I just got back from MerbCamp 2008, and now I'm writing a blog entry on my slow PHP WordPress application. I can say this with confidence because of the fact that every time this blog loads, it has to re-parse and re-interpret the PHP, which pulls from the database the blog entries that I'm using. The reason I'm mentioning this is because of the closing keynote.
In the closing keynote, Yehuda Katz brought up a very important point, which is that Fibonacci Numbers and Matrix Multiplication are not necessarily good benchmarks for language to be measured on as far as building a web framework. When people think that Ruby is slow, it is based on the fact that during the Programming Language shootout, it does poorly. It is tested classically against other languages with the same general purpose tasks that define a language. This means that instead of testing frameworks, and extensions and adapters, it's testing pure Ruby against pure C, pure Java, pure C#, pure Python and pure PHP (Whatever that means).
However, given the fact that a LOT of the gems used in running a framework are natively compiled in C and work with Ruby this means that a lot of the things that Ruby is inherently bad at can be mitigated. It's true that Ruby is not a magic bullet, nor is php or any other language. The fact of the matter is that Ruby is not as slow as people make it out to be.
On another note, the best thing about the conference IMO is the fact that it was webcast and archived. This is great because I missed part of the Sunday morning presentation about Deploying Merb. Right now, I really want to find a Web-Based Service where I can just create a ton of Virtual Machines that I can use for staging. I know that we have spent countless hours here setting up servers using Apache, Nginx, Mongrel as well as personally with mod_rails and mod_rack. If that could be automated every time we need another Rails or Merb solution, that would be a major epic win for us. I know that EngineYard has come close, but then again I'm a server geek who likes to be able to have the ability to tweak everything, but doesn't have the time.
Another thing that was cool was the IRC. I spend a LOT of time on IRC. I used to practically live on #openwrt back when I was doing hacking on the Linksys router, and on #wireless. These days I can be found in #freegeek-van, #merb, #arduino, #vhs and in #nitobi on FreeNode. Yes, I said #nitobi. (I registered #nitobi for the official Nitobi channel on FreeNode, but more on this at a later time.) Anyway, Brian and Rob had to get back onto IRC at the sprint. It's hard to keep track of everything that goes on, but IRC definitely has stood the test of time for one to many chat, and for getting help fast. The coolest thing about the IRC was the end where everyone used IRC to ask questions of the Merb team. The reason for this is because MerbCamp was webcasted and people from around the world were asking questions. Apparently this is commonplace at various conference, but it's the first time I've experienced it professionally, which is rather cool.
Overall, it was a cool conference, and I'm looking forward to going next year.