Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saint Louis: The Pursuit of Rubyness ('06)

Well, this has certainly been a breakout year for Ruby in the St. Louis, Missouri area. Our little Ruby brigade ([1]) saw its attendance mushroom from an average 7-8/meeting to around 20. So much so that we are seeking a larger space to hold meetings. We have been thankful to Mark Volkman and the staff at OCI [3] for sponsoring our group and providing a place to meet since our second meeting. Thanks Mark and everyone at OCI.

Curt Hibbs kicked off our first meeting at a dinner with Dave Thomas at the Gateway Software Symposium (the "No Fluff, Just Stuff tour,") in March of 2005. I wish I could have been there, but we reprised the dinner this year in March. We got to meet Dave, Bruce Tate, Justin Gehtland, Neil Ford and some other NFJS'ers. These guys are all very young, super brainy and quite funny. I had a blast at the dinner. Pics here[4]

Curt also presented this year at RailsConf in Chicago, a talk titled "Inside Instant Rails," about his ubiquitous InstantRails project for Windows. Curt hasn't sat on his laurels for both the InstantRails and One-Click Ruby projects for Windows. 2006 saw a new book co-authored by Bruce Tate and Curt: Up and Running Ruby on Rails. [5] He also contributed to Ajax Hacks by Bruce Perry [6]. His One-Click Ruby project hit 1 million downloads in November. It is always near the top of the most active projects on Rubyforge. Sliiiiiick!

Our numbers may have grown, but the reason might not be solely due to the explosion of interest in Rails. Occasionally, we've asked our membership what they are doing with Ruby and the answer seems more or less split 50-50 between Ruby and Rails work/interests. St. Louis has a fairly large number of web development organizations and a lot of enterprise shops in the biotech, aerospace and financial industries. Ruby is beginning to make inroads in Java shops and even a few Microsoft shops (of which there are a lot in this area.) Mark has even used Ruby at Scott Air Force Base.

Speaking of Mark and NFJS tour, Mark gave a presentation titled "Ruby Tools" this year. Mark's talks are always well done and very interesting even if you've never heard of the subject. I remember his Distributed Ruby presentation (when we could still all fit in OCI's conference room,) with great appreciation. I went home and built a Rails Wiki using no DB, just the DRb stuff. Mark will return with "Ruby Plays Well With Others" at the 2007 Gateway Software Symposium. The talk will cover JRuby and writing C extensions. A few people from our group attended the talk by Charles Nutter on JRuby at the Gateway Java group. Ruby and Java are certainly two great tastes that taste great together!

Mark and Rob Smith have taught various Ruby and Rails classes at OCI in 2006 with more to come in 2007. Ruby training has seen its biggest increase in 2006. The interest has led two of our members, Mike Sullivan and
Jeff Barczewski to form a new training consultancy (Inspired Horizons [7] specializing in Ruby and Rails training. It kicks off in 2007, registration is now open for the first workshops which will cover enterprise stuff with Rails and JRuby. (There is that Java thing again.)

Our membership sure gets around. In addition to Curt, Jeff, Mike and Kyle Cordes attended the RailsConf in Chicago. (I am counting Kyle as a member and sponsor at-large. He currently hosts our web site, and promotes Ruby in his Agile talks. Can't wait for your Lua Users Group to start up, Kyle!) Around town, Curt, Mark, Rob, Jeff and I have given talks to various other users groups. Besides Stlruby, we have presented at St. L Linux (stllug), StLUnix (sluug) St. Charles LUG (stclug) St. Louis Web Developer's (stlweb) and the St. Louis XP users group (xpstl) Several of them and other members also taught at the all day St. Louis Code Camp.[8] David Holsclaw gave a presentation on RoR and Jeff taught a class on Extending Rails featuring MasterView (more on that below.) Cory Foy (a member at-large in outstate Missouri,) taught a program on Ruby for C#/.Net developers comparing the languages and Rails and ASP.Net. I am sure there will be more of this in 2007. Stay tuned.

Speaking of Jeff, you may not be aware of his excellent Rails project MasterView MV is an attribute language for Rails. You can use WYSIWYG editors like DreamWeaver to edit your views as regular .html files and put attributes on tags like a, input and select. MasterView will render them as ERb in .rhtml files on the fly. 2006 saw the release of version 0.3 which featured a new DSL for writing your own customized attributes. Sweet!

Sean Carley has also been very active this year in Ruby projects. He contributed the cat2rb quiz to the weekly Ruby Quiz [9] He also founded the weekly hacking night in St. Louis. Attendance was low, so it is currently on hiatus. There are a lot of monthly IT related events in St. Louis, so much so that nearly every weeknight (and quite a few weekends as well) can entertain us. Balancing that with work and family can be quite tough. Sean has contributed to ruby projects like ParseTree, checkr, and Zentest. He has also been involved in many book and other writing projects. Be sure to check out his blog [10]

Quite a few of us are active in the blogosphere (oh how I loath that particular term. Forgive me.) Besides Sean's check out Curt's writing on O'Reilly's Ruby web log. [11] Curt also has his own Blog featuring a lot of Ruby wisdom [12] Also check out Pat Eyler's (a member on our mailing list, but lives in Utah,) blog [13] Pat also writes for the
O'Reilly Ruby blog. Kyle and Cory also have blogs. They are at [14,15] respectively Yippee for self-named blogs!

Some of our members have taken what they have learned and applied it to actual stuff.
Steve Molitor and John Hohlen have developed a fantasy golf site using Ruby on Rails. It is just getting off the ground, but they hope to grow the league this year. Check it out at [17]

What about yours truly? Well, I have given 4 presentations on Ruby and Rails at various users groups as I mentioned before. I am presently involved as a partner in a full time Rails consultancy (WDT Solutions [16]). We just finished a rather large Rails+Masterview commercial project for a company in the health care field. I contributed one bug to RSpec and a number of suggestions and feedback to Jeff and Deb on the Masterview team.

Our group has grown so much this past year, that we have decided to actually use a bit of organization. To that end we have formed a steering committee. We meet for about an hour at Friday's before the main meeting. Our first accomplishment is to lay out the presentations for the first few months of 2007. We also migrated the mailing list from Yahoo Groups to Google Groups, which has a much nicer management and user interface.

Well, I am sure I've missed something (or many somethings.) If I didn't cover your book, project, presentation in 2006, please email me and I'll incorporate it. That's it for ruby in St. Louis in 2006. 2007 is shaping up to be another fantastic year in the wide world of Ruby. Prognostication is not usually my forte, but if I had to guess at happenings in '07, I'd say that Curt will become even more famous. Dave and Bruce, et. al. will show up at the NFJS tour and have food with us. More projects will be contributed to, more blog posts written, more presentations will be given, more conferences will be attended. Outside of Japan, Seattle, Portland and Utah, St. Louis will be the place to be for all things Ruby.

Have a Happy New Year!

[1] StlRuby
[2] New Google Groups for us:
[3] OCI
[4] Pictures from our dinner with dave, Bruce and folks at the Gateway Software conference (Dave is the one imbibing You can barely see the top of my head) (Jeff is the one at the left closest to the camera.)
[5] Up and running Ruby on Rails
[6] Ajax Hacks
[7] Inspired Horizons, Ruby Training
[8] St. Louis Code Camp
[9] cat2rfb
[10] O'Reilly Ruby Weblog
[11] Curt's Comments
[13] Pat Eyler : On Ruby
Kyls's blog
[15] Cory's blog
[16] WDT Solutions, LLC.
[17] Fantasy Golf Site