A couple of weeks ago my colleagues and I made a trip to Bath to attend a two day conference called Bath Ruby. It’s the largest Ruby Developer conference in the UK.
As back-end developers, we write code in Ruby (a coding language) almost every day, so I was really excited to get a sense of the community that surrounds the language. I also wanted to see talks by some of the big names who code using it.
Accessible and friendly
As someone who has only been coding for a year and a half, the friendliness of the community that surrounds Ruby, on top of the syntax of the language (which is easily understandable for beginners), has really helped to make me feel welcome and at ease with it. It’s easy to see how Ruby came to be so accessible to beginners when you come across the creator of the language himself.
#MINSWAN or #BINSWAN
To my excitement the creator of Ruby, Yukihiro ‘Matz’ Matsumoto, had visited the UK for the first time in five years, and introduced the conference. His own personality has clearly shaped both the accessibility of the language and the openness of the community that surrounds it.
There’s a popular saying in the Ruby community (from which the hashtag #MINSWAN originated):
Matz is nice so we are nice
Addressing the audience, Matz opened his talk by joking
We Japanese love baths….Bath is nice, so we are nice!
And so, the hashtag #BINSWAN was born.
25 years of Ruby
His talk also felt momentous because he had celebrated the 25th anniversary of Ruby in February this year. Matz explained that, when he created it, he wanted to name his new language after a jewel. He considered coral as well as ruby, but
Ruby was beautiful and more expensive, so I named my language Ruby
Aged 17 at the time, Matz’s aim was to make an easy to use object-oriented language. He admitted he had no idea how widely used Ruby would become.
Now aged 52, Matz’s passion to make programming ‘fun’ continues to motivate his improvements to the language. He gave some interesting insights about how he plans to improve the performance of Ruby, explaining that he expects Ruby 3.0 to be three times faster than Ruby 2.0.
Matz was also open about some of the worries people have about the language. Ruby was a hot new language ten years ago, when Rails was released, a popular framework designed to make building web applications in Ruby easier. Today, in the Stack Overflow Survey Results (which list the most loved technologies of the moment), Ruby hasn’t even made the top ten.
Matz was positive about the outlook for the future, however. While people love to talk about new technologies, Ruby is now stable and continues to be widely used, and Matz and others will continue to improve and develop the language. The enthusiasm of the speakers that followed showed that Ruby is still a thriving language.
Nadia Odunayo delivered a creative and amusing talk about the Ruby Object Model. She described herself as an investigator in her story ‘The Case of the Missing Method’, about a developer who couldn’t find a method he had written in his code.
Kerri Miller’s talk ’Is Ruby Died?’ [sic] was fascinating, drawing parallels between the way normal languages evolve over hundreds of years and the evolution of programming languages.
Yusuke ‘Mame’ Endoh gave a mind-boggling talk on his ‘quines’ - programs that produce a copy of their own source code as their only output. As his grand finale, he showed a special quine he had made for Bath Ruby.
Most impressively of all, Matt Rayner, lead back-end developer here at PDS, was unexpectedly called up to do a five minute talk, ten minutes before he was due to go on stage. He embraced the challenge enthusiastically, writing his talk at lightning speed backstage. He pulled it off amazingly and gave a snapshot of GROM, a Ruby gem created by PDS which turns n-triple graph data into Ruby objects.
My one regret is missing out on Ruby Karaoke (arranged by the people organising the conference). I heard from those who did attend, ‘Ruby’ by the Kaiser Chiefs was performed on repeat. Despite this, I had a fantastic time and the main thing I took away was the warmth of the community that has evolved around Ruby.
As Rubyists say: Matz is nice so we are nice.
Find out more about the conference on the Bath Ruby website.