RC9au – Ryan Bigg on Ruby

The first time I saw Ryan Bigg at RailsCamp, he was wearing a Superman outfit, because he was just announced as a Ruby Hero. The second time I saw him, he was dressed formally, which was confusing given we were at RailsCamp. The third time I saw him, he was wearing a Batman costume. So naturally, this was going to be a very interesting interview.

Please, introduce yourself.

Hi, my name’s Ryan Bigg, I’m writing a book at the moment called Rails 3 in Action, I’m co-authoring that with Yehuda Katz. I’m working also for a development firm in Sydney called RubyX, we do client consulting, training, development, code reviews, all kinds of interesting things. Besides that, I don’t have much of a life! I do Rails, and just about Rails only.

How long have you been working on Ruby and Ruby on Rails projects for?

I got into Ruby around 2005, just kind of fiddling about with it and I saw the 15 minute tutorial from David Heinemeier Hansson, and that was really mind blowing coming from PHP. So I decided to do a forum project in that and kind of kept that theme going through my work. I’m currently developing a forum engine called Forem, for Rails 3.1. So that’s about six years or so that I’ve been doing Rails now.

What other languages have you had experience with?

I’ve worked in Visual Basic for Applications, that was fun, burning Excel Macros and all that kind of thing. And then I moved to HTML/CSS, PHP, didn’t really get into the JavaScript side of things so I only know a little about JavaScript, I’m not exactly a professional at it. And then I saw Rails and went “this is the language for me” and I’ve made a living out of it for the past six years, so it has to be doing something good.

We did partly cover this before, but where are you working at the moment?

The place is called RubyX, it’s run by a guy called Mikel Lindsaar who’s famous for writing ActionMailer and the Mail gem, how he got into writing the mail gem, he was made the maintainer of TMail, he kept submitting patches to TMail and the maintainer said you’re doing my work for me here, just have the repository. So he took over the project and realized it was kind of crap and decided to write Mail instead. That’s now got 1.25 million downloads.

We do client consulting, the training is what I really enjoy. When you’re teaching someone and their eyes light up, they’ve come to a realization and they understand something, that’s the best feeling in the world for me.

Is there anything in particular about Ruby on Rails that makes you know why you do it?

The language is just the best language I have come across so far. I did Visual Basic for Application and that was just horrible, and PHP is, well, I saw this article once that said “What if Programming Languages were Boats”, C was the nuclear submarine, Ruby was this little speedboat, and PHP was this little bamboo raft tied together with string, I thought it was very apt. I look at the code I wrote back then I can’t believe that I wrote it. The paradigms and way that you write code in Ruby is much nicer.

But what’s really keeping me here is the awesome community we have. We’re here at RailsCamp right now, we’ve got 150 people up in that hall there, who all enjoy Ruby and Rails or want to know more about it. There’s a lot of people there who are doing JavaScript as well, and that’s fine. But I got to go to RailsConf, and I got to go to the Red.Ruby conference in Singapore and got to meet all these interesting people, who are all doing Ruby on Rails and they’re all so nice. I don’t know specifically what it is about the Ruby community that makes everyone so nice and so welcoming. Anybody can really approach anybody and say “hey look, I’m having this problem, help me out!”

Now the million dollar question, your biggest piece of advice to anyone interested or looking to change to Ruby? Anything that you wish someone had have told you to save you six months of problems.

Basically, it’s a lot of effort to get to an extreme, advanced level of it, any skill does. I used to practice martial arts and this guy who had been training for 40 years just got his black belt three months before hand. He was 65, an old white guy, doing backflips and frontflips and kicks. But that being said Yehuda Katz joined the Rails community back in 2006, 2007, a couple of years after I did, he’s done Bundler, he’s doing jQuery at the moment, he’s doing Sprout Call which uses some Ruby stuff at the beginning. All I want to say then, is persistent learning, and don’t be afraid to be wrong because there is always going to be the chance that you’ll be wrong, and people will call you out on it, and don’t be afraid of having that ego bruise, because you’re guaranteed to learn something from it.

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