I had the good fortune of attending eRubycon a few weekends ago and I can honestly say that I've never seen more value in a conference. My previous rant on how NFJS is letting the level of their speakers slip was only more evident in the 3 days spent at eRubycon. Neal Ford, Stu Halloway, Joe O'Brien, Jim Weirich, Charles Nutter and many others contributed valuable sessions that left me wishing the conference went on for a few more days.
The great thing about eRubycon was that it very rarely focused on what is typically the gateway drug in adopting Ruby, the Ruby on Rails framework. Rails is a multitude of patterns and practices that are worthwhile regardless of your current language, but it sometimes overshadows the true core of "beautiful code", Ruby.
The conference left me wanting to learn more about Ruby and to generally spend more of my time at work adopting Ruby. The challenge I (and many others have) is to do this while still meeting client requirements. Brian Sam-Bodden gave a great visual representation of how a Java project can incrementally adopt Ruby as a build language, scripting language, and testing framework. I missed half his presentation as I was so focused on pulling in buildr and some other utilities into my current project.
I think the two biggest topics covered though were essence vs ceremony and testing your application versus testing your framework. Stu Halloway gave a great keynote on essence vs ceremony and while his Java examples were typically very dated, his points remained true. Java (and C# by extension) force you to type crap that is just clutter or ceremony. The less ceremony in our applications, the easier they are to test, maintain, and actually produce on time. I don't recall who initially mentioned the difference between testing your framework and testing your application, but it was a point that haunted me all weekend. It's a very gray line typically between the two and one that can drastically impact a project schedule. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this one, so be sure to be cognizant of it when writing your unit, functional, and integration tests.
In summary, eRubycon far exceeded my expectations for a conference under $300. Speakers, content, hallway discussions, and after hours scotch induced discussions were all way above what I had hoped. Keep it up Joe, I'll see you there next year.