Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Satish Talim'sNew Ruby Class, and an Interview

Satish Talim has announced another round of his beginning Ruby class, which is great news for the Ruby community. I wanted to learn a little bit more about this opportunity, so I tooks some time to interview three former particpants: Marcos Souza, Chris Porter, and Michael Uplawski. Here’s what they had to say:

How did you hear about Satish’s Ruby class?

Michael I have been a fan of Paul Lutus’ Web-Site for a long time, but until recently had ignored his Ruby-pages. As I was looking for a way to turn programming into a hobby once more and to gain back a bit of the fun, I finally read Mr. Lutus’ recommendations, then plaughed rather aimlessly through the web. At the time, I was experimenting with, then disappointed by the language ‘D’. The appearance of Satish’s site and the way, he introduced to the course made me rest longer than just a few minutes.

Eventually I thought I could give Ruby a try. I checked back on Paul Lutus’ page, but there is no mention of rubylearning.com. So it was rather accidental, that I was finally glued to Satish’s class.

Chris I saw it announced on a blog, Ruby inside.

Marcos I have a previous experience on a web class in the past, so when I came to Ruby, googled with “free ruby course” and find it on the first line (lucky me!)

What made you decide to sign up for it?

Marcos First, I try the web tutorial and like the objective and direct style, then the next interest become a PDF version of it. To get it we need to sign up …

I read the eBook version and do all the exercises just in one month.

Then I start a review process with the class.

Chris I had been meaning to learn Ruby after seeing some great screencasts on Ruby and also Rails. I thought about just reading Pickaxe but when I saw this I thought it would be a interesting to try a different approach. I liked the idea of having a course structure and a teacher to ask questions to so I thought I’d give it ago.

Michael The idea of learning the basics without being pressed to arrive at some specific objective convinced me. I was about 70% certain, that I would break up after a few days (which I do now, but this is due to different conditions and I will be back in January, latest).

Tell me how the class works.

Chris Each week or so Satish posts a new lesson which comprises a couple of pages of his online tutorial, a short review of that material and a couple of problems. You work through the tutorial and post your solutions and any questions in the thread. Usually there is discussion amongst the group about certain issues or grey areas and people post their own problems or links to other pages on the web.

Marcos That’s the best part: each one propose different answers, we agree, disagree, discuss, and refactor some code… That is really cool. And we learn a lot this way.

Michael When I signed-in most of the lessons had already been published. I just read Satish’s tutorial, most of the time online on the web but sometimes also the PDF-version. There are assigments, a few scattered on the pages and the final assignement, you have to solve at the end of a lesson. The solutions are published on the rubylearning.com Forum, where Satish arranged for one thread per lesson. You just attach your new solutions to those, already published.

You get additional insight by reading the code of the other participants. Questions are asked right on the spot if they concern the current lesson or result from the code fragments published.

Whoever can, will contribute to clarifying the points at issue, but discussions may deviate. Satish himself gives hints to either solve a problem or to improve the code, that we handed in. Frequently references to other sources on the web are made, where an individual aspect of Ruby might be dealt in detail.

What was the most important thing you learned from it?

Michael Ruby is fun. It is a language, that you can use for fun. Why this is so, I can guess and maybe derive through my experience with using C/C++ and Java. Ruby, as any other “new” language, combines the comforts of more established languages and lacks some of their defects.

Marcos In fact I confirm that this is the best way to learn something. To get the best results you just need one action be: PARTICIPATIVE

Chris I learned that there is always a better way of doing things, especially in Ruby ! People would post solutions to problems and others would add their own solutions or improvements. It’s tempting to write Ruby just as you would in your previous languages but you can often find a simpler or more elegant solution if you utilise some of the unique language features.

Are there any books or tools you learned about because of the class that you just can’t live without today?

Chris I love noobkit: http://www.noobkit.com/ and made good use of Aptana. I got some good recommendations for books but I haven’t read them yet.

Marcos I’m reading Ruby By Example (by Kevin Baird), a brief overview exercise.

MichaelI have not bought any book on Ruby, yet. In contrast to what was said somewhere else, the bookshelves in our shops are not crammed with literature on Ruby. I have learned from bad experience, that I need to touch a book and gallop through some pages, before I buy it. Recommendations from the web are nice to pick a few from the bunch, if there were any…

It sounds like you all liked the interactive parts of the class. Where there parts you didn’t like?

Michael This is a rather inconvenient question. I never thought about it and rather took the course as something coming along unexpectedly, put another way: a completely positive experience by nature… Would I like parts of it improved or changed (if you don’t mind)? Part of the quality, which we find in the forums, we achieve by meeting on the same level of (un-)experience. Good ideas and sometimes downright /solutions/ are really developping in the community or in private but may always be inspired by the discussion, be they amateurish all the same.

It would be an improvement, if we could collect these solutions or situations, which occured in the forum and have someone present us one immaculate piece of code, as used occasionally by the masters of Ruby, themselves.

Chris Well it’s hard to criticise a free course but .. ! I would have preferred it if more or less everyone was on the same lesson at once. That might have made some of the discussion livelier though I understand that people should go at their own pace. Satish usually covered everything in the lessons in a remarkably concise way, one or two maybe could have been a bit longer.

Marcos The common forum format admits participants create topics, lots on the same subject… Sometimes it makes difficult to locate information. I think the new format could fix this.

If Satish were to announce a new class for 2008, would you rather see him put together a more advanced Ruby class or an introductory class for some other language (which one)?

Chris I think an advance class would be great and the same format would work well for Rails too.

Marcos I will focus on Rails next year… If Satish include a “basic Rails class” I’m IN for sure!

Michael Two questions, really, maybe three.

1. Languages: Python, D, Ada95 (what, if not my own favourites).

2. Advanced Ruby class: Of course, I would like to plunge deeper into the topics which have always been facinating: Sockets, general hardware-control, implementing and combining a few Design-Patterns in Ruby..,

3. Would I like to see: NO. Satish did a great job with the introductory and the beginning advanced lessons on the language-core. There is but one authority, who can decide about how this work could or should be extended: Satish Talim. I am a little afraid, that adding too much contents or attaching completely new topics to his teaching-project will have it deviate in the end. As you address me directly with this interview: I want to learn Ruby. Full stop. That is why I came to rubylearning.com in the first place. I do not want the ambience of the site altered. Everybody else will have a different opinion. Mine is this.

Why would you recommend someone else take the class?

Michael If you are looking for a way to just learn Ruby, I can tell you, that Satish Talim is a great teacher. Chosing his free (like in free) course to learn the basics, is a most intelligent move. See, I did it. ;-)

Chris Definitely, it’s good to be able to talk with other learners as you go and Satish’s tutorials always cover the topics in a concise and easy to understand way. I think I learned more quickly and understood it better than had I done it on my own.

Marcos Just that. I really think that is the best way to learn.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

The fourth batch starts 1st March 2008 and enrollments are open.