RailsWorld 2023 was a great surprise. I arrived in Amsterdam without any expectations, thinking it would be a normal technical gathering with engineers talking and presenting technologies they enjoy working with. After two days, I can say I was pleasantly surprised and that I can summarize RailsWorld 2023 in two words: simplicity and joy.
I believe simplicity is something many engineers don't appreciate enough. Although the Ruby language allows for implementing complex problems with relatively simple logic, it doesn't prevent us from taking the complexity route, especially because real-world problems are usually complex.
The first thing that attracted me to Ruby and Rails 17 years ago was the simplicity and clarity of Ruby and how the Rails framework put those principles into practice.
During the Rails World 2023 opening keynote, it became clear why Rails continually improves and attracts new developers and projects. David Heinemeier Hansson's (DHH’s) keynote addressed simplicity as a focal point and the journey to achieve it. My highlight was when he mentioned the "complexity bridge" that needs to be crossed to reach simplicity.
This concept could be a guideline for every developer. You may have to cross the complexity bridge to arrive at simplicity, but it's worth it – for your future self, your team, and your product.
Simplicity for developers seems to be the core idea driving new developments in Rails, including some of the following:
David Heinemeier Hansson’s focus on simplicity is now clear to me, although it wasn't always obvious. I knew that the 37Signals team chooses new features carefully instead of just adding new things to their products, but I wasn't sure the same mentality was applied to Rails' new versions.
In the first few years after Hotwire, Turbo Frames, and Turbo Streams were released, I was reluctant to use them in real-world applications because of their unique approach. I had been using React for the front end and Rails for the back end and was content with that. It seemed inevitable to adopt newer frontend frameworks since that appeared to be the industry's direction.
However, in the last year, I was compelled to use Hotwire, Turbo Frames, and Turbo Streams and have come to understand how much better they are due to their—excuse the repetition—simplicity.
If I were to build a new application from scratch, I would probably opt for Hotwire and Turbo for the front end. Sorry, React. :)
I highly recommend watching the opening keynote and the Rails Core AMA, moderated by our CEO, Robby Russell. If you have time, check out the other presentations on the Ruby on Rails YouTube channel.
Returning to RailsWorld 2023, the second key term in my summary is joy. I've attended other developer conferences before, but this one felt unique because of the attendees' palpable joy and interest. Maybe 5 or 10 years ago, Rails seemed stagnant, without many new exciting features—that was the middle of the "complexity bridge." Now, it's quite clear that we're nearing the end of it, which is reflected in the Rails developers' mindset.
Everyone I saw or interacted with at RailsWorld 2023 seemed genuinely happy with their work, proud to be using Ruby and Rails, and excited about the newly released or upcoming features. This includes me—I've always enjoyed Ruby and Rails, but now, after 17 years, I find my appreciation deepening.
Having Rails Core team members present on various topics, plus the Rails Core AMA, was a great way to see that these individuals who make technical decisions impacting all Rails developers are engineers like us. They enjoy their work and learn just as we do.
I was also pleasantly surprised by the openness and friendliness of the other attendees. Several people came over to ask where I'm from, what I'm working on, and how things work. These people ranged from those working on unfamiliar projects to Rails Core team members. There were no cultural differences or boundaries felt, even though the 700 developers at Rails World 2023 came from all around the world.
My goal in joining RailsWorld 2023 was to learn about the future direction of Rails. I left feeling that the Ruby and Rails community is a wonderful group to be part of, with members who enjoy their work and are genuinely excited about Rails and its new developments. This sentiment may not apply to every Ruby and Rails developer, but it certainly applies to the 700 attendees. I'm glad I was one of them!
Even before joining RailsWorld 2023, I was aware that Shopify, GitHub, and 37Signals contribute significantly to Rails, but now I see they are the driving forces behind it. These teams propel Rails forward and employ very talented people to work on Ruby on Rails. Even though they do this to advance their own products, I am grateful for the quality of work put into Rails, which provides us with a complete, flexible, and reliable ecosystem.
A huge thanks to Shopify, GitHub, and 37Signals!
I foresee exciting times for the future of Ruby on Rails, and I am very happy to be a part of it.