I've somehow found myself at a conference of agile practitioners in Austin, TX called ALT.NET
. My main reason for attending this conference was a deep desire to explore what options exist for development processes. (Little did I know what I was going to be getting myself into...)
Scott Bellware had also received a tremendous response to his initial post describing the conference. I have to confess a certain selfishness in wanting to spend a weekend in a room full of people far brighter than myself. The three Scotts (Bellware, Hanselman and Guthrie), Martin Fowler, Roy Oshgerove, Jeremy Miller, and Jamie Cansfield are in attendance as well as, at a guess, 60+ bloggers from the technical community.
Interestingly enough, Microsoft was sent quite a number of employees -- some interesting names there as well, which may herald some change of mindset on their part.
Run on the Open Spaces concept, this conference is as much about building community as about learning technical skills -- perhaps more so. In some ways, this is a surreal experience for me. As such, there is as much learning done at the bar as in the sessions. Passionate and polarized conversations abound, amidst much laughter as well. (For the record, there is a reasonably large Canadian contingent here... and, yes, they did close the bar last night.)
Part of the Open Spaces comment is that we, the attendees, not only got to select the topics, but are also encouraged to move from room to room. I sat in on the start of a Ruby discussion -- hoping to understand the technology and why I should care about it. Luke Melia and Mike Moore led that conversation, a dialogue with many religious references to "conversion experiences." It seems that many disillusioned developers are shifting to Ruby because it provides a more intuitive programming model, and is intended to make a developer's life easier.
There's a lot of talk about using Ruby to address fundamental flaws in the implementation of object-oriented programming, such as the assertion that C#/VB.NET are class-oriented rather than object-oriented. Comments such as this make me curious about the shift in mentality required to really embrace Ruby throughout the industry.
But the main characteristic of the Ruby conversation was an ever-growing number of passionate people espousing the joys of Ruby, and attempting to educate those of us who were, as one gent put it, "Ruby newbies."
The conversation got slightly sidetracked, and I chose to wander to the room next-door, where a conversation about domain-specific languages (DSL). Talk about a surreal contrast. I opened the door, slipping in quietly.... to a silent room of developers who appeared, at first glance, to be in a prayerful or meditative state. It was a minute or more -- though it felt like an eternity -- before one person ventured a question. It turns out that I was in a roomful of the curious, who seemed at times, to not know enough to ask meaningful questions. Instead, we listened as Jeremy Miller, Scott Guthrie and Martin Fowler had a discussion, sitting on the outside, hoping to glean gems of wisdom.
What a profound contrast -- the energetic, evangelistic Rubyists just beside a room full of more academic contemplative developers attempting to wrap their minds around the challenges of DSP.