Herewith some words and pictures from the Scottish Ruby Conference, which I attended last Friday and Saturday.

It used to be called “Scotland on Rails” but they broadened the focus, which is sensible since Ruby in general is much more interesting than Rails as such. It is organized by Paul Wilson, Alan Francis, and Graeme Mathieson; Alan says that this year Paul did the vast majority of the work, so I guess I should run a picture of him.

Paul Wilson, organizer of the Scottish Ruby Conference

Paul actually looks nicer than that — to start with, he smiles a lot — but I liked the light and intensity of the picture. Since I’m doing that, here are a few more speakers selected on the scientific basis that I got good pictures of them.

Jim Weirich at the Scottish Ruby Conference

Jim Weirich gave the opening keynote, which was pretty well rocket science, ranging fom the quantum theory of the atom to SICP. With jokes, too.

Joseph Wilk at the Scottish Ruby Conference

Joseph Wilk spoke on “Rocket Fuelled Cucumbers”, mostly about making your test suite run fast enough to be useful; not too many things are more important than that.

I’d gotten a little out of touch with the progress in the deploy-and-test technology which in the Ruby world is more or less a continuous explosion. These guys are ahead of the current state of the software art, and not just by a little bit.

Tyler McMullen at the Scottish Ruby Conference

Tyler McMullen’s “Distributed Architectures with Rack” was about how Scribd makes their important pages faster and more robust by sourcing pieces of them from different servers, and included maybe the coolest Ruby conference demo ever. He had audience members with on-the-air laptops install a gem that ran a Rack on their laptop and and pinged his laptop. Then he did what his talk described; farmed out pieces of a page to the volunteers’ laptops, and randomly killed a few of the connections so you could see how the system responded to failures. He hadn’t counted on the audience members wanting to prove they could get back into the Rack network faster than he could kill them, but the point was well and truly made. Rack is pure win.

The Venue · It was at the Scottish Royal College of Physicians. Plenaries were in the nice modern amphitheatre; the other tracks were in its beautiful nineteenth-century (I think) Great Hall and “New” Library. Here’s a picture featuring the library and Bruce Scharlau (on the left), who’s on faculty at the University of Aberdeen and spoke about the issues of teaching kids to program with Ruby.

Bruce Scharlau in the Library of the Royal Scottish College of Physicians at the Scottish Rub Conference

The City · On this trip, Edinburgh failed to win my heart. It didn’t have much of a chance; the weather was chilly at all times with a random mix of rain, fog, and a cruel wind, often more than one at a time. I can’t say whether I find the architecture pleasingly harmonious or crushingly boring; but I’d really like to come back and have a more leisurely look sometime.

Street scene in Edinburth
· · ·
Street scene in Edinburgh

Sometime when I have a better chance of seeing some sun; everything started looking better on the rare occasions it came out.

Street scenein Edinburgh

I got the impression that Edinburgh has a drinking problem. Like, a lots of people falling over shitfaced in the street problem. Maybe it was just the neighborhood, which had a really high concentration of pubs.

The Conference · What can I say? These regional Ruby conferences, they’re all good, based on my experience. This one was only weakly regional; about half the attendees were Scottish, others from all over Europe, and with a strong faction of Americans whom I presume were thinking about the Ruby-and-Whisky combination. If you haven’t been to a Ruby conference, you should go sometime.

I learned lots of things. I met people who were already friends. I met others who I think will become friends. The crowd at my keynote was full of warmth, smiles, and friendliness.

And the organizers brought in a ridiculously corny but beautifully-executed Scottish extravaganza for the post-conference party: pipes, dancing, swords and axes and shields, bawdy humor. I can’t imagine anyone not swept away by the fun.

Thanks to Graeme and Alan and especially Paul!



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From: John Daniels (Mar 29 2010, at 06:54)

Sadly, most of Scotland has serious alcohol problems. It's something the Scottish Government are trying to tackle, but it's so deeply ingrained into the Scottish culture that it's hard to change.

Edinburgh in particular tends to be a destination for people on big nights out - stag/hen parties and the like. The venue was also close to Rose Street, which is a notorious pub crawl (12 pubs in one street).

Sadly, there's far worse places in Edinburgh. Lothian Road on a Saturday night generally features more violence than we saw in the Great Hall.

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From: Dave (Mar 29 2010, at 13:09)

Were Joseph Wilk and Tyler McMullen separated at birth?

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From: Nick (Mar 29 2010, at 15:00)

Regarding the drinking problem, I think you are right - it's only areas of Scotland that have a large number of pubs that are like that.

For example, in the Outer Hebrides it's possible to find some places where the distribution of pubs is slightly less than elsewhere. There, people have to get drunk at home instead.

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