This month four of our developers – Tom Coates, Andy Bell, David Corking and Henry – headed to Bath Ruby 2018, the UK’s largest conference for Ruby developers.
It’s been a big year for the Ruby community, with 2018 representing the 25th anniversary of the language’s creation by coding genius Yukihiro ‘Matz’ Matsumoto – who joined the celebrations with the first keynote of the conference.
We use Ruby and Ruby on Rails for many of our projects, so our mission was to absorb as much as we could about some of the most exciting developments in the Ruby community.
“I made my first small steps into changing how Ruby works”
One of the key themes that came up for all the team was the human-centered nature of Ruby. As an open-source language it’s essential that the community continue to contribute and help the language to grow and evolve.
So, for Tom and David, attending a hack into how to contribute to Ruby in the lead-up to the conference was just what was needed. Run by CookPad and three of Ruby’s core contributors, the Ruby Hack Challenge explored how to use the C programming language, a systems language, to improve Ruby – a language that emphasises programmer happiness, and uses C under the bonnet.
David explains: “Up to now we had felt that contributing to Ruby Core wasn’t for us. We didn’t know anyone in the core team, didn’t know how to find out what they needed or wanted, we didn’t know how Ruby worked under the bonnet, and we didn’t know how to code in C.”
David adds: “We learnt a lot in just one day. We got to meet three of the key people in Ruby and know how to find them in future, got an idea of their plans for Ruby and how they make their decisions. I also made my first small steps into changing how Ruby works.”
This theme translated well into a few of Andy and Henry’s highlight talks. For Henry this was Matz’s update on where Ruby currently stands, it’s future and the importance of it being maintained as a language that should be constantly adapted for humans (rather than one that humans should have to adapt for).
“In software, we need less dictionaries, and more sonnets”
Andy was inspired by Kerri Miller and her talk entitled ‘Is Ruby Died? A History of the Invasions of England’. As well as being tickled by her comparison of the evolution of the Ruby programming language to that of the history of the English language, he found she made an important point about how language evolution is constantly re-framing how we think about things.
This goes for Ruby too, with one of the main benefits of its use in being able to easily demonstrate concepts. Of course, as Ruby is a ‘coding’ language as opposed to a ‘spoken’ language, Kerri highlighted the importance of ‘showing’ what it does, rather than ‘saying’ what it does. Summarised in a philosophical tweet during the conference, she added: “In software, we need less dictionaries and more sonnets”.
The team also enjoyed Najaf Ali’s approach to mental attitudes when working in a team and writing code. Something that came up in his talk that has already proved useful for Andy was the concept of Nemawashi.
The idea of Nemawashi is to avoid bringing big ideas into meetings without first approaching each member of your team beforehand. That way the potential flaws in your idea can be highlighted and all involved should feel that their thoughts on the idea have been heard. The result is that, when it comes to the big meeting, your idea is more likely to be well-formed and less likely to get shouted down.
“Ruby is all about storytelling and making your code tell a story to other developers”
This wasn’t the only ‘snap’ moment during the conference, there were also some important technical takeaways. The team enjoyed learning about how to use Rust in Ruby and interface between the two languages at Terence Lee’s talk on the Helix project. Rust is something we’ve been experimenting with recently at Simpleweb and gives the Ruby community greater potential to bring in new libraries of software with better performance.
Talking of technical takeaways, Yusuke Endoh and his mind-bending Quines also proved a bit of a show stopper. It left our team with a satisfying sense of brain-ache after learning some of the fun ways you can play around with Ruby (and 127 other languages for that matter) as well as how to code using just spaces and underscores! Thankfully, this was swiftly balanced by Sihui Huang’s talk – ‘Ouch! That code hurts my brain’ – a refactoring exercise that highlighted some clever ways to make your code more readable for the developers that come to work on it after you.
David concludes: “What I took the most from the conference was that Ruby is all about storytelling and making your code tell a story to other developers.”
So thanks very much to the organisers for another fun and insightful Ruby conference, it’s fantastic to be a part of the community both internationally and right on our doorstep.
If you’d like to discuss your startup or project, get in touch with Simpleweb today.