The beauty of RailsConf is that you find yourself magically learning even when you’re not trying to. It’s tough to gauge personal progress when everyone around you is intelligent to begin with; there’s a tendency to feel behind when really, you’re dealing with people who have years of experience. Following today’s presentations, I kept thinking, “Whoa, I would never have thought of that or tried this if it hadn’t been for this conference.” Thursday I was wondering how long I could keep pretending to be a developer and looked forward to my comfortable XHTML/ CSS world back home; tonight I can’t get Rails off my mind and am anxious to get back in the crowd. That’s the other thing: the Rails community has been exceedingly helpful and never shy to answer a question or two. There’s been a handful of times where I quiz the guy next to me, realizing later that he is a major contributor to Rails.

Long day and exciting presentations slated for tomorrow. A more extensive update to come…

Next morning: And now for that extensive update.
Thursday’s initial keynote by Dave Thomas was straight out a war movie full of morale boosting and a sense of comraderie among all listeners; it really fired you up. This goes back to the same welcoming community I briefly mentioned which is more concerned with producing great apps as a whole rather than “I did this” or “only my way works.”

The first presentation I attended discussed tooling Ruby on Rails through the use of an IDE called RadRails. The three man (or kid, they were pretty young) lecture team was also the creators of this open source project and I commend them for their efforts. Unfortunately, their speaking performance a bit to be desired, perhaps due to the invigorating display previously put on by Dave.

David Demaree was in the number two slot, delivering some key points on creating search-easy websites and apps and really making it obvious what you’re you’re trying to offer. While not much of what he said was directly related to Rails (actually, none of it), the basic concept of making your work accessible and clear to your targeted audience is a good one.

Next was Rails Application Optimization Techniques & Tools by Stefan Kaes. While most of what he said was more than a new guy could understand, Stefan did an excellent job presenting with some really great material. Although I’m still working on the basics and not ready to start optimizing, I have no doubt that a lot the points he made will surface again when I get to that stage.

Wrapping up the night was a motivational speech by Martin Fowler (incredible) followed by Paul Graham (hilarious).