Think, Code, and Experiment

Last week the 5th Open World Forum took place in the very heart of Paris, and this year af83 was again strongly involved in this major European and French Open Source event.

We are totally dedicated to the subjects tackled and the values at the very heart of the Forum: “the Open Digital Strategies”. This is the reason of our unfailing involvement in organizing and running it. The Forum’s format has undergone a number of changes last year while I was Chairman. I really wanted to make the event evolve, to be more comprehensive, pragmatic and accessible, while keeping its forum and think-tank dimension: a place where ideas are born, an event after which communities change and projects are formed. Hence, two dimensions were added to the conference:

  • Code, to gather the best developers
  • Experiment, to share with the general public who is often interested but kept apart

This is the best way to reconnect executives, companies, developers and their users.

So for the second year, three tracks coexisted (Think, Code and Experiment) to put Open Source in everybody’s hands – decision makers, developers and general public – through various talks and demonstrations held by more than 250 speakers and exhibitors.

It was as always a unique opportunity to meet the key players of the domain and take part in in-depth reflections on Open digital strategy, but also test the latest Open Source technologies, attend high-level talks and see artists’ performances, new Open interfaces for the home and Open Source robot operating systems.

The Think track was richer than ever, tackling a range of topics as wide as Open Data, Cloud, Embedded Systems, NoSQL databases, security and legal issues related to free solutions, the importance of education and training, communities, prospective and strategy, Open Source business models, R&D and industrialization, mobility, Open standards, Internet of Open stuff…

These were covered in keynotes, debates between a panel of experts, feedback from CIOs, case studies, innovation awards and less informal exchanges between participants: two intense days! There were great speakers, for example, Ralf Flax, Suse VP of Engineering, who has the soul of a true Open Source developer.

For those still in doubt, this year’s conference confirmed several points: Open Source is not only for the lower layers of the information system anymore, and can be highly efficient for answering various issues, from small to global companies as well as public services and organizations. It is strategic – but it also needs a considered strategy. With the increasing importance of software in our lives, Free and Open Software are more than ever relevant, allowing each player to have control of key components. It also proved that the ecosystem is ever-growing, lively, full of innovation and energy and has real economic weight.

Along with the CxOs, the Forum once more gave room to developers with the 2 day Code track in collaboration with a lot of vibrant communities. It hosted for example the FUDcon FEDORA,, Android and GoogleTV presentations and workshops and many more on Cloud, NoSQL, and HTML5. aims to gather French-speaking developers from all communities involved with programming innovative technology and free languages (e.g. Perl, Python, Ruby, PHP, SmallTalk, Scala, Clojure, Erlang and Haskell). We had the opportunity to attend high level talks by, among others,

  • Harald Welte (German hacker involved in a lot of free projects such as NetFilter, OpenMoko, GPL Violations), who spoke about Osmocom and Erlang;
  • Dodji Seketeli (RedHat Senior Software Engineer) on the upcoming GCC4.8;
  • Christian Couder (Senior Release Engineer) on git bisect, a invaluable tool to detect regressions;
  • Michael Scherer on the benefits of devs and packagers’ collaboration;
  • A presentation of the robot NAO and how to program it by Aldebaran engineers

… in short, a geek’s dream come true! Some of the OSDC sessions were recorded and will soon be available online, so check here  to catch up!

Finally, Saturday was the occasion to welcome the general public, to exchange and experiment around free art, internet privacy and neutrality, and contribute to projects such as Open Street Maps. Children weren’t forgotten – with this year’s KidExperiment (the mini conference for kids, hosted/carried out by MiniShare, HacKIDemia and the “Petits débrouillards”) which included  workshops and hands-on manipulations to dive into programming and code…

Co-founder, AF83 and Bearstech, Chairman of Cap Digital Collibri Community, Board of Silicon Sentier , President of the OWF 2011 ( France)
Louis is the co-founder of two companies, AF83 and Bearstech. AF83 is a Digital Agency, providing cutting-edge development, marketing and UX design services, based in Paris and San Francisco. Bearstech is an Open Source pure player, which provides IS management services, as well as responsible web and product development services. Louis is also heavily involved in Silicon Sentier and one of the founders of La Cantine, and is the chairman of Collibri, the free software & “open innovation” workgroup of Cap Digital, representing 150+ French companies and labs working with new technologies and free software.

With the great help of Marie Ailloud.

Comments from Josette – Watch this space for details of Open World Forum 2013 – I will be there, will you?

Ruby, Ruby on Rails latest – Who is behind the Scottish Ruby Conference?

Why is the Scottish Ruby Conference  so popular – is it Edinburgh? Is it the whisky? Or is it because of the dads? Read on and find out who is behind the conference. I manage to get responses from two of the organizers, which is pretty good going since they are supposed to put up the next show in June 29th-30th.

