RailsCamp 9

This last weekend saw 150 hackers from around Australia gather at a campsite in Lennox Head for the country's 9th RailsCamp. For the uninitiated, RailsCamps are 3-day-long events that bring together Australia's geographically disparate crowd of web and Ruby developers for a festival of code, collaboration, learning and plenty of other fun and games.

RailsCamp 9

Icebox Emerges

From Icelab, Hugh, Max and I made the trip to the camp, and we took the opportunity to start work on Icebox, a web app that we'll soon use to manage our company's job estimates, invoices, and time tracking. As a testament to the power of the Rails (and the poor weather that kept us away from the beach), we made great progress with the project, and had plenty to show off to the other campers during the demo session on the final night. We received a bunch of good feedback and expressions of interest, and our plan is to make Icebox more widely available once we've given it a thorough test run ourselves. If you're interested in giving it some testing, please get in touch.

Hacking on Icebox

On another Icelab-related note, this was the second RailsCamp (after Perth) that saw a spontaneous burst of reviews on Decaf Sucks for the fine work of the camp's resident baristas, led by Jason Crane. We're really happy to see that people enjoy using Decaf Sucks!

Why You Should Go Camping

More than just a chance to hack on fun projects, RailsCamp and other events like it are great chances to connect in person with our friends from around the country, to catch up and talk about the challenges we face as well as all the things that make us excited. Despite the repeated late nights and lack of sleep, I always come away from RailsCamps feeling reenergised and motivated to continue doing everything I can to make the very best possible sites or software.

This inspiration is also due in no small part due to the amazing work that everyone gets up to at these events. This time around we saw dungeon games, word puzzles, alien parades, realtime multiplayer tetris, iPhone SMS log analyzers, and test log helpers. Amazing stuff. And this is not to mention all the great software that has already been written to make events like this run well, from awesome t-shirt order forms, to bonjour-aware git servers, to Twitter and Gravatar clones.

See the Future

RailsCamp is also useful as the barometer for what is going to matter in the larger tech world. The people who attend these events are energetic pursuivants of new and interesting technology. It's worth taking note of the things that capture people's attentions at RailsCamp: these things are likely to become important for our industry and our jobs in the near future. At RailsCamp 7 in Canberra, the hot topics were Node.js and CoffeeScript, and here two camps later, JavaScript was just as big as ever, with talks on JavaScript foundations, and several on rich JavaScript web UIs, using such tools as Backbone and SproutCore.

I feel lucky to be involved in a community so vibrant and welcoming as Australia's Ruby and Rails community. Events like RailsCamp are the punctuation marks between long periods of toil, providing clarity and direction to my life as a web developer. So to the organizers of RailsCamp 9, thankyou! I can't wait until the Adelaide event later this year.