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Rocking the Hoedown

We had a great time at the Ruby Hoedown this weekend. The Hashrocket crew was out in force (and there was much debauchery in the Hashrocket RV). We got to meet or get better acquainted with a lot of great rubyists and hear a lot of entertaining, informative talks.

Jim and Joe’s Mock Dialog

Jim Weirich and Joe O’Brien presented their talk about mocks and stubs in the form of a short play in three acts. This was very timely for me since mocking properly in tests is area we have been discussing quite a bit at Hashrocket.

One thing they said that struck a chord was that complex mocks are a code smell that can clue you in to problems or hot spots for refactoring in the code under test.

The presentation style was fresh and the tips they provided should be very valuable to anyone using mocks in testing (which should be everyone).

Ruby Best Practice Patterns

I’m afraid I played a little trick on poor Jeremy and my dear audience. Instead of spending an hour giving examples of patterns and practices, I thought it might be fun to take a more satirical slant on the material. The resulting talk, Unfactoring From Patterns: Job Security Through Code Obscurity, turned out to be a modest success (if I do say so myself) and I think rather more entertaining to boot.

I did have time to show a few actual patterns but the dialog during the question and answer period was especially valuable. David Black, Yehuda Katz and others made some great points and I really enjoyed getting a chance to discuss one of my favorite topics with such a receptive and informed audience.

We Ain’t Got No Keynote

Chris decided to forgo the slides to tell us a more personal story about his growth from a lowly PHP hacker to the successful rubyist, entreprenuer and open-source champion that he is today. Chris is an exemplar for me of the right way to go about creating a personal and company brand.

Chris’s years of passion for tinkering, experimenting and exploring really have payed off in a big way. I think his story could rightly be considered inspirational. I’m sure a lot of people left his talk and started side projects this very weekend. I really enjoyed his talk (even if he did tell people not to buy my book).

Flog Your Tests, Test Your Flog

Testing is such a crucial part of my process that I was very excited to hear Rick Bradley’s account of his rather epic battle to add tests to flog. The irony here, of course, is that flog itself is a testing tool.

This talk combined two of my favorite topics: testing and refactoring. Rick’s war stories had some great takeaways: the importance of integration tests to characterize the behavior of the existing system, the ways in which code that is written test first differs from code that is written without tests, the utter importance of testing all the f–king time. Bryal Liles will have more to say on that last topic in a bit.

I really can’t say enough about Rick’s talk. Hashrocket often takes on applications with little or no testing for our Rescue Missions and Rick’s deliberate, careful, comprehensive methodology is exactly the process we try to follow when we refactor and resuscitate our clients’ code back to health. Rick could very well write the Hashrocket Rescue Mission manual.

MIDI Machinations and Hungry Hungry Hippos

Giles Bowkett is a mad genius. Perhaps more importantly, he’s an artist who can ship. He lured us all to a talk about archaeopteryx, his amazing MIDI generator, and then proceeded to smack us all with the enlightenment stick.

I won’t spoil his talk for people who haven’t seen it. Suffice it to say that it was far more than I expected. Giles’s opinions on software development are unique and somewhat iconoclastic. Be careful, the code he writes might blow some people’s minds. Giles’s presentation style is engaging and he can be down right hilarious at times. Also, hippos are scary!

Wrap It Up!

Taking a road trip down to the Hoedown with the Hashrocket crew was one of the best conference experiences I’ve had so far. The talks were great, but I think the after-conference festivities were the real hilight. Watching Obie and Jason play beer pong on a table constructed of pool noodles (watch the video), playing werewolf with a crew of drunken rubyists and spending time with some of my favorite conference friends. Who could ask for more? Also, Jeremy has big plans for next year’s Hoedown. They involve words like “free” and “Nashville”. I would be inclined to add “awesome” as well.