Conference: RubyConf 2014
Location: San Diego, CA, USA
Dates: 11/17/2014 - 11/19/2014
What happens to Ruby when Rails dies?
Ruby rode the Rails rocketship to worldwide renown. While a handful of us were writing Ruby code before Rails came along, most of us owe Rails a debt of gratitude for taking Ruby mainstream, allowing us to make a living writing code in a language we love.
But opinions codified in Rails are falling out of favor. We're not writing apps that do heavy server-side rendering. Our apps have complex domain logic that grates against "The Rails Way."
Is that it, then? Has Ruby entered its twilight years?
[Update: This post (and the philosophy it described) was formerly titled
Human-Driven Development, but I've since realized that Humane Development is a
better term to describe its goals, so it's been updated accordingly]
Since taking on my role at nVisium, I've been given wide
latitude to influence company culture in ways I haven't experienced before. This
is a great thing, but it means that if I'm unhappy with how things are going
from a culture standpoint, there's a pretty good chance that I'm directly to
That's a lot of pressure, so I've been doing a lot of thinking. The bulk of my
thoughts keep relating back to something I'm calling "Humane Development."
I'd like to share those thoughts with you, since you are (most likely) a human.
As some of you already know, I've recently started a new job as Director of
Engineering at nVisium.
One of the first few things nVisium requested of me was to develop a coding
style guide, so our code would read more consistently. Naturally, I used the
community-driven guide maintained
by Bozhidar Batsov (author of RuboCop) as a
starting point, but ended up making my own tweaks (style is subjective, after
Thanks to the magic of
git diff I now have a record of styles I feel have
gotten an unnecessarily bad rap, and I want to talk about one of them today:
I prefer alias over alias_method.
Conference: Burlington Ruby Conference
Location: Burlington, VT, USA
Dates: 8/2/2014 - 8/3/2014
My keynote from Burlington RubyConf 2014 deals with big questions:
- What happens to Ruby if Rails dies?
- What makes us care so much?
- Just how long can I avoid laughing at a cat video in my own slide deck?
Not too long ago, I finally got around to trying out Elixir. It's amazing.
Seriously, you should try it out. It has this peculiar and compelling quality
of making me feel like I'm a better programmer than I am. It's that good.
Anyway, this post is not about how awesome Elixir is (very). Over the past few
days, I've been spiking out a small app to demonstrate some Elixir concepts to
my team. As it happens, the app I chose to build needed to do SNMP polling. I
knew that Erlang had really robust support for SNMP (it is, after all, a
language designed by a telecom company!), so I expected this to be simple.
Turns out that it wasn't as simple as I expected, as the information that was
out there was mostly geared towards experienced Erlangers (which I am not), and
seems to assume you want to run your own SNMP agent (which I do not). As such,
I thought I'd contribute what I've learned.
Conference: RailsConf 2014
Location: Chicago, IL, USA
Dates: 4/22/2014 - 4/25/2014
Rails has opinions about how we should organize code, interact with a database,
write tests, format URLs... just about everything. These conventions, the
wisdom goes, free us up to focus on the specifics of our application.
"Convention over configuration" becomes our mantra as development hurtles
forward with startling speed.
At some point, we stop. We take stock of what we've built, and it's a mess. How
did we get here?
Turns out, the decisions that Rails made for us had consequences.
Conference: MountainWest RubyConf
Location: Salt Lake City, UT, USA
Dates: 3/20/2014 - 3/21/2014
We all know that intelligent species learn from mistakes, right?
There's just one problem: Life is too short to make every possible mistake!
Also, some mistakes are more costly than others. What's the ambitious learner
to do? I'm glad you asked! I'm an expert at making mistakes, and I'm happy to
share as many of them as I can possibly fit into a 45-minute time slot with
you, my dear conference attendee!
We'll discuss a variety of exciting mistakes, ranging from the misapplication
of metaprogramming techniques to letting emotions become barriers to new
technologies to why it's a horrible idea to stretch a gel keyboard wrist rest
across a room, even if it seems like an awesome plan at the time.
Recently, my friend Kinsey Ann Durham
asked if I'd be willing to be a mentor for gSchool.
I agreed, despite being unsure what to expect. I've never mentored someone in a
"dev bootcamp" before. Yesterday, she introduced me to Kaylee
Edmonson, who I'll be mentoring for the
next 6 months. Kaylee asked if I had any advice for "a non-programmer entering
the programming world," and I wanted to share my response to that question
Having ample documentation and solid test coverage for your gem is great. But
nothing beats dropping into a console and just playing around.
