Ruby Day 2014: our experience

Conferences are important to us for a number of reasons: they let us meet old friends; discover faces behind twitter accounts; get to know people; share our experiences; and generally find out about what's going on in our sector. Ruby Day has, for several years, been a point of reference for those like us who love using this language to develop projects.
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Update 2015 - Relax and ruby!

We are proud to say that we are now part of the organisation staff of RubyDay 2015 that will take place on Nov 13th 2015 in Turin.

Join us!

We have always enthusiastically taken part in these rubyist events: sometimes as spectators; sometimes by sharing our own experiences. This year we were delighted to, for the first time, be able to participate in the event as sponsors with our italian main brand “Cantiere Creativo”.

Ruby Day 2014

Organizing a conference is no easy feat! Thanks to our experience of working as part of the Better Software team we know how difficult putting together this type of event can be. That’s why we decided to do our part to support the ruby community in giving us all the opportunity to come together and meet one another again this year. It has also been a great opportunity to establish contacts between two different conferences which deal with different areas but which share a potentially common audience.

What we talked about

We get a lot out of the community, and we see it as our duty to try to give something back too. Our work consists of research, intuition, error and success, and no two projects we work on are ever the same. As a web agency, its our job to solve problems by creating order from chaos. We read tonnes of documentation detailing other people’s experiences and explaining what they’ve been able to achieve. We use this information to find ways of translating their insights into methods of our own. We thought that it could be useful for others to be able to take this experience, make it their own, improve upon it, and then make it available to others again.

We were amused to note that our talks had (by chance) an asymmetric sort of symmetry with the program of the conference: we opened the conference with a talk on backend, and closed it with a talk on frontend.

Backend

Stefano Verna’s (@steffoz) opening talk entitled More fun, less pain: a strategy for writing maintainable Rails admin backends, dealt with a very common problem: the development of backend interfaces in the world of rails. The existence of “auto-magic” CMFs like ActiveAdmin certainly helps to simplify and speed up our work, but in the end we find ourselves dealing with the “80-20 problem”: in 80% of the cases everything can be taken care of with just a few lines of code, but in the remaining 20% of cases all of the advantages of these CMFs are transformed into pain and suffering. So, is ActiveAdmin’s monolithic approach open to discussion? Steffoz’s analysis shows how we have been able to put together a simple, clean, linear, solid, backed in (almost) pure Rails, without in any way loosing control of our app. In the process, we have created Admino, a gem of our own which we have made available on github and which simplifies the management of visit indexes.

Frontend

For our second intervention Steffoz (the man of the hour!) generously agreed to share the stage with me: Matteo Papadopoulos (@spleenteo). The talk Re-Organize the chaos touched on a massive topic: how to organize a project frontend. Due to the impossibility of dealing with the entire topic in depth, we opted to present an overview of some at-first-glance-unrelated tools and good practices that share an important common denominator.

We chose to illustrate the potential of Node.js, which in recent years has developed into a vast and powerful dependency and task management tool. We also chose to look at services such as Bower and RailsAssets that enable developers to take advantage of a database of frontend packets far more substantial than those available in Rubygems. We then looked at good ways of structuring sass and file systems, and at some useful conventions to enable maintainability and share work within a team.

This experience also led to the creation of a library, BEMO, which is available on github too.

What else?

These slides are already available, but without a “narrative” explanation of how they came to be created, some passages can be a little hard to understand. For this reason we’ve decided to publish a series of blog posts to explain the contents of these two talks. We promise to do our best to get it done as soon as possible!

We will also be presenting the talks again at the next session of Florence on Ruby which - after a long pause - will be taking place again next month… this is an unedited taste of what’s to come!!! :)

P.S. The 2014 edition of Better software will be taking place on the 13th and 14th of October in Florence. If you would be interested in participating, just write us an email and we - as sponsors - will be able to provide you with a discount code.

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