RailsConf 2019

May 5, 2019

So I just arrived back home after a wonderful week at RailsConf 2019 in Minneapolis, MN. It was a long 16 hour drive for me from Birmingham, AL, but I broke it up into two days on each side of things.

I wanted to take a few minutes and blog about my thoughts from the conference. Though admittedly, I spent most of the conference attending the 'Hallway Track', and only went to six or so talks.

Keynotes

I attended just two of the keynotes this year. Starting of course with DHH's keynote.

DHH's keynote was good, it made me come to the realization that not everyone will always see the benifit of Rails, and will want to go try and use other languages. That doesn't mean that's a bad thing. In fact, it can be a good thing for our community.

The last day, I went to Aaron Patterson(tenderlove)'s closing keynote. It was really fun to be there in person, to hear the puns first hand, and see the audience's reaction. It makes me really happy to see that Ruby has someone like Aaron. I could be wrong, but I don't know of any other language or framework who has someone like Aaron.

Aaron's talk was like 30 minutes of fun puns and jokes, and then he dove deep into some Template Rendering stuff. It was really interesting having seen him go into that, for me to realize how much I truly didn't know. I had never even thought about looking into how the templates got rendered, what black magic Rails was doing under the hood until he mentioned it. I think that is the kind of benefits you get by watching talks from people who have different perspectives. You get the benefits of seeing someone else's experiences condensed down into a bite sized chunk, surrounded by your peers.


Other talks I went to

I went to a few other talks, one of course being Eileen Uchitelle's talk on The Past, Present & Future of Rails at GitHub.

Eileen is one of my favorite conference speakers to go watch. I was tweeting a few tidbits of information during her talk, but one of my key takeaways was something along the lines of:

If you don't upgrade Rails, one day you won't get to write Rails.

This is something that I've kind of always felt that it is important to keep your software and frameworks upgraded, but could really never put my finger on why, until then.

From my view, if you let the technical debt pile up, one day your teammates, or managers will be like "This is pointless to try upgrading now, let's just re-write in X or Y framework/language." This obviously is one end of a spectrum that some may feel, but when you're faced with the hard thought of a Rails upgrade over many versions, or re-writing into the latest language on Hacker News, the re-write looks really tempting.

The next talk I went to was on ActiveRecord and the Repository pattern. I think this one has a lot of potential to solve a lot of the issue that a fragment of the community has with ActiveRecord, so I'm hoping to see that project continue.

The last talk I went to was Colleen Schnettler's talk on How to migrate to ActiveStorage without losing your mind. She went over the basics of ActiveStorage, how to install it, how it works on the database side of things and then talked about how to migrate from Paperclip to ActiveStorage. I think it was her first talk, but she did great and made it super easy for beginners who knew nothing about ActiveStorage to follow. I hope she'll give more talks in the future.

It definitely made me want to go migrate my apps to use ActiveStorage, once Rails 6 comes out 😂.


Conclusion

There were a TON more talks I wanted to go to, but I realized the first day after DHH's keynote, that I would likely be better off by just talking to people in the hallway about their experiences and try and make new friends.

I find it kind of funny, but one of the first things I'd ask people when I was talking to them was to ask them which testing framework they use. The majority was unfortunately Rspec. I think one take-away was that most had come into the project where someone else already had it set up, or they did it because that's what they used at their last job, or project. So it was a use what you know situation, not that Minitest seemed to be lacking something Rspec had.

It could have been super controversial to ask people their feelings on testing frameworks, but we're in the Rails community, where I've found mostly everyone is SUPER welcoming to hear people out.

I was reading the Rails Doctrine today, and I found DHH shares a discontention with the DSL of Rspec, but he made the point that the most important part is that it can still blossom and prosper, despite his feelings.

The best thing I saw, was other first timers at RailsConf (like myself) having been a large part of the audience. I hope that means that people are still coming to Rails for what the community and rich ecosystem provides. Stability, consistency and convention over configuration.

Thanks for reading everyone, I should really dust the blog off more often, but until then... Follow me on Twitter