The Beezwax web dev team had a great time at RailsConf at the end of last month. The three days of the conference were packed with interesting talks, necessitating a series of painful triages each day as we selected which to attend and which to leave unseen. But now that ConFreaks has posted full video for almost all of the talks, everyone can catch up. Here are five of Shivam’s and Kevin’s favorites:
Bringing UX to Your Code (Joe Mastey)
What happens when you apply the principles of User-Centered Design, familiar to many from The Design of Everyday Things, to code? The results look much like the values of clarity and readability core to the Ruby community, but Mastey points out some antipatterns in the Ruby and Rails APIs, as well as some more inspirational design decisions. And the lapidary principles enumerated in the talk themselves are a useful pair of glasses for code.
Ruby on Rails on Minitest (Ryan Davis)
Let’s write some tests! And what’s the testing framework that pops into almost all Rails developers’ heads? Rspec. With great support and documentation, there’s no doubt Rspec is the community standard. But given that Rails uses Minitest to test itself, maybe this standard is worth questioning. Rspec requires you to master a new DSL, while with Minitest writing a test is just a matter of adding another method. Minitest is much simpler, so it requires less support, and you can use apply your well-honed Rails refactoring skills to your tests. Ultimately, Davis builds quite a strong argument.
Aaron Patterson’s keynote on Rails performance
Patterson’s keynote the second day touched on a variety of topics to do with Rails performance, explaining recent improvements he was responsible for, anatomizing problems, and setting out wishes for future iterations of Rails and its associated ecosystem. The part about RubyGems performance near the end was particularly interesting in the vista it provided on the innards of that Ruby standby.
Implementing a Visual CSS Testing Framework (Jessica Dillon)
Bugsnag uses a testing framework they developed to diff their site’s appearance and ensure changes to CSS don’t have unintended consequences. Where many others have faltered, they intend to succeed. The framework isn’t open-source, so you can’t use it, but you can follow along with the very interesting thought process of Dillon and her team as they developed it.
Metasecurity: Beyond Patching Vulnerabilities (Chase Douglas)
We typically defend web applications against vulnerabilities or against attackers. What about defending against exploitations themselves? Immunio, the security startup that sponsored this talk, has developed a product that learns what to expect from specific lines of code in an application and blocks effects contrary to its expectations (like dropping a database table when it expects the app to search the table). It’s an extremely interesting idea, explained and motivated very well in this talk, video of which will hopefully be posted soon.