults to rewriting ancestory history of classes he demonstrated some interesting techniques though to be used with great care.
  • “Rails Asset Pipeline: Defunct or Da Funk” by Samuel Cochran was a deep dive into how Sprockets and the Rails Pipeline worked. He then gave some ideas on how to optimize CSS or Javascript. The ability to do Dependency Management of your Javascript files seems like something that should be more commonly used.
  • The final keynote from Eleanor Saitta entitled “Outcome-Oriented Security” gave an overview of the benefits and importance of Threat Modelling and security objectives, but also included a gentle dig at the lack of women speakers at the conference.

For more information on the talks see the RubyConf Hub Videos of all the talks will undoubtedly be online soon.

The Summary

For those rubyists and non-rubyists who have yet to make it to one, I urge you to do so. Josh Kalderimis closed by announcing that the third RubyConf AU would be held next year in Melbourne. RubyConf 2015 is definitely at the top of my list of conferences to attend next year and I’m sure DiUS will also be looking to extend their involvement to a third year running.

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