Ruby, the gem of OSCON 2003

by Steve Mallett

Put Ruby on your radars, folks. It's on the minds of the developers here at OSCON. While OSCON is normally dominated by PERL & Python Hackers this has been like an unofficial Ruby conference.

Ruby wasn't a confernece track at last year's OSCON, so this year's was a bit of guesswork. Would people come? You might say they did. Every Ruby session was packed with standing, and sitting room only. There were perl hackers who admitted they we going to switch to Ruby. "What?" Yeah, I was equally blown away.

Matz, the founder and developer of Ruby, had said in his session that a good name for a project will take care of 80% of your design work for that project. Afterward we mused that a good leader will take care of building a community around a project and that it was equally if not more important than the project itself. Those in the session felt that Ruby had these thing going for it. Aside from being based on what I see as the best aspects of perl and python, and it being a great thing, we see that while Ruby has a great start, it has a great future.

Watch for the possibility of a State of the Gem address next year.

P.S. I started a Ruby Wiki (wikis being another big topic this year) this morning.

What do you think of Ruby?


2003-07-11 16:04:00
Amen to that
I've been programming with Perl since early '97. I discovered Ruby about 2 years ago and quickly became enthralled. I code almost entirely in Ruby these days. To me (and many othes) Ruby already is what Perl 6 hopes to be.
2003-07-12 00:41:07
Ruby rules OK
The best moment of the conf for me was when someone got Larry Wall and Matz together for an impromptu photo after the last session on Thursday.

I am convinced that as Dave Thomas noted during his talk just before, Ruby and Perl appeal to certain kinds of programmers who are not attracted to Python and so on. I hasten to add I am *not* trying to engage in "advocacy" or lang-wars here, it's simply an observation from personal and perceived experience. Almost any decently mature programming language has strong proponents for good reason (well, OK, I'll exclude VB from that).

I also think that while there is considerable overlap in philosophy, goals and quite a bit of syntactic resemblance, Perl and Ruby fit into somewhat different domains. It is unlikely that I will abandon Perl for the data-munging projects I mostly do (data warehouse extract-transform-load and statistical summaries, primarily), due to its speed and phenomenal flexibility.

But Dave's presentation on his "summer vacation" project shows that Ruby is indeed good-to-go as a web development framework, and has a hidden strength in post-rollout operations and maintenance (which probably accounts for at least a quarter of the cost of any application over its life cycle).

I think that with Ruby we finally have the language that meets the blue-sky wishes of the early theoreticians of object oriented languages. Or at least my sense of what they could become, when I first began reading about OO in the fabled Micro Cornucopia magazine in the latter 1980s.

I believe myself to be the first person to buy Dave and Andrew Hunt's book here in Portland when it came out -- and Ruby has progressed in very assured steps from then, based on the solid foundation Matz has provided. It may or may not become a "first tier" language, but for those of us who have not taken a strong liking to C++,
Java, Python and so on, this is a gem indeed.

Fred Heutte
Portland, Oregon