Is Ruby Dead? & BurlingtonRubyConf Recap

I just came back from Burlington Ruby Conf, an amazing two day conference focused on the hallway track. Seldom have I been in the company of such an engaged community of developers. Thanks so much to all the organizers who made this event possible. Special thanks to WePay for sending me and the ScoutCoffeeVT coffee cart which kept us well caffeinated throughout the event.

As with any good conference, we quickly cut to the issue on everyone’s mind.

Ernie Miller in his opening keynote and Mark Bates through his panel discussion with Ernie Miller, Sandi Metz, and Johnny Borquist on “The Future of Ruby” brought up the “Is Ruby dead?” debate.  We’ve been seeing this on HackerNews, the list servs, and at meetups for a few months now. With some of the most visible people in the Ruby community (including Mark Bates w/Metacasts) having torrid love affairs with languages like Scala, Go, and Node, it’s weighing heavily on people’s minds. Is it time to learn these new languages before our livelihoods and jobs go extinct?

The resounding answer was NO. Ruby is alive and well, it’s just no longer the hottest kid on the block. Ruby is being used in more than just Rails, it’s found enterprise applications in robotics (not just Artoo), web, and infrastructure. Ruby continues to allow developers and startups to build applications quickly and efficiently, and performance continues to get better. While we continue to lack a “concurrency story”, Matz has suggested he’s looking in that direction…

As a community, the Ruby world has built a rare and unique experience within the development world. For many of us Ruby isn’t just a language, it’s become a way of creating products and developing software. And more than that, it’s become a network of friends who love to geek out together over the latest tech, gadgets, and tools. Personally the community means a lot more to me, and I credit the community with a lot of my love for the language and development in general. We all love what we do as Rubyists, we get to create things with a language that’s optimized for making us happy. That’s pretty cool right?

With many new languages inspired by Ruby with various improvements, developers including some very visible members of the Ruby community have begun trying out these new languages and in some cases becoming full converts. This is actually important to the health of our community, as it is our job to “steal their good ideas” as Sandi Metz said, and integrate them into our development practices. Our community can only benefit from further collaborating across other languages and not isolating ourselves in a Ruby-silo, failing to appreciate and extend our breadth of knowledge.

A great example from Burlington Ruby Conf was a talk by Doug Alcorn @dougalcorn who was able to massively improve his Ruby-based Market Analytics engine by creating a version of it in Go. Instead of just using what he knew about Ruby, he took the concepts he learned from Go and applied them to Ruby. Talk about stealing a good idea.

There’s a lot of thinking that needs to be done on the path the Ruby Community chooses to take. I encourage continuing to have open discussions on this in the community, it can only help.

Are you trying out new languages? How is that affecting how you write Ruby? Email me or tweet me @scottefein.

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