P. Solnica: "We need to break our post-Rails habits"

 Software engineer with over 10 years of experience, Tech Lead at Icelab
20 September 2017   752

Piotr Solnica
Piotr Solnica

A software engineer with over 10 years of experience, working as Tech Lead at Icelab. Active OSS contributor and maintainer of various projects for over 5 years. Former DataMapper core team member, creator of the popular Virtus gem, lead developer of Ruby Object Mapper project, and dryrb core developer.

On the eve of RailsClub 2017, on which Petr will be one of the speaks, we questioned him about his issues of Rails community and dry-* stack. 

How do you think, what is the most important issue Ruby and RoR community faces right now?

The most important issue is for us to prove that Ruby is still a viable technology choice, with a strong, still growing and evolving, ecosystem of libraries, frameworks and various development tools. In order to do that we need to break our post-Rails habits though, so it’s a challenge and it’s going to take a while. A good example is the usage of ORMs, specifically Active Record pattern. It’s become a standard, and many people have serious trouble understanding how to use alternatives. It’s of course partly due to the lack of resources, and the fact alternative solutions are still relatively young, but I’m pretty sure even with good resources people will find it challenging, because of what they are used to. It’s a bit like with PHP back in the day when the community started embracing good design techniques, but it took a while to explain to everybody things like “look, don’t connect to the database and select rows in a view template, ok?”. We’re of course in a much better position than PHP was back then, but I see an analogy regardless. So yeah, breaking bad habits and to keep evolving the ecosystem is an issue that we’re facing. The fun fact here is that there are a lot of people who would completely disagree with me here, which is fine, Ruby community is big enough to have lots of different opinions. What’s important is to have a diverse ecosystem, so far we’ve been mostly a mono-culture gathered around Rails, and it’s especially visible when you look at the job market.

In your opinion, what is the most important task that have to be fixed/implemented in MRI to make Ruby much better than now?

I don’t have a unique answer to this question - better concurrency. I would also like to see some work done on unification of proc/lambda/method-object, as well as some new features, like support for composing procs. A first class concept of a function object would blow my mind too. In general, I think Ruby should expose its functional side more clearly, as personally I’ve found it to be extremely useful, but it’s hard to convince some people, as they are stuck within the OO paradigm.

How has dry-* stack changed from it's initial idea? What have changed during its development? Why that happened?

The initial idea was to create a set of small libraries that could be used to build bigger things, but eventually we ended up with a bigger variety of libraries, ranging from really tiny ones, to relatively big and complex gems. The reason why it happened is quite simple - certain proofs of concepts turned out to be pretty good ideas, and they still fit within the philosophy of dry-rb, which is first and foremost to have a set of non-intrusive, composable libraries. Some of these ideas turned into dry-rb gems, like dry-system or dry-validation, both are pretty big ones (assuming you consider 2kCLOC a big lib, I do).

N. Sutterer: "Ruby is dead. Long live Ruby!"

Creator of Trailblazer that introduces several new abstraction layers into Rails, Rails contributor and gem author, speaker at Railsclub
15 January 2018   919

Nick Sutterer at RailsClub 2017
Nick Sutterer at RailsClub 2017

Hello! Please, introduce yourself in few words.

My name is Nick Sutterer, I’m developing software for like 22-25 years and I work like a consultant of my open source project for different companies. Sometimes I give presentations at conferences.

Is it your first time in Russia, Moscow, RailsClub?

It is. Everything for a first time. I’m blown away!

How do you like it?

Great! It’s amazing! Since I arrived, people care about me, people take me out, people show me the city, people give me history lessons. It’s amazing. Great food. We go to places and have a drink. I go to hotel, sleep, and everything starts again. That’s amazing! I’m really enjoying it.

Can you tell us about your report in few keynotes?

My talk was about the lack of innovation in Ruby language and about innovations that is happening in frameworks, that use Ruby. I’m just showing what we have. I try to inspire people and Ruby core team to pick some ideas from other technologies and make Ruby even better.

