ruby_conference1.jpg This weekend marks the second annual Ruby conference, hosted by SDForum. Leaping on a unique opportunity to "drink from a ruby-colored firehose," we got down here at 9 AM yesterday morning and prepared for code overload. I feel like I've been dropped into a live-action Anandtech forum.Ruby on Rails is an open source framework that takes the gruntwork out of coding by automating much of what you want. It's able to do this by forcing devs to work with a conventional programming structure, which keeps the code clean and also lets Rails intuit de facto code you'd otherwise spend your evening hours tapping out. Yesterday covered good ground, kicking off with a discussion about how Selenium and Ruby make a sweet match. Selenium tests are integration tests in the abstract, totally separate from Rails integration tests. It is best for testing AJAX, DHTML, widgets and full-stack integration. While it's slower than other tests, Selenium does boast some unique benefits. The Selenium RC architecture actually puts data into Selenese and converts it to JavaScript at the server. And with the inclusion of Happy Path, Selenium tests with clean code that is both readable and writable by non-programmers. A Selenium test is best for integration, acceptance, UI and smoke tests, all of which intersect at some point. After the Selenium talk Chris Wanstrath of ErrtheBlog.com came up to talk Ruby-friendly Web services. Mostly he discussed SOAP and microformats, which are a good way to add accessibility to data that you already have without having to rewrite it. For the vast majority of resources check out Cheat on Err the Blog, which contains the kind of compilation only seen in fantasy. A Stanford girl named Leslie Wu is here to showcase a class project called d.mix, which goes head to head with Yahoo! Pipes (although to be fair, who isn't?). d.mix is different from Y! Pipes because it's not just an API creator; it's an actual mash-up platform built entirely on Rails. Other highlights: the Rabble talks it up about Active Record (which, for all its model relationships, still has trouble playing nice outside of the Ruby sandbox) and founder Tom Preston-Werner of Chronic discusses his date and time parser, which in 45 minutes was outed for all its inequities. "You mean it can't understand a command like 'Five o'clock last New Years Eve,' or 'Next month of Sundays'?" We felt the compulsion to duck. The date and time parser is nonetheless pretty cool for reservation-setting and event-planning. The whole idea behind it is to take natural language ("Tomorrow 5pm") and break it down to its organic components without you having to fiddle with months, days, years and numbers. Mostly I talked to other attendees about Ruby and why they use it. There's an electric spark around the name. It's the new religion in town, here to save us from the unwieldy wiles of tyrannous old père Java and lower barriers to entry for non-proggies (or dabblers at best) seeking to create (close to) enterprise-quality websites in astonishingly little time. A big question about Ruby is that of its scalability. The speed-happy language is just too young for even the most evangelical of Ruby enthusiasts to know how it will evolve alongside them over the long-term. Sarah Mei of devchix.com says she believes Ruby's biggest contribution will not be the language itself. Noting it offers little that can't "be easily programmed into Java anyway," she says we will glean Ruby's merits (mainly dev speed and maintainability, made possible by a strong conventional programming framework) and use them to improve other languages. Over time, she believes, Ruby will vanish as quickly as it came. Wolfram Arnold of Real Girls Media disagrees, however. Explaining impressively that he and his team built the first Ruby-based content management platform, which made our ears prickle with overwhelming curiosity, he called the language both electric and elegant. Arnold muses, "I guess Python could stand a chance against it. But it doesn't really have Ruby's momentum." When pressed further for where he thinks Ruby will go, he admits that once it blooms it may very well change programming as we know it. "It's evolution," he says enigmatically. Well, that's a tall order for one little ruby-coloured firehose. Drink the Ruby Kool-Aid at the Ruby on Rails website.