I went to my fourth conference this summer. Conferences, especially small ones, are a great chance to get quick insights into new ideas or technologies, but most importantly to share ideas with a lot of other people.
The presentations were good, many revolved around testing, with some talking about performance and deployment. There were very few presentations of new novel ideas or techniques. That's where discussions come in.
I'm a new Ruby programmer who came to the party by the way of the popular gateway drug, Rails. So I'm still behind on proper and good Ruby tools and techniques. Pat Eyler gave an overview of various Ruby libraries for testing and performance such as test/unit, autotest, unit_diff, rspec, rcov, ruby-prof, and benchmark.
He sequed very well into SouthEast Michigan's own Patrick Hurley's talk on C optimization. Coming from a C/C++ background, knowing how easy it is to add small chunks of fast C code to dramatically speed up code (Patrick's example showed a 20-times increase).
Back in Rails (esque) land, Zach Dennis talked about his ActiveRecord:Extensions (AR:E). ActiveRecord isn't Rails specific, but makes a big part of the functionality behind Rails. AR:E adds a lot of very convenient functionality as well as speed improvements to database operations.
And of course, we made another pilgrimage to the Grand Rapids Brewing Comany.