I had the privilege of attending RailsConf this April in sunny Phoenix, AZ. This was my third time attending the conference, my first since 2010 and 2011 when it was held back-to-back in Baltimore, MD.

Having worked with Rails since 2008, I was looking to get a boost in a few ways by attending.

Why RailsConf?

I work with Ruby and Rails every day, and I was looking to pay more attention to recent changes to the language and framework. Generally I’m working with deployed applications that use older framework versions and an older version of Ruby, so a conference can be a great way to learn about what’s new.

As an employee of Groupon, I also wanted to publicly thank the company for providing a great employee benefit in the form of a personal growth budget, which can be used to cover expenses for a conference, training material and more. I chose RailsConf for a variety of reasons, but in part, I hope to bring some of my knowledge and enthusiasm back to my day job too!

Connecting with people

Another thing I was looking to do was to connect in-person, with ex-colleagues and new people. At my past employer LivingSocial, I worked with dozens of other Ruby and Rails engineers, so it’s fun to see some familiar “alumni” at conferences now, and learn a little about their stories.

As a remote worker, suburbanite, and new dad, it’s been more difficult for me to meet new people, so I took advantage of that aspect at RailsConf as well.

I was also excited to spend some time in person with my friend Ernesto, a fellow Ruby programmer who runs a software consultancy (plug: Ombu Labs) from Philadelphia, PA.

Finally, I was able to meet the other editors for the This Week in Rails newsletter, in person, after working with them for months online only, very cool!

Editors from This Week in Rails RailsConf Phoenix 2017 Editors from This Week in Rails RailsConf Phoenix 2017

Brief notes from sessions

I only have time to transcribe some hand written bits from sessions I attended.

Video and slide decks are available for free online for many of the sessions, which is a great benefit to the community. Probably the best way to find them is through the RailsConf 2017 website. I have plans to check out a handful more that I couldn’t attend in person.

Opening Keynote from DHH

Liked it!

Practical Debugging

The Ruby standard library has enough tools built-in to debug effectively.

The other main takeaway for me was that, in lieu of a compiler in Ruby, we have really effective debugging tools. The speaker said we’re “trading niceties for introspection”, which I thought was interesting. I jotted ones down that were new to me and that I don’t use, but would like to incorporate into my workflow.

Module.nesting 1

Mod.private_instance_methods 2

binding.irb in Ruby 2.4 3. From the release notes:

With pry you can use binding.pry in your application to launch a REPL and run any Ruby code. r56624 introduces binding.irb which behaves like that with irb.

Use Tracepoint 4 to gather information, specifically path and lineno were demonstrated.

Rails 5.1 Features

All kinds of new stuff was covered. rails initilizers, and encrypted secrets I jotted down to dig into more.

Yarn and Webpack were discussed as well. The Rails blog official post on the 5.1 release is probably the best place to start.

Panel on senior engineer leadership

Panel discussion with senior engineers, working as team leaders at various companies, with a moderated discussion of various topics related to software development. Liked it!

Managing Unmanageable Complexity

This talk was given by my ex-colleague Patrick from LivingSocial. Patrick compared complexity in other industries to software development, and mentioned how making and following checklists can help avoid mistakes. He created some checklists for software development and has published them, very nice! Check out his Managing Unmanageable Complexity blog post for more details.

Food in Phoenix

Excellent breakfast (Matt’s Big Breakfast), pizza (Pomo Pizzeria), and coffee (Royal Coffee Bar)!