hoodwink.d enhanced


5.gets chromatic #

by why in 5.gets

With all the ta-da over the Rails tutorial at ONLamp, I thought I’d interview a pertinent outsider. chromatic, the editor of ONLamp, took a moment to speak directly into our omnidirectional mic. Five, our strict policy.

1. So, how well did the Rolling on Rails tutorial really do? Was its success comparable to your PHP or Python articles?

So far, it’s doing really well, far far above all the other Ruby articles we’ve published (I recommend Garrett Rooney’s Extending Ruby with C from a couple of months ago.)

Remember, it’s only been public for five days now. I have statistics for four of those days. It’s difficult to compare it in its first week to many other articles, but because you asked so nicely, the only PHP or Python article in recent memory that did better was Adam Trachtenberg’s Why PHP 5 Rocks! article.

So far, “Rolling…” compares favorably to Python articles on Plone and mod_python’s PSP. ONLamp seems to attract a lot of web programmers for some reason.

2. Ruby doesn’t have much of a proper presence at ONLamp. How exactly can Rubyists help this change?

I like to think I publish good articles on Ruby when I can. One of the difficulties of juggling the various subjects I do on the site is appealing to an appropriately wide audience. For example, Garrett’s article had an additional appeal of showing off the GenX library. There’s a draw there for people who don’t do Ruby yet and Garrett’s a clear enough writer and writing Ruby extensions is easy enough that a decent programmer of another language should be able to follow along.

It’s a sneaky, subversive glue concept, and I like it. I try to apply it to all sorts of articles. Maybe there’s no room on the Internet anymore for showing someone how to compile and install Postfix, for example, but show me how you automated it into a one step process using Ruby and now you can deploy it to a farm of dedicated mail servers and you’re golden.

Also, being able to point to a sharp upswing in Ruby book sales and Ruby tutorial registrations at conferences would be nice. From the publishing point of view, there are dozens of great projects every year that never achieve a critical mass of popularity to justify a serious investment of time and resources. If PickAxe 2 does well, if there’s a Ruby track at OSCON this year beyond people saying “Hm, I’d like to play with Ruby because I hear it’s interesting!” and “Wow, I’d really like to hear Dave Thomas speak!” to “Learning Ruby is important to my professional future!”, it’ll be easier to cover Ruby as Ruby and not Ruby as Enabling Technology.

Lest your readers think I’m giving an official O’Reilly Media policy here, let me point to Jack Herrington’s Code Generation in Action as another example of RaET.

Personally, I’d like to see Cardinal too. I can’t exactly commit to saying “Expect lots more Ruby articles when I can write Ruby code that uses Parrot extensions”, but I can make vague hints in that direction.

3. Things are happening in Ruby. Rails, Instiki, the (Poignant) Guide, RubyForge. Alot of us are thinking this is our year. Is this anticipation audible outside the Ruby kingdom?

I’m not sure to answer this question. Is it “Is this our year?” or “Do you think other people are noticing Ruby more?”

The latter question is easy. Yes. Every year since I first heard about Ruby, I hear more and more people talking about it. Everything you’ve mentioned so far seems to improve Ruby’s reputation and fame, and deservedly so.

With that said, my impression is that the development process is hitting some limitations. I’ve heard a few dedicated Ruby fans (so don’t go out questioning new users to see who talks crazy talk to me) worry about the Windows platform falling out of popularity, which’d be a shame in some ways, and there seem to be some ongoing questions about a Ruby VM. I’ve talked to people at at least one company who had questions about the Ruby license a couple of years ago. Now again, these are impressions and they don’t particularly affect me, so I haven’t dug into them in much detail (not running Windows, writing code where I care more about clarity and ease of development than the maximum possible performance, and not modifying or redistributing Ruby itself), so if I’m wrong here (or things have changed), please feel free to set me straight.

To return to the actual question, though, I’m not sure what would mark 2005 as the Year of Ruby, besides replacing the flame in the Statue of Liberty with red gems and putting PickAxe 2 in her left hand.

I expect more and more people to hear about it and more and more people to use it. I don’t expect it to replace Perl, Python, PHP, Java, C, C++, C#/Mono, or Lua in those niches where they are successful, but it definitely has advantages over all of those languages in certain ways. (Lest any non-Ruby fans read this, let me explain that some of them have advantages over Ruby too. See What I Hate About Your Programming Language for stronger polemics.)

4. Are you as colorful as your name suggests? By which I mean: tie-dyed.

For Christmas several years ago, my mother gave me a tie-dying kit. I’ve never used it and, after four moves, I’m not sure where it is. “chromatic” comes from the 12-tone scale in Western music mostly because no one else I could find used it as an alias in 1996.

5. Google Image search. Find us something good.

That reminds me of Mark-Jason Dominus explaining that a picture he attached to one of his slides in a presentation was the first result of a search for the phrase Dork Party. I can’t compete with that.

On the other hand, chromatic camel is interesting in that I don’t know any other Perl hackers who’ve written Perl while riding a camel in the Sahara. (I almost fell off.)

My favorite odd GIS is think revolution, octopus from downtown Portland in 2002.

Think revolution, octopus.

Does it count if I already knew about these pictures and phrases?

said on 26 Jan 2005 at 10:39

I’m not sure what would mark 2005 as the Year of Ruby, besides replacing the flame in the Statue of Liberty with red gems and putting PickAxe 2 in her left hand.

You now have your marching orders! I hereby nominate _why to do the honors of replacing the flame with red gems. Who wants to place Pickaxe II in her arms? Perhaps Dave Thomas should have that honor.

said on 26 Jan 2005 at 11:23

I’m a bit slow sometimes.. where’s the link to the “Rails tutorial at ONLamp”?

said on 26 Jan 2005 at 11:37

It’s linked at the top of the article now.

said on 26 Jan 2005 at 11:58

Another RaEt article, albeit on O’Reilly’s OnJava site, