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Spree Conference 2012

Last month I had the privilege of attending the very first SpreeConf in New York City. If you aren’t familiar with Spree, it is an awesome Rails e-commerce engine you can use to build a full-featured online store. The conference was held over two days; the first day featured several training sessions. The sessions covered a range of topics including theming, configuring, and testing Spree. The second day was filled not only with talks related to Spree, but to e-commerce and Open Source in general.

The conference coincided with the 1.0 release of Spree. Throughout the training talks and into the second day, presenters were quick to point out some of the awesome new features now available with Spree. One of the most exciting is the inclusion of the Skeleton CSS framework, which helps Spree provide a great shopping experience no matter what device your customer is using. The admin backend and default front-end theme have also been revamped to be easier to use and customize.

Highlights of the conference for me included Brian Quinn’s talks on Deface and Spree’s hidden gems. Ryan Bigg navigated to a meme-filled slide deck to talk about his experiences working with engines for Spree and for Rails in general. He concluded his talk by pushing a Rails Guide on engines to Github. After his talk the Spree team gave everyone a copy of his book Rails 3 in Action.

Ryan McGeary gave a very inspiring talk about Open Source. He told a story about his quest to create a Spree store that connected to a Makerbot to offer just in time inventory. While in the end the result wasn’t practical for running a business, his point that he was able to do so with very few lines of code by modifying existing Open Source code to suit his needs. He is then able to share that code for others to improve on – “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants.”

While the conference was aimed at Spree developers and store owners, it was clear from the start that this conference was mostly about celebrating Open Source, and not just software. The keynote speaker for the event was Bre Pettis, founder of Makerbot Industries. Bre shared an example of how the Makerbot community works together to solve problems. Collaborators from around the world had been working on printing a working clock derived from a clock mechanism one person posted on Thingiverse (Thingiverse is sort of the 3D-Printing version of Github), but no one was successfully able to get it work alone. So Bre organized several Hackathons where Makerbot provided space and food for everyone to come together and work. Eventually the team was able to build a working clock.

Bre’s point was that electronic collaboration can get you really far; however, there is no substitute for face to face interaction, and that most of the important work is done over food anyway.

Overall the conference was huge success. Not only did I learn a lot about Spree, and Ruby in general, but I also met some awesome developers from around the world who are truly passionate about Open Source. Every now and then, we as developers need something like a conference or meet-up to remind us how exciting our jobs are, and how lucky we are to be part of such an great community.

What is something that has gotten you excited about Ruby and/or Open Source recently?

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