In a word: disappointing.
Oh, the venue (the Embassy Suites at the San Francisco Airport) is nice enough. And yes, there are problems finding power and getting on the internet, but that's to be expected. Anyone who attends a gathering of more than about ten people and actually believes the claims of abundant power and speedy WiFi for all is asking for a let-down. So it's not that.
Maybe it was just my bad luck in the sessions I chose to attend. I was very much looking forward to hearing some of the Ruby core team speak, so I made sure to catch Matz's keynote, "East meets West", and "Hacking parse.y", the latter being interesting to me in its own right since it was about Ruby implementation internals.
Matz has decent presence as a speaker, and the crowd dutifully laughed at all his good-natured, pro-forma digs at other languages' foibles (Java is lame. Lisp has too many parentheses. Et cetera.). But he didn't have anything particularly new or interesting to say about Ruby or language design, just that there can be no "one true" programming language, that the best we can hope for is one that's "close enough", and in his opinion Ruby is currently the best candidate. Go figure. Still and all, the man did invent the language that I currently use to make a living, so major props to him.
The other two were just not up to any reasonable standard for a conference at this level.
Look -- I know the Ruby community prides itself on being edgy. I get that RubyConf is deliberately kept small and scruffy and non-RailsConf-y. But is it really asking so much that the people who present talks at The Premier Conference for their language/community have some basic skill in the art of talking to an audience?
I did find the talk on using Ruby to write DSLs and code generation tools for hybrid systems simulation and scientific computing pretty interesting. And tomorrow's schedule looks good on paper.
Here's hoping it goes better than today.