Paris on Rails

With my colleagues Jean-Christophe, Yannick, Julien, and Etienne, we attended the Paris on Rails conference yesterday, the only conference related to Ruby and Rails in France.

Laurent Juliard from Nuxos opened the conference with an introduction to Ruby. Nothing really new here, even to me who had only read a single book on Ruby. Some books he recommended were The Ruby Way and Ruby for Rails.

Aurelien Géron from Wifirst told us about their own usage of Ruby on Rails to design a suite of web-based tools. The most interesting part was that they had a Python/J2EE background and still switched to Ruby.

WifirstHis points were that J2EE simply had too much choice and required too much time for configuring and putting everything in its place. So it was pretty clear they wanted to move away from it. Python was a harder choice: it has been established for a long time, it has lots of developers, and strong web frameworks. However, Ruby did win because the community is smaller but more ‘dynamic’, issues with are getting better, the Rails framework is better integrated and more mature (especially tests), and is simply more popular.

Eventually, they co-developed with 2 service companies. Interestingly, they used a fixed-price contract… and then complained that agile methods did not work so well in this context ;-)

Nicolas Mérouze provided recommendations for web design:

  • use HAML instead of ERB
  • use SASS (comes with HAML) for CSS programming
  • use Blueprint as a CSS framework

Straight forward enough, I guess.

Christophe Porteneuve did a lively presentation about Prototype, but I admit it went too high for me. Must… boost… my… ruby… skills…

Two guys from Dexia made a experience report from their usage of Ruby internally (only for their intranet), including some financial apps. It seems to be well developed there. If I gathered correctly, one of the applications has several thousands users. Pretty good reference.

JRubyAlexis Moussine-Pouchkine: talked mostly about NetBeans 6.0 and how it has been enhanced for Ruby support. Honestly, it does seem much better than Eclipse in this regard. At least, its market share seems more significant than in the pure Java world. I discussed Hudson with him briefly after his talk: it is certainly becoming a serious tool inside Sun. They are now considering whether to turn it into an actual product.

Jean-François Arcand told us about support for Ruby in Glassfish, apparently the coming version will have a pluggable system for various types of servers. All interesting, but where is the meat? where is the demo of JRuby? what about the (advertised) integration of Ruby with Java?

Jean-François also mentioned Comet, a technology that lets you keep a permanent HTTP connection between a client and a server, hence much better response time. Enough at least for a “new class of web applications” if he is to be believed. This is the second time in 2 weeks I hear about this technology. The first was in a report made by my colleague Xavier when he came back from AjaxWorld.

DHHA webcam-based talk was organized with David Heinemeier Hansson, which was fun, though not much new was revealed (except that he admired Smalltalk Seaside, though he considers that it goes against all the principles in Rails).

TestsFinally, Jean-Michel Garnier from 21 Croissants told us about testing in Ruby, especially using RSpec. RSpec is basically a Behavior-Driven Development (BDD) framework for Ruby, which is something I’ve been interested in a while, though I’ve never found time to apply it much.

All in all, it was a pretty good conference, but it did suffer from its lack of budget: there was a single room for the entire day, so we couldn’t choose. Worse: there was no break between talks, so we basically had to go through each one, regardless we found it interesting or not (and I can tell you that the one on internationalization was not exactly fascinating). Also, it felt that the pace was a bit too quick: 45 mins per talk, all from 9am till 6.30pm is rather tiring. I do hope they’ll have enough money next year to take 2 days, say from 9.30am till 6pm.

No doubt the community in France will reach that point soon.

Check out my pictures of the event.

About Eric Lefevre-Ardant

Independent technical consultant.
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One Response to Paris on Rails

  1. Alexis MP says:

    Great JRuby/NetBeans integration demo here:
    http://www.netbeans.org/kb/60/ruby/weblog-rails-screencast.html
    (45 minutes with 2 speakers was just too short)

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