Scottish Ruby Conference Round-up – Part 2

First up on Sunday morning was a Keynote with Aaron “Tenderlove” Patterson. I only caught the second half of this entertaining talk – so I’ll have to go back and catch the rest on video. Aaron talked about some changes he’d like to see in Rails 4. And also had a bonus round on sausage making.

Mastering Database Design with Redis

I was really looking forward to this talk on Redis by Ryan Briones. It half fulfilled my expectations. Ryan discussed the basic data structures in Redis, sets, sorted sets, hashes (of strings). He identified some use cases for Redis, such as it does queues really well. And then he discussed an experiment of building an app using Redis as the only data store. This was interesting, albeit not the most practical. I had hoped the talk would be focus on more practical applications of Redis. Having said that, it was an interesting talk overall that I took some good ideas away from.

Real Time Visualizations

Ben Bleything from LivingSocial gave a fun talk on how to build your own visualisations. He demo’d some real visualisation from LivingSocial that he and the team there had built using HTML, D3 and Processing. D3 in particular looked very easy to use and so said a number of attendees. Ben also covered some visual and information design stuff and recommended a couple of books on the topic. One highly recommended intro text that looks like a good read is was The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte. Ben covered a number of options for storing and getting the data needed to generate the visualisations and then concluded that in his opinion we should “just use Redis” and it’s the most appropriate tool for most use cases.

Theraputic Refactoring

Katrina Owen gave a fantastic talk on refactoring. I wasn’t sure which of the three talks to go to during this time slot and I was very glad that T.J. Sheehy from FreeAgent recommended this talk on the basis of feedback from another conference where Katrina presented on this subject. Having now seen this talk, I can heartily recommend it. If you’re going to a conference and Katrina giving this presentation – don’t miss it! I didn’t take any notes during this segment other than “Rewatch and pull out ideas” – I didn’t want to take my focus off the presentation for one moment. So that’s all I’m going to say on this talk, for now. Here’s how Katrina described her talk a few days ago:

Well worth watching this talk on the Scottish Ruby Conference site when it goes up.

Exploiting an Idiomatic Approach

I went to Matt Yoho‘s talk on Using the Resource Idiom next. This was a good talk, well paced, with some well made points. I’m working on an API design at the minute so a lot of what Matt talked about was very relevant and slotted in well to my thoughts on the subject. I found Matt used well thought out realistic examples and followed through his thought process on how to deal with them in an idiomatic way. Some of my notes taken during this talk include:

    Refeed example (how to do a non crud method endpoint)
    We want to generalize, make specific cases generic, edge cases are bad (thats why we changed our name :D )
    Take member method, make a new resource inside of item
    If your introducing non-Restful methods into a controller you’re probably missing a top level concept that should be a first class resource.
    Prefer composition over inheritance
    Hashes are the lingua franca of Rails

Someone is Wrong

I’ve seen Joseph Wilk speak a number of times at different conferences and he’s already been a great speaker/presenter. In this talk he shared some of his secrets. Here he covered logical fallacies and rhetoric and how it can (and should) be used by developers to get our points across in a convincing way. This was a really enjoyable talk and definitely reminded me of a few thing i’d forgotten.

Last up then was the Keynote with “Pragmatic” Dave Thomas. What a way to end a great conference. Dave knocked us back on our heals and brought us back earth and refocused attention on doing the basics well. He advocated throwing off the shackles of labels and thinking for ourselves and doing what we think is best rather than cargo-culting solutions. I saw this talk as a bit of a call to arms, we can do better, we must do better.

It was a great way to finish a great conference.

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