Notes from Ruby on Rails Project Night

It’s Back!

Bruce Lee, brandishing "Rails" nunchucksLast Friday marked the return of Ruby on Rails Project Night, a Toronto-based event where developers who worked on Ruby and Rails projects could do in-depth presentations on their current projects or ideas. It was on hiatus for the past couple of months (you can see this entry for the definition of “on hiatus”), but thanks to the efforts of Corina Newby, who helped put together the event at its old venue, it’s back, and judging from the attendance, it was missed. Thanks, Corina, for all your work!

James Robertson

The first speaker was also the special guest (and the reason the event was held on a Friday, as opposed to the typical Monday or Tuesday): James Robertson, whom you may know from his blog Smalltalk Tidbits, Industry Rants. He was on a “Canadian tour”, during which he was talking about the Smalltalk-based web app framework Seaside as well as Webvelocity, which puts the Smalltalk development experience within the browser.

Here’s the abstract for his presentation (from this entry from Corina’s blog):

WebVelocity is a new Smalltalk Development Environment that is oriented around Seaside for Web Development and Glorp for Object/Relatonal Mapping. Come and see how WebVelocity re-targets the Smalltalk development experience into the Web Browser and simplifies the challenge of learning a new environment for newcomers. We’ll even build an entire application using Active Record and Scaffolding during the presentation, with minimal programming. If you’re a fan of Ruby on Rails, you need to come out and see this presentation!

Here are my notes from his presentation:

Paul Doerwald

The second speaker was Paul Doerwald, who changed his topic from the more Ruby/Rails-specific “insights gained from working with ActiveRecord validation” to a more general (but still interesting) topic: Agile Documentation. He figured that it might be a better fit with James’ presentation, and it was — it was also quite interesting.

Here’s the abstract for his presentation:

“Programmers generally hate writing documentation. That’s because most documentation is kept separate from the code and becomes hard to keep up-to-date. Besides violating the DRY principle… it can lead to misleading documentation, which is generally worse than none at all.” [Subramaniam/Hunt ’06]. Why do developers hate writing documentation, and why do stakeholders and managers keep requiring it? Is there agile documentation beyond inline API documentation (JavaDoc, RDoc, etc.) and comments in the code? What parts of a project deserve separate-from-code documentation? How do we identify them, capture them, and keep them relevant?

Tonight’s Toronto Ruby on Rails Project Night presentation discusses the problem of documentation, explores some key aspects to consider when writing effective documentation, and dreams of a future of testable, executable documentation, where non-code knowledge could be integrated into your code.“

And here are my notes from his talk:

Checking Out the Rich Media Institute

After the presentation, which was held in the Rich Media Institute’s basement-level lecture room, a number of us headed upstairs to check out its main floor. If you’re a techie with a creative bent, this place is like a candy store. The front part is a store full of books, t-shirts, music and other goodies that new media creators and aficionados would love, while the back is a gallery for local interactive artists’ works.

I took some photos of the place and posted them in the gallery below. Click on any of the thumbnails to see a larger version of the picture:


The Return of Ruby on Rails Project Night

Rails to Victory

After “a much-needed summer hiatus” (which you can read as “the complete implosion of Toronto’s worst-run software development shop, which used to host the event”) Ruby on Rails Project Night makes its comeback this Friday, September 19th at its new home at the Rich Media Institute in Kensington Market.

Event organizer Corina Newby promises that it won’t normally be on Fridays, which should the minds of your significant others, party-going friends or World of Warcraft clans at ease. The event is being held on a Friday this time to accommodate the schedule of special guest James “Smalltalk Tidbits, Industry Rants” Robertson, who’ll be there to give us a presentation of the Smalltalk-based web application framework Seaside and the Seaside-based Smalltalk development environment WebVelocity.

Also scheduled is local Ruby on Rails developer Paul Doerwald, who’ll be doing a presentation on insights he gained from working with ActiveRecord validation.

As always, one of the greatest benefits of these gatherings is actually meeting local developers who work with or are interested in working with Ruby and Rails. It’s good for you, your software development career and the future of Accordion City as a hub for high-tech when gatherings like this take place, so be a part of it!