Who are you? What do you do?


My name is Alan Francis and I work for LivingSocial in Scotland and Washington, DC.  At the moment I build iOS and Ruby apps for the sales team.


I’m Graeme Mathieson and I’m currently working for FreeAgent  here in Edinburgh, Scotland, which provides an online accounting system designed specifically for freelancers and small businesses. My focus in FreeAgent is on maintaining and enhancing the core accounting engine which is, naturally, built in Ruby.


How did you get into technology?


My dad brought home a Sinclair ZX81 (1K RAM!) when I was about 10.  He was using it for an Open University course but I loved playing with it.  I started writing games for it and graduated to a Sinclair ZX Spectrum (48K!) and then an Amstrad PC when they became available.

When the time came to fill out my University application form, I’d just been to visit a friend who was studying Computer Science at Stirling University.  He seemed to be having a good time and so I applied for CS courses.  I ended up at Napier University and was taught COBOL and C.  I taught myself C++ and that’s the point, I think where I started to really get into what I was doing.


My dad (it’s always the dad’s fault, right?) was a maths teacher at a nearby high school. He’d regularly bring home a BBC Model B at weekends and over holidays. As with most kids, I started out playing games (Chuckie Egg, the Repton series and Donkey Kong still bring back fond memories), but then I started wondering how I could build these sorts of things myself.

I remember spending long Saturdays with my dad reading code printed in Acorn User, while I typed it in, and my mum (who’s not a programmer by any means, but a great proof reader!) would spot the errors. Hours of effort to play a simple game — not quite like downloading the latest title from Steam! — but it was awesome. Then I’d tinker, modify the game’s source code, change the behaviour a little, see what happened.

I guess is all just carried on from there…


How did you get into Ruby/Ruby on Rails?


Hm.  Long story :-)  Some bits and pieces.

a) In 2001 I joined a US company called ObjectMentor doing training and consulting in Extreme Programming (the term Agile hadn’t quite been invented yet).  One of my students there was a guy called Chad Fowler.  We stayed in touch.  He ended up being quite a big name in the Ruby community.

b) I’d loved Dave Thomas and Andy Hunt’s book “The Pragmatic Programmer” and their next book (in 2001) was the first edition of “The Ruby Programming Language”.  Hadn’t used the language but I liked the writing style.

c) Around 2002, lots of people in the XP/Agile community started raving about Ruby – Martin Fowler, Dave Thomas, Ron Jeffries

d) In 2005 I was at ThoughtWorks in Australia and Jon Tirsen started talking about Rails.  Rails was really the “killer app” that convinced me (and a lot of other people) to get into Ruby.


I’m a relative newcomer to web development; up ’til 2004, I’d been doing embedded development in C/C++. I took a job building a web app in Python with the Zope web app framework, which was probably the best (only?) Python web framework at the time.

After a year or so battling with Zope, I bumped into an early release of Ruby on Rails. It immediately solved a whole bunch of pain points I’d been suffering with Zope — built in database migrations, a proper object/relational mapper (which doesn’t suit all problem domains, but would have in this case) and a much easier deployment story. I prototyped a replacement to our existing Python code based in Ruby on Rails over a weekend and presented it to the management team. They didn’t go for it, but I was so sure that Ruby was the way forward that I quit and started my own Rails consultancy, Rubaidh.

Rubaidh was a clever, but terrible, name for a consultancy. It’s Scots Gaelic for “Ruby”, which gave me the neat tagline of “Scottish for Ruby [on Rails]”. Trouble is, nobody could spell it or pronounce it, and Google kept asking if it was a typo for “rubbish”! Still, I managed to develop a good enough reputation that I was kept busy with Ruby projects for the next few years.


In 2008 you organised Scotland on Rails. What prompted it?


At RailsConf Europe in 2006 Dave Thomas showed the Paris on Rails logo and I liked it.  I asked a friend to design me a “Scotland on Rails” logo using the St Andrews Cross.  To show the logo off I registered a domain.  I had no idea if it would be a user group, a blog or my own consulting company (I was self employed at this point).

I printed up a few shirts and sent them to friends (including Chad Fowler)

When the local Scottish Ruby Group decided to hold a small one-day conference we figured we’d just use the name and logo for that.  It was a Ruby conference, not Rails specifically, but the name was catchy so we figured why not?

The original idea was just a “get together” where we all presented to each other…but I asked Chad to come over and “keynote” it.  Everything kind of snowballed from there and a lot of my US friends were keen to come (because Scotland is cool!).  Before we knew what was happening we had all kinds of well-known speakers.


