I went to Berlin with a couple of colleagues earlier this week to attend RailsConf Europe.

It was my first time in Berlin, and I still can’t really say what the city is like! Pretty much all I saw was the stretch of Friedrichstraße between my hotel and the conference venue. I did, however, observe some awful Warsaw Pact architecture from the train out to Schönefeld Airport. And, 17 years on from the fall of the Wall, there’s still an obvious strip of tarmac down the middle of roads where it used to be.

The conference was … OK. Not as stimulating as last year, to be honest. The infamously opinionated DHH didn’t tell us all to ‘fuck off’ this time. I’m glad he’s getting more prudent, but I’m slightly disappointed at the same time. None of the keynote speeches set my heart ablaze, and I sat through a few really soporific talks—I’m not going to name any names.

I did see some really good talks, though:

  • Dr Nic gave an uproarious presentation to a packed, standing-room-only audience, managing to be both brazenly self-promoting and absurdly humble at the same time.
  • Britt Selvitelle from Twitter explained how they handle massive volumes and remain standing.
  • Eleanor McHugh and Romek Szczesniak showed some amazing, I-didn’t-know-you-could-do-that stuff with DNS and telephony.
  • Dane Avilla talked about testing the output of web apps, and demonstrated DWatir being used to run tests across four different browser/platform combinations—painlessly.
  • The most inspiring, interesting, and thought-provoking talk of all: Mike McKay of the Baobab Health Partnership explained how a Rails application running on repurposed i-Openers with touchscreens is significantly improving the logistics of HIV treatment in Malawi.

Rails is obviously healthy, judging by both the number of people at the conference, and by the presence of old-skool vendors like Sun and IBM. There’s not the revolutionary fervour of earlier years—Rails has grown up and got a proper haircut—but perhaps that’s a good thing: people will stop worrying about the nuts and bolts of web frameworks, and start writing some really interesting stuff on top of it instead.