First impression: lots of people. Second impression: "they want us all to fit in there?"
I called it exactly right. Joel Spolsky tried to pull a Ze Frank and did some random crazy presentation in his keynote, but it fell pretty flat. It was really polished and fairly amusing, but I was often insulted by either his blatantly sexist attempts at humor or his estimation of the audience's intelligence. It was nearly entirely content-free, and while he tried to develop a theme about the importance of esthetics, he never went anywhere with it. If you missed it, count yourself lucky.
On the other hand, David Heinemeier Hanson did a keynote where he transformed himself from a technologist into a life coach. His talk on The Great Surplus was interesting, if only to get a glimpse of the world from his perspective. I think most of what he said was right on, especially the bit about how everyone should code less and sleep more.
One of his points was his expectation about how Rails might lose its productivity advantage. He said there were three options: 1) Mainstream tech copies Rails' good points, 2) A radically new tech outdoes Rails, and 3) Rails becomes mainstream so there is no longer an advantage. But I think there is a 4th option. It's what happened to Smalltalk. I'm talking about C++. We Smalltalkers used to think the advantages of our language were so significant that it would take over the world. We had a huge productivity advantage over C coders. Then C++ came along and gave C coders just enough to let them improve their productivity and their ability to write larger more complex systems. It still wasn't as good as Smalltalk, but it was better than C, and much more accessible to most programmers than Smalltalk. C++ eventually sucked up all the oxygen and Smalltalk is now only a language for hobbyists and the occasional programming god. I think this is the most likely threat to the Rails surplus, that C# or Scala or something can do a good enough job that people can double their productivity with far less of a change in mindset or tools, and eventually no one will care about the ten times (or whatever) productivity of Rails. "Good enough is good enough."
Last bit before I gotta run. I've heard rumors about MagLev for a while, and the early announcement last month got me really excited. The demo and discussion yesterday by Avi Bryant and Bob Walker was one of those jaw-droppers that had everyone in the room freaking out. What they showed was pretty spectacular, though I always like to keep in mind Lansford's Corollary to Clarke's Third Law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo." The staggering performance boost together with the scalability and seamless integration of persistence could be a serious game-changer. I think the GemStone OODB technology beats the pants off of the ORM approach for most web applications, and if they can pull this off it's going to have a huge impact on how I write my software.
I'm giving my talk today at 4:25pm. Yes, I still freak out about giving talks. As critical as I can be of others, I'm hardest on myself. I hope I don't give myself too lousy a review when I'm done, heh.