By the way, did I mention that the event is FREE?

Once again, the date is this Friday, September 19th at the Rich Media Institute (156 Augusta Avenue). The presentations will start at 6 p.m. and run until about 7:30. If you’re planning to attend, let Corina know at


“Rails to Victory”

Here’s a still from what I assume is a propaganda film from World War II titled Rails to Victory. If any of you are planning to do presentations covering the topic of Rails and are looking for some graphics for your slides, you might want to consider this one:

Opening shot from the film \"Rails to Victory\"
Click the photo to see a larger version.
Photo courtesy of Miss Fipi Lele.


My Tech Reading List for May

I got a number of books for free this past week:

Books I\'m reviewing in May 2008

  • Head First PMP – When my friend Leigh Honeywell heard that I was taking a project management course later this month, she told me that she got this book for free at a conference and had no use for it. So she gave this book to me, and I’ll be reading it so that when the course comes around — it’s May 21st through 23rd — I’ll be at least familiar with the material.

And four books from Apress, courtesy of Julie Miller:

I’ll be reading them this month and posting my reviews here in Global Nerdy. Watch this space!


TSOT Ruby/Rails Project Night Next Tuesday!

Next Tuesday is the second Tuesday of the month, which means: Ruby/Rails Project Night, hosted by TSOT!

Jon Stewart, Conan O'Brien and Stephen Colbert fighting over a Rails logo

The Quick Version

  • When: Tuesday, February 12th, 2008:
    • Doors open around 5:30 p.m.
    • Presentations begin sometime between 6 – 6:30 p.m.
    • Arrive early to get fed!
  • Where: TSOT developer office, 151 Bloor Street West (just east of Avenue Road), Suite 1130
  • Admission: FREE (but please register!)
  • Register with: Corina Newby or Joey deVilla

About Ruby/Rails Project Night

Ruby/Rails Project Night is a Toronto-area gathering held at the TSOT developer office on the second Tuesday of every month. It’s an event that lets people developing projects in either Ruby or Ruby on Rails show them off in front of their peers in 20-30 minute presentations. Presenters are encouraged to go into as much technical detail as they like (even showing the code, if they’re so inclined) and cover all sorts of aspects of their projects, from programming issues to visual design and usability to the business of making a living off their software.

Whether you code in Ruby and Rails for a living like we do, dabble in it in your spare time or are just curious as to what the fuss is all about, we encourage you to come to our office next Tuesday for Ruby/Rails Project Night! It’s a chance for you to see software that’s being developed right here in town and to mingle with other developers interested in Ruby and Rails. We provide food and drink, so you can focus on the presentations and not your grumbling stomach.

Who’s Presenting

Yours Truly will start the night with an opening monologue to get things going, after which I’ll be followed the the evening’s main presentations:

  • How to Avoid Hanging Yourself in Rails, by Rowan Hick. This presentation is subtitled “or: Optimizing Your ActiveRecord Associations”.
  • Mike Bowler and Steve Vetzal will talk about their project that helps new businesses be memorable.
  • CRMS – Clinical Research Management System. Luke Galea will present this project, a Rails and Prolog/XSB application that manages drug and procedure trials at some of the biggest hospitals in the U.S..

What Happened at the Last Ruby/Rails Project Night?

Everyone Takes Their Seats
Click the photo to see it on its Flickr page.

Check out this article, which has a quick write-up and photos.


SEO Tips for Rails Apps

Default Routes Considered Harmful, and Other Rails SEO Tips covers SEO for Rails apps, with both on-page SEO tips (Prettier URLs, Better Title Tags and DRY in Content) and off-page SEO tips (Easy Linking and Bookmarks).


RailsConf 2008 Registration is Open

Just got the email: early bird registration for RailsConf 2008 (which is $100 cheaper) is now open. When I was working a nice big company like Tucows, they’d foot the bill, making the decision a no-brainer. Now that I’m at TSOT, which is a start-up, we don’t have those budgets and now I have to think about the bang-per-buck ratio. Are you going, and what factors are you taking into account?