Monday, May 04, 2009

RubyNation Mini-Interview: Hal Fulton

RubyNation (June 11-13 in Reston, VA) is coming up pretty quickly, and I've started a series of mini-interviews with speakers and organizers there to help people get a feel for what RubyNation is going to be like.

If you're interested in getting more that this little taste, I'd recommend that you go register soon. I don't think the seats are going to last long.

My first interview is with Hal Fulton (@hal_fulton). Hal's been involved in the Ruby world for a long time. He's the author of The Ruby Way. Hal currently does Ruby work for Collective Media.

What makes regional Ruby conferences special?

Hal For one thing, a regional conference always puts its own spin on the whole event. It's organized by local people and tailored to their own personality and environment, so it has a different flavor from the international conference.

Second, you get to meet people and hear talks that you wouldn't otherwise. A lot of these people have never made it to the "big" conference. It's great to realize that there are numerous Rubyists out there who are interesting, creative, and competent -- and you may never have heard their names before.

What makes RubyNation stand out as a regional Ruby conference?

Hal I've met several people from the area, and I think it's a definite hotspot of programming talent.

Additionally, the area itself holds a certain fascination for me -- the land of Thomas Jefferson, very near the nation's capital. I am a bit of a Jefferson fan, and in spite of everything I've always liked DC -- I was a page in the House when I was sixteen.

Other than your own talk, what are you most interested in seeing at RubyNation this year?

Hal I look forward to them all, in particular David Alan Black's talk on Ruby 1.9 -- David is an old friend, very competent and knowledgeable, and one of the earliest adopters of Ruby in the US. And of course we all have things we haven't learned about 1.9 yet, or at least things that haven't sunk in and become instinctive.

I'm not a Rails person, nor a web person in general. That said, I do look forward to Yehuda's talk -- I think Rack is a small masterpiece, and we can learn from it. Also David Keener's talk on RESTful web services catches my eye.

Your talk is on Reia, a Ruby-like language implemented on the Erlang VM. What attracted you to this language?

Hal I've played with Erlang a little, and I've seen its power. I've also seen its diffficult syntax and its overall paradigm which is (to many) bizarre and "inside out."

Reia seems like a very interesting compromise -- much of the "under the hood" power of Erlang blended with the expressiveness and flexibility of Ruby.

I think as we move closer to "real concurrency," these kinds of techniques will lead to a big leap forward in the way we write software.

What kinds of things are you using Reia for?

I'm not "using" it yet, and I'm not sure anyone is really. Let's say I'm very intrigued by its potential, and I'm studying it and playing with it.

Are there other Ruby or Ruby-like implementations that you've got your eye on?

Hal I try to keep "some" watch on all of them -- unsuccessfully of course.

For me, Matz's implementation is still "the" Ruby and will be for the foreseeable future.

But I'm also very interested in Rubinius. I haven't really touched it yet, but I do want to if I can find the time.

I haven't played with JRuby really, but I'm glad it's out there as an option. It's an important project.

Also Dave Thomas has some brilliant ideas for experimental variants of Ruby. I'd love to see some of those implemented, even if only as proofs of concept.

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