Category Archives: Blogging

What to do While you’re at Rails Conf 2007

If you’re attending Rails Conf this year and are from out of town, you might be like me when you’re in another city: I don’t really find much outside of the touristy areas, or what’s immediately around where I’m staying. But you’re in luck! I live here , Oregon and I have a list of places to go and things to do that I think are quintessential.


I’ve tried to pick places that are close to the convention center, but most places will require either taking Tri-Met bus, light rail or street car, or driving. Each listing has a link to directions from the convention center so you can see about how far it is.


Good places to eat lunch or dinner
The immediate area around the convention center is mostly places like Denny’s and Red Robin. I wouldn’t recommend eating there. Here are some places for getting some good food.
  • The Side Door (Directions)
  • Russell Street BBQ (Directions)
  • Produce Row (Directions)
  • Old Town Pizza (Directions)
  • Le Bistro Montage (Directions)
Good places to eat breakfast
One thing know how to do right is make a tasty breakfast. Check out these places if you have time to get up early and eat before the conference starts for the day.
  • Zell’s Cafe Two words: BACON WAFFLE (no…waffles with bacon IN them)
  • The Side Door (Directions)
  • Bridges Cafe (Directions)
Go see a movie, and have a beer
as far as I know, is one of the very few cities that have so many movie theatres that serve beer and food. AND to top it off, most movies are $3-$6 admission. Check out one of these theatres for a magical movie and beer experience.
  • Bagdad Theatre (Directions)
  • Laurelhurst Theater (Directions)
  • Mission Theatre (Directions)
  • Clinton St. Theater (Directions)
Coffee Shops Galore
has no shortage of coffee shops. Try not to go to Starbucks and find one of these local coffee shops.
  • Stumptown Coffee (2 locations: Downtown and Belmont)
  • Tiny’s Coffee (2 locations: MLK and Hawthorne)
Happy Hours
Come 4pm you’ll be wanting you some drinks. There are plenty of happy hours around town, but here are a few recommended.
  • Acme  (Happy Hour Info and Directions)
  • Produce Row  (Happy Hour Info and Directions)
  • Shanghai Tunnel  (Happy Hour Info and Directions)
  • Doug Fir  (Happy Hour Info and Directions)

Find more Happy Hours at

Powell’s/Powell’s Technical
Powell’s Books is one of the largest book stores in the world, and to make it even better, they have a separate store that only sells technical books (I picked up my Programming Ruby book there, among others).
  • Powell’s Books Main Store (Directions)
  • Powell’s Technical (Directions)
Places to find gifts for your Significant Other
You might get in trouble if you go to a conference out of town and not bring back a gift. Luckily for you there are a couple areas you can check out that have unique gifts.
  • SE Hawthorne Blvd, between 30th and 39th
  • NW 23rd Ave, Between Burnside and Flanders
Relive the golden age of arcade games
The only place that has all the classic arcade games, beer, wine and DJs you can take.
  • Ground Kontrol (Directions)
See a live band
Every night you’ll find tons of bands playing in lots of clubs around. Check out the Mercury before you come, or pick one up while you’re here. You find all the band listings, as well as other stuff to do while you’re here. Listed below are some recommended venues.
  • Wonder Ballroom (Directions)
  • Holocene (Directions)
  • Crystal Ballroom (Directions)
  • Dante’s (Directions)
  • Doug Fir (Directions)

If you know a great place to eat, drink or have fun in Portland, leave a comment below with a suggestion or link to your list. See you at the conference.

TwitterWhere – Filter Tweets by Location

Inspired by a post over at Silicon Florist about following local people on Twitter, I investigated whether it was possible to follow someone in a geographic area. The closest I found was TwitterVision, which is a great idea, but doesnt exactly do what I want. So I ended up taking a few hours and developed TwitterWhere, an aggregator that watches the Twitter public timeline and geocodes what it finds. From there anyone can generate an RSS or XML feed that will pull only Tweets within a set radius around an area. Now you can have a feed of Tweets within 50 miles or Portland, or 5 miles of Manhattan,

For anyone who is interested, heres how I pulled it off

I wrote the app in Ruby on Rails, utilizing my favorite gem of all time, Graticule (geocoding and spatial search), Hpricot (parsing the public timeline on Twitter), and a couple custom geocoding libraries I already had cooked up for Unthirsty and Knitmap.

Every minute I query the Twitter public timeline XML file and the results. If a new user is entered into the system it is geocoded and any Tweets added by that user from that point inherit the coordinates. Any users with an invalid location are thrown out and not cached. I also cache geocode queries locally. Both of these measures are in place so I dont overload the geocoding services I use (especially considering I have two other fairly heavy traffic sites using geocoding services).

On the front end, feeds are not exactly generated, its more of a verification that the location someone has entered is geocodable. Once the location is verified a link is presented to the user that points to RSS or XML feeds. If this ends up getting more traffic, Ill consider using caching for each unique feed, but right now when you visit a feed URL, it is generated from the database in real time, every time.
TwitterWhere runs on my good old Dual 1.8GHz Powermac G5 at our co-location facility, using a custom compiled Apache 2.2, mod_proxy_balancer and 5 mongrels.

Okay, Im done geeking. Here are few mentions of TwitterWhere from around the web. Thanks for the write-ups!

  • Silicon Florist – TwitterWhere: Get tweets by geographic location
  • ReadWriteWeb – TwitterWhere Tracks Tweets from Any Location,
  • Wired Blog – TwitterWhere Tracks Tweets By Location

P.S. Apologies to, I didnt even think to check if the domain existed, let alone to see if there was something there! We dont exactly do the same thing ( allows you to easily update your current location on Twitter), so hopefully there isnt too much confusion.