Make it easy on yourself, and easy on your users. Add these 7 lines to your
task :console do
require 'my_gem' # You know what to do.
Now, a suitable playground is only a
rake console away. For bonus points, if
your gem requires a bit of fixture data to do anything useful, you can stage
some data before starting the console. Even users who aren't adept at writing
tests should be able to give you steps to reproduce problems using this
console, in a clean environment free of their app code and other gems.
Almost a year and a half ago, I wrote a post entitled
"The Greenfield App Continuum". It
didn't get a ton of attention at the time. Then again, maybe it didn't really
deserve much attention. It was heavy on theory, and light on application.
That's because, at the time, it was only theory to me. That theory being: If
we start building an application as though we are completely ignorant of the
constraints our persistence layer will eventually impose on us, we'll end up
with an appication that's more pleasant to develop as a result.
I can't pretend that I'm the only person who's ever had that thought. Heck, even
a comment on that
article points to a book entitled
"Applying Domain-Driven Design and Patterns", and in Domain-Driven Design,
"Persistence Ignorance" is a thing. With a name and everything. However, it may
be telling that the rest of the book title is: "With Examples in C# and .NET".
So, when I was writing that post in 2012, even as I knew what I was writing
wasn't an original thought, as a Ruby (and Rails) developer, it certainly
And, again, at that point, it was just theory, to me. I hadn't tried it. Since
then, I have. And I've been meaning to write about that for a while now.
I'm calling it "The Willfully Ignorant Development Process."
This is the hallway to the Appriss on-site clinic. It's at
the end, on the left. I'll never forget walking down this hallway on Wednesday
morning, a week before Thanksgiving, because at the end of it, I found out that
I had cancer. Or, more accurately, "a highly suspicious 2.1cm mass in the
left testicle," according to the ultrasound.
But even then, deep down, I knew that was a nice way of saying "you've got
Conference: RubyConf 2013
Location: Miami Beach, FL, USA
Dates: 11/8/2013 - 11/10/2013
I've been maintaining a bunch of gems that integrate deeply with ActiveRecord
for going on 5 years now. I'm really proud of some of the things I've built, and
glad that some of them have even made their way into Rails core,
in a manner of speaking.
That being said, chasing a moving target is tough, and apart from Ransack, which
the good folks at Spree Commerce use, and have
taken up maintaining through the heroic efforts of Ryan Bigg, there's been very
little in the way of help from the large community of users. All of that has
conspired to result in a very exhausted me. I feel a fairly huge sense of
responsibility to maintain some of these gems, even though in many cases I
don't use them myself anymore, and I haven't been doing a great job of it,
lately. When I find myself with some spare time to hack, and instead of working
on things I'm interested in, I'm fighting a losing battle against ActiveRecord,
and resenting the time spent, it's time to optimize for happiness.
A month ago, I wrote a
post about being funemployed.
It marked the beginning of a month-long experiment: an alternative approach to
employment. Instead of applying anywhere, I listed the traits I was looking
for in my next job, and linked to the post via Tweets and on Hacker News. I
wasn't sure what to expect at the time, but I was hopeful.
The experiment was more successful than I could have dreamed, resulting in
greater than 40 companies reaching out. The list included young companies
looking for a CTO, companies you've never heard of, some you most definitely
have, and a few I've no doubt you'll be hearing more about, soon. It also
provoked mixed reaction. From accusations of being a
to those of being snarky, to the (completely
unwarranted) accusation of
an experiment like this brings its share of commentary.
I've learned a good deal from the experiment, I think, but this post is not
about that. Right now, I want to share some news I'm excited about.
In a couple of weeks, I'll be joining the team at
Appriss, which just happens to be in Louisville.
TL;DR - ActiveRecord: This is yak country.
One of the really "fun" things about writing libraries that extend ActiveRecord
is that I'm constantly running up against interesting problems that require a
choice between multiple less-than-stellar options to resolve. One such case
arose not too long ago when working on Rails 4 compatibility for Squeel. Since
the problem is niche enough (and my chosen solution weird enough) that I don't
expect anyone else to write about this, I figured I may as well. I have no idea
if you'll find it useful. Read on at your peril.
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