Your talk is called “Ruby is dead”. If Ruby is dead, what’s alive?

Ruby is dead. Long live Ruby. I’m trying to be provocative with my talk. I’m still coding Ruby everyday, I’m still traveling to all conference because I still believe that Ruby is an amazing programming language. There’s languages, showing up recently. Elixir or Golang for example. They have completely different way. They deal with problems and they are way more innovative. But they are brand new. I, actually, don’t think that Ruby is dead.

What you don’t like in Ruby the most?

I hate that we keep thinking in really old way. We reject innovation. It is especially due to frameworks like Rails. I would love to the more development of Rails, with all it’s huge audience. Ruby is lacking a lot of features that a lot of other languages have, like pattern matching and method overloading. The problem is that sometimes I feel that we are behind the innovations that happen to other languages. Specifically features, that make other languages amazing. We don’t have them, and it’s very sad.

What is your way to improve Ruby?

Every time is meet Matz at conference, I tell him for few hours what should be done to improve Ruby. Without any providing any help. It’s all about innovations. I try to innovate in my own framework, Trailblazer. So we can put the way we write business code to new level. I try to inspire people with my library code they use new concepts in Ruby that never been there before. I think that helping them to write the applications.

How do you see the world of programming in 10 and 50 years? And will Ruby and Rails have place in this future?

I don’t think Rails will have place. I really love Rails community and people in Rails Core. But I don’t think that Rails will be a thing in 10 years. But I think Ruby will still be around. It all depends on what is going to happen with Ruby 3.0. When it will be released and what features will it bring. I think Ruby will still be there. But I can’t tell you what will happen in 50 years. Because in 50 years there won’t be a need to program anymore. We will probably just write diagrams on the air.

In your opinion, what technologies are the most hypest today?

Craft beer and coffee, haha! Everything that hipsters do! Now everything is switching from OOP to FP. We are trying to avoid to have unwanted side effects in order to not let users to screw up internal state. Functional programming makes it impossible to users to do stuff in wrong order, for example. Like problems that we have in Ruby. I see a lot of development in functional languages because they are also way easy to paralyze and they have a lot of advanced features.

What advice can you give to average programmer to stand out the crowd?

Important thing in IT is that you always need to play with new tools. Even if you are not a super programmer, you have to look at the community and check what’s going on. It is really important to keep moving. Otherwise, I see that my current job at the police is really slow. They using very outdated technologies. A lot of people are affected. It is non productive. It’s good because a lot of people are keeping their jobs . But it is important to adopt new technologies. I’m not saying be a coding hipster and change your framework everyday. But a lot of new things in last 10 years make sense. People should use it and not just sit there and enjoy excellent job. They can get fired tomorrow.

What makes you excited about your job?

That’s beautiful question. I think that idea of open source is that you expose code that you think is helpful and people will tell you that it really is. This is what keeps me programming. When I write something and I see that a lot of people use it and they say like “It is so much better that I used before!” It’s great! This is making my day. It’s all about what comes back. I also program my own stuff and sometimes I think: “Yes!” But mostly I like when something what I do is helpful to other people.

Do you have any plans on writing a book?

I have already wrote one book. Two years ago, it took like 16 months. I was writing and inventing at the same time. That was a huge mistake! I was keeping updating my book with changes in my library code. It was massive. I plan to write more books, because it was fun. It has to be with the right timing. I’m not gonna write a book about, for example, a new version of my framework now because it’s still changing. I’m not gonna make this mistake again. It’s so much work! Unbelievable.

Do you have any nightmares, related to you job?

I used to have those kind of dreams few years ago. Sometimes I still have them.You always imagine software as something visual. Brain just does that. My dreams about those thing and passing the objects. And it’s always the wrong object! It’s the only nightmare that I have. I was able to have good work\life balance. So I have very rare the bad sleep. Even if I don’t look like it.