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MountainWest RubyConf 2009 Videos

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MountainWest RubyConf took place from 13-14 March in Salt Lake City. All talks are available from Confreaks; we picked some interesting ones to give you a coarse overview and some pointers into the talks.

The Great Rails Refactor

Yehuda Katz talks about the merge of Rails and Merb to what will become Rails 3.

The first topic is ORM agnosticism and ActionORM, an abstraction to other ORM interfaces to make it easier to use alternatives to ActiveRecord (3:00).

Merb still evolves (11:10) and accumulates new features (Controller#call, Router#call) from Rails 2.3 that will also be in Rails 3, to make Rails and Merb similar enough to allow an easy migration.

At 17:50, Yehuda elaborates on some of the refactoring that is currently going on: cleaning (and also speeding) up of Callbacks, a bottleneck found through profiling; removing of old and confusing code in ActionPack (21:52) and separating code into new frameworks, like ActionDispatch (24:00)

Merb 1 has three different kinds of APIs (public, private and plug-in, 28:25), Rails will also get a plug-in API, but the specifics are yet to be decided.

Rack::Bug (30:55), inspired by the DJango Debug Toolbar, will make debugging and the writing of instrumentation code easier.

Last but not least (33:53), they want to make sure that JRuby and Ruby 1.9 can run Rails 3.

DSL Design and Construction

Jeremy McAnally gives an introductory talk to DSLs, starting with the reasons to create DSLs. With many examples, he elaborates on the difference between external (8:22) and internal DSLs (10:05).

If you already know the basics of DSLs, you can skip directly to the section on the DSL design decisions (16:32) and learn how to find the essential terms for the language.

The remainder of the talk is mainly about the different implementation patterns for DSLs (19:11), for example method chaining or the usage of method_missing.

He closes with a few words on testing DSLs (32:40).


For a quick overview on what's currently going on with Rubinius (Garbage Collector, FFI), you might want to take the 5 minutes to listen to Brian Ford

Usability on Rails

Starts with a general motivation and introduction of usability. The main part of the presentation covers 7 usability principles with lots of real world examples and hints for developers.

  • create structure (4:50)
  • use standards (7:10)
  • be predictable (8:01)
  • reduce barriers (10:00)
  • add affordance (11:53)
  • give feedback (15:08)
  • simplify (17:18)

After Adam Dunford (21:30), Jason Edwards starts with a freshly scaffolded Rails application and shows in several iterations how it can be made more usable according to the 7 principles above.


Kirk Haines from Engine Yard explains how Vertebra, their framework for managing fault tolerant services, is comprised. He starts with the foundations: the XMPP based protocol (2:54) and the Ejabberd server (5:15).

Agents (5:55) run on your machines in the cloud and provide a certain service, which they register at a Herault (7:30). Those services can then be discovered from client agents from the Heraults (9:30). Herault's also handle authorization (10:06).

If you have several agents providing the same service, you can use a Scope (11:56) to control how the operations are distributed.

After this introduction, Haines elaborates on the libraries and frameworks they used to build Vertebra as well as the problems they encountered: XMPP4EM (14:05), Loudmouth (14:28), EventMachine::Deferrable (15:23).

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