I don’t want to get all triumphalist, but it’s my considered opinion that in Software-Engineering terms, the Ruby community is significantly ahead of the professional pack.
... and later:
I’ve not attended a RubyConf where I haven’t had my thinking about how to do software expanded.
I agree wholeheartedly with Tim, for a certain definition of "Software Engineering" (I've written about this before). I've certainly had that mind-expanding experience at the two Scottish Ruby Conferences (formerly Scotland on Rails) I've attended.
The thing I take away from time I spend with Ruby people is that, like Wikipedia editors, they really go deep on the stuff they choose to care about.
The call for papers for the next Scottish Ruby Conference is now open. I'll be there, taking pictures. More importantly, Tim will be there too. Even if you're not really a Ruby programmer, there's a ton of ideas here that you should get some exposure to.