Merbcamp 2008 Sandiego


That’s now finally official, MerbCamp 2008 registration are open! What an exciting time!


To understand why I’m excited, we need to go back few months back. Merb was first released by Ezra has an alternative tool to handle file uploads. Merb came to reality because Ezra needed something fast, light and flexible to handle something that, let’s be frank about it, Rails had a hard time dealing with. Rails was king but was not as popular as now. Merb started as a simple Mongrel handler, in other words an alternative for small, light limited actions. Most people started using Merb simply to handle uploads. But as few cool kids started using Merb, they thought, hey, this thing is super fast, maybe I can use it to build small standalone apps. After all, hardcore developers don’t need “cool ajax helpers” and form builders to create a simple site. Geoffrey Grosenback aka topfunky even proudly used Merb to reduild his site! That was just enough to convince me to start using Merb back at version 0.3.4.

I was an active Rails user and contributor. Having to use a bare bone Ruby web framework was quite refreshing however the lack of testing framework was a real show stopper :( (Being hooked up on RSpec by Josh Knowles I ended up only writing a small portion of a Rails app with Merb 0.3.x (uploader backend).)

Quite quickly Merb’s philosophy changed and switched. The Mongrel handler framework started dreaming of becoming an alternative to Rails. Merb took the best from Rails but targeted another audience: the Ruby hackers living on the edge. Merb prides itself in being less opinionated than Rails(that can be argued tho), ORM agnostic (supporting ActiveRecord, Sequel and DataMapper), Javascript framework agnostic and truly modular. People like Yehuda Katz, Michael Klishin aka antares got involved, as more contributors joined the effort, rules were enforced to make sure the framework would be as fast as possible and easy to extend without monkey patching. (ohh and fully tested using RSpec ;)

Engine Yard decided to support the development effort and helped with Merb’s major rewrite (0.9 versions). Today, Merb is divided in 3 repositories, merb-core, merb-more and merb-plugins. By letting developers only choose what they want to use and by following a principle of isolation with private/public APIs, I believe Merb is today the most flexible yet powerful Ruby framework available. Furthermore, even though many people don’t understand the purpose of rewriting a “new Rails” from scratch, the reality is that many progress made by the merb team were ported back to Rails and inspired others (DataMapper for instance)!

Anyway, this is not a sale’s speech and I’m not trying to convince you to use Merb. My point is that Merb is finally coming to a point where the public API is stable and where one would find most tools he needs to build production ready applications. And, that’s basically a long sum up explaining why I wanted to organize something special to celebrate the 1.0 release and to create more awareness around Merb’s awesomeness!

The Team behind MerbCamp

I started getting involved with the SDRuby community a couple of years ago. As I got to know more people I realized that many people lead by Patrick Crowley (leader of SDRuby and one of the organizers of SD BarCamp) had the desire to organize a local Ruby conf/camp.

At the same time, while I was working daily with Merb and contributing back to Merb’s code, many other SDRuby fellows were also getting really excited about Merb (Rob Kaufman, Ryan Felton to mention a few).

Seeing the opportunity to host the very first Merb event in San Diego (host of RubyConf 2005!) I chatted with yehuda and the rest of the merb team. All the merb people were really excited, Leah Sibler from Engine Yard even offered her expertise to organize such an event (she’s totally awesome at planning/running conferences).

However, setting up such an event isn’t something one can do on his own. Before promising anything, I checked that Rubyists from San Diego would be interested and would help. In no time, I got a lot of people offering to help.

The key thing for me was to get someone with a good experience in organizing conferences. A person with resources and contacts. The only person I knew in San Diego who would be good enough to do that was Patrick Crowley. We had a quick chat Patrick and I and it turned out that Patrick was very excited about organizing the very first MerbCamp in his town. Patrick quickly got a team together who agreed on working on the project. We got back to the Merb team and sealed the deal.

Patrick even found the awesome venue that many other cities will envy us! He’s been running the show, running here and there, making phone calls to make sure registration would open on time, setup the website etc…. Thanks Patrick!

The Conf

MerbCamp will be an hybrid between a BarCamp, a conference and an unconference. When the organization team got together, we all agreed that what we like the most during conferences is networking. We certainly also enjoy some good talks and definitely enjoyed the hack-room during the last Rails Conf. We therefore decided to organize a conf *we* would love to go.

  • 1 scheduled track with “official talks” to make sure we have some serious content and to motivate people to signup ;)

  • BBQ at the beach, because we live in San Diego and we love that! (plus, big open meals are the best way to network)

  • BarCamp type impromptu talks

  • hack-rooms so people can work together

  • friendly and small conference (we limited the amount of participants to 200)

To conclude, I hope the “history” of MerbCamp 08 wasn’t too boring. People seem quite excited about this event, we even have guys in London who would get together to watch the talks via a webcam we are going to setup for them. We hope to see you there, if not, we hope you’ll organize your own conference and we will come have fun with you.

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