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Six best talks from LSRC 2010

I wrote this last fortnight, but was waiting for videos. Still missing a few, but it’s a start. Enjoy!

I am just finishing up a week in Austin, Texas. I was here for Lone Star Ruby Conference, at which I ran both my Database Is Your Friend Training, and also a full day introduction to MongoDB course. I was then free to enjoy the talks for the remaining two days. Here are my top picks.

Debugging Ruby

Aman Gupta gave a fantastic overview of the low level tools available for debugging ruby applications, including perf-tools, strace, gdb, bleak-house, and some nice ruby wrappers he has written around them. I had heard of these tools before, but was never sure when to use them or where to start if I wanted to use them. Aman’s presentation was the hook I needed to get into these tools, giving plenty of real examples of where they had been useful and how he used them.


Seven Languages in Seven Weeks

Bruce Tate gave an entertaining talk in which he compared seven languages to movie characters. It was a great narrative, and is energy and excitement about the languages was infectious. He has written a book on the same topic, which I plan on purchasing when I make some time to work through it. There are some sample chapters available at the pragprog site.


Greasing Your Suite

I had seen the content of Nick’s talk “Greasing Your Suite” before in slide format, and it was just as excellent live. Nick takes the run time of a rails test suite from 13 minutes down to eighteen seconds. An incredible effort. While watching his talk I installed and set up his hydra gem, and it was dead simple to get my tests running in parallel. I only added a rake task and a tiny yml file—-no other setup required—-and I got a significant speed up even on trivial test suites. I was impressed at how easy it was to get going, and I’ll be using it on all my apps from now on.

Video (From Goruco, but he gave the same talk)

Deciphering Yehuda

Gregg Pollack’s talk on how some of the techniques used in the internals of rails and bundler work was excellent. While the content wasn’t new to me, I was impressed at Gregg’s ability to explain code on slides, a task difficult to do well. If you ever plan to present you should watch this to pick up some of Gregg’s techniques. I am going to be checking out his Introduction to Rails 3 screencasts for the same reason.


Real Software Engineering

Glenn Vanderburg opened the conference with a fantastic talk on the history of software engineering. This answered a lot of questions that have been floating around my mind, especially to do with the misleading comparisons often made to other engineering disciplines. Give a civil engineer the ability to quickly prototype bridges for little cost, they are going to do a lost less modelling. A mathematical model is simply a way to reduce costs. And cost is always an object. Watch the talk, it’s brilliant.



The best overall talk was Tom Preston-Werner’s keynote Friday evening. His mix of story, humour, and inspiration were perfect for a keynote, and his delivery was excellent. He pitched his content expertly and though there was no specific item I hadn’t heard before, it has had a significant impact on my thoughts the past few days. Hopefully a video is up soon.

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