I started the Scottish Ruby User Group in 2007 because I wanted to go to the pub and chat with other people that used Ruby. At one of the pub meetings — after several beers, I’m sure — we got talking about holding a one-day event to get Ruby people from all over Scotland together (despite it being the “Scottish” Ruby User Group, it was largely Edinburgh-based). Alan had a domain and logo ready to go already, so we ran with it. It turned out to be something much bigger — and better — than we expected!


From Scotland on Rails to the Scottish Ruby Conference – why this change of emphasis?


As Alan says, we were always a Ruby conference, we’d just attached ourselves to the conveniently registered domain name. However, the perception was (naturally) that we were specifically a Rails conference and we wanted to correct that.


How do you explain the popularity of the Scottish Ruby Conference? Today (23rd January) there are only 14 tickets left for purchase – that’s almost sold out 5 months before the event.


Edinburgh is very much a destination city.  It was supposed to be a local conference but it’s ended up mostly replacing the O’Reilly RailsConf Europe, which kind of disappeared.  It is the biggest Ruby conference in Europe, I think.


I’m sure it’s nothing to do with the conference, and all to do with it being in Edinburgh, Scotland. :-) We’re lucky being in a city (and country) that people just love to visit. I know a lot of our attendees take the opportunity to extend their stay for a week or two and explore the rest of the country. I gather whisky is quite a draw, too.


Where do the attendees come from?


All over.  We regularly have many speakers and attendees from the UK, Europe, and the US.  We’ve had people come from Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.


Aye, what Alan said. I haven’t run the stats for the past two years, but IIRC (bother, I can’t find the spreadsheet now!) in 2009 we were roughly 25% Scottish, 25% from the rest of the UK and 50% from foreign lands.


Most languages have several frameworks, are there any competitors to Rails?

Alan being very Scottish - (c) Jeremy Hinegardner


Only smaller things like Sinatra.  The big competitor Merb was merged with Rails for Rails 3.


There are a bunch of modular building blocks that make up Rails, and one of the bits it leverages is Rack, a generic way of plugging web servers (Thin, Mongrel, Unicorn, etc.) into web development frameworks. This is awesome because it means you can choose the right framework for the right bit of your app. There are a few to choose from including Sinatra, Camping and Ramaze.

To me, though, the really interesting alternatives are the EventMachine-based asynchronous ones: Goliath and Cramp.


I often hear people comparing Ruby on Rails to PHP – I always thought that PHP is a language and Ruby on Rails a framework, so how can they be compared and why?


They’re both ways to make web apps.  It’s possible to make a basic webapp in PHP with no framework and people did.  Not many people built webapps in Ruby without Rails.


Ruby is the language and Rails is a web development framework, in the same way as PHP is the language and, say, Cake, is the web development framework. The key difference from that perspective is that loads of people seem to develop in PHP without the aid of a framework or, when they realise they need a better structure, invent their own framework. If Apache had shipped with a mod_ruby that allowed it to serve ERB templates directly, the same might have been true of Ruby!


A few years ago, everybody was talking about Rails, the hype seems to have slow down. Can you say why?


I have a long and boring theory about that.  I think these ideas in computing move in cycles, all attempting to tackle the problem of “better software” from different angles.  We had Objects, Design Patterns, Agile, Rails and the same people moved through them… you see the same names in the Design Patterns movement of the 80s moving into Agile and then into Ruby/Rails.

Each time the new “thing” makes a big wave and over time we ride that as far as we can until it is not making thing much better.  At that point, the hivemind shifts to another vector.  We’ve had language (Smalltalk), Design (OO/Patterns), Process (XP/Agile) then language again (Ruby/Rails).  The next *big* thing might be design again (functional vs OO) or a new kind of process.  Who knows, but I think we know that we can’t “Make Software Better” by making incremental improvements to Rails any more.


Part of what attracted me to Rails in the first place was its simplicity — at the time I could keep most of the Rails source code in my head and happily hack on the core to suit my needs. In the past 7 years, though, it has grown and has become significantly more complex (because it’s solving problems for more people in more domains at larger scale). I think Alan’s idea of cycles fits in here, too: in the early days, I’m sure Java was a relatively “simple” way to build web applications. However, over time it grew in size and complexity as more people joined the community and wanted it to solve their corner cases. Then came Rails, which was simple and lots of people got excited about it.

I wonder what’s next? If it’s a Ruby web development framework, I bet it’s one of the asynchronous ones. Maybe it’ll be NodeJS? (Personally, I hope not — I’ve no real love for Javascript!


Now tell me – what make the Scottish Ruby Conference so successful?  Could it be just the hard work that Alan, Graeme and Paul (absent for this interview) do?

The rise of Jenkins and Jenkins User Meetings

Nicolas de Loof from BreizhJUG, the Java User Group from Rennes, France, talks about Jenkins and Jenkins User Meetings.

