meshU, the workshop-oriented sister conference of mesh, took place this past Tuesday in Toronto. It sold out a few days beforehand, but with only four presentation slots and an estimated ~200 attendees, it had the feeling of a very small and tight-knit conference, big names aside.
Avi Bryant kicked off the development track with a talk on relational database alternatives. Instead of getting too deep into the why, Avi focused on design considerations / best-practices when building an application on top of services like Amazon’s SDB, Google’s AppEngine, and Microsoft’s forthcoming SSDS (now in beta). He finished off with a first look at MagLev, a new Ruby VM (and Bryant / Gemstone joint), demonstrating two irb-like shells accessing the same global objects, complete with transactional support. Very curious stuff; more details on MagLev are to be revealed during Bryant’s upcoming RailsConf talk.
Afterwards I snuck into Reg Braithewaite’s talk on managing great software teams. I’ve been reading Raganwald for the better part of two years, and I’ve generally enjoyed reading his management-type articles, so I was looking forward to hearing him speak in person – even with Daniel Burka of Digg/Pownce fame presenting next door. Unsurprisingly, Reg is as a good a speaker as he is a blogger, and it felt like management and developer-types alike enjoyed his assortment of management anti-patterns, golden rules, and hindsights. You can catch his slides here, but despite being aesthetically pleasing, they’re hard to appreciate on their own.
After lunch, my co-worker Taavi and I took in Leah Culver’s talk on OAuth, an open API authentication protocol. Her presentation was both introductory and yet very-technical, with fairly complex slides depicting a number of authentication interactions, complete with source code examples. With a dizzying number of token names and types, OAuth was perhaps the most complicated subject of the day, but Leah had a helpful hand; Flickr’s Cal Henderson, author and celebrity audience member, answered questions throughout (OAuth is largely based on the Flickr authentication model).
Last, but not least, Marc-Andre Cournoyer gave a development talk on Thin, a speedy event-driven web server for Ruby, and Rack, a web server interface and library. Marc-Andre coded up a couple of Rack/Thin examples while he presented, and I’m not sure what impressed me more: Thin, Rack, or Marc-Andre’s expert command of TextMate. It was a great presentation (with a hilarious introduction), so it’s a shame it was scheduled opposite Ryan Carson and John Resig, as the audience was minimal. Oh well; this subject would be better suited for a [Ruby|Rails]Conf, anyways.
So that wraps things up. From all the feedback I’ve heard, meshU was a pretty big success, and all indications point to a repeat event next year. Thanks again to all the volunteers, organizers and sponsors* for making it happen.
Disclosure note: FreshBooks is a sponsor of both Mesh Conference and meshU.