Jenkins (aka Hudson) is the de-facto standard for continuous integration in the java world, but it is also an active, growing community of plug-in developers. Thanks to its extensible design and very open contribution model, many developers have contributed value-added plug-ins, so that nowadays Jenkins can be used for a large set of use cases. Including continuous integration for ruby, python, .Net, and more , but, beyond languages, many other processes. Some use it for QA and release management, some use it to trigger batch Business Intelligence processes, or as an infrastructure scheduling tool.

The first Jenkins User Conference (JUC) was held on October 2nd in San Francisco, bringing together the fast evolving community, to look at current usage, the future and brainstorming new uses to explore.  Kohsuke Kawaguchi, the keynote speaker, is the creator of Hudson and writer of the majority of Hudson core single-handedly.

Many local meetings are taking place internationally and as the local Java User Group Leader, I organized one of these “Jenkins User Meetings”  last evening in Rennes, France. During the 2 hour meeting, users and contributors talked about user cases, feedback or technical tips:

*       JavaScript web application continuous integration with Selenium web U.I. testing (Laurent Roger)

*       Continuous delivery with Build Pipelines and operations workflows (Sébastien Brousse)

*       “DogFood” use of Jenkins at CloudBees (Nicolas De loof)

*       Live development of a Jenkins plug-in from scratch (Gregory Boissinot)

Such events are a nice place to discover advanced uses of Jenkins and more generally about application lifecycle automation, and also to meet with contributors. Debates on functionality often bring attendees together to create a new plug-ins together, with the community valuing new contributions.  If there is no such event near you, just create one! You would be surprised to know there are some advanced Jenkins users living in your neighbourhood, and many folks with nice experiences to share. Long live Jenkins!







Is trolling endemic between IT developers?

Last week, I went to the Open Source Developers Conference (OSDC) that is bridging the gap between the different communities and aim to bring together all  IT developers. The conference was held in Paris which is still one one of the most attractive cities I know – one of the world’s leading business and cultural centres – well known for fashion, arts etc. But what I prefer is the buzz – it is so alive! It seems like a 24/7 city that keeps running.

I keep being told that the French, mainly the Parisians are so rude and unfriendly to foreigners – I definitely disagree with that statement. Once again, I got caught trying to find my way to the George V Eurosite – map in hand, looking for street names, trying to find out where I was and where I should go.  For the third time, somebody came to my rescue without prompting. Ex-pat French is not written on my forehead and my French accent is as bad as my English one. So why are they nice to me and so rude to you?

I am sure you are not reading this to discuss French politeness – so I will talk about OSDC which is the reason for my stay in Paris. This year OSDC was part of Open World Forum. The list of sponsors for the forum was impressive. It included Bearstech, Red Hat, Suse, Microsoft, Oracle to name only a few.


What is OSDC?

The Open Source Developers Conference (OSDC) aims to be a place for meetings and exchanges between developers from different communities, which too often ignore or distrust each other. The goal is to go beyond trolls and see what they can learn from each other.

This conference allowed me to meet developers in Python, Perl, Ruby etc. under one roof. Some of the talks seemed very interesting or so I was told and all the buzz words were used – QR, MySQL, Drupal, MariaDB, Redis and of course the above mentioned languages.

One of the talks that seemed to fit everybody is The state of the Acmeism by Ingy döt Net. Acmeism  is the commitment to furthering all good languages simultaneously. I have seen Ingy writing at the same time in Python and Perl – how did he do that? I don’t have a clue as I was rather busy eating a choucroute at the time.

Two talks were given by François Perrad on Lua.

The only time I heard about Lua was in an interview of the authors Luiz Henrique de Figueiredo and Roberto Ierusalimschy in our Masterminds of Programming.

After some apprehension on having my book table set far away from the OSDC rooms, first in the bar and then opposite the “makers” room (more about the “makers” room in a forthcoming post), I will admit complete success and I hope to be there next year.

I have only one regret, tradition among the perl mongueurs is to drink together a glass of Chartreuse brought by BooK all the way from Lyon. Unfortunately, I had to run for my train and missed it. Yet another reason to be there next year!





Andrew Chalkley’s Core RoR: Web Development With Ruby on Rails

Andrew Chalkley’s Core RoR is a comprehensive look at Ruby on Rails taking you from the basics on day one to using it in a variety of professional environments. Ruby on Rails is a full web stack framework, so you have to have a sound understanding of the ins and outs of web development. If you’ve had little to no experience as a web developer this course is probably not for you.

If you’ve dabbled a bit in Rails before but not really understood what’s going on, or if you are a web developer experienced in PHP, ASP or Java and are keen to learn how to build web applications using Ruby on Rails, this is the course for you!

The workshop is scheduled for the 3rd-6th May, 2011 at Skills Matter eXchange in London.

Cost: £1245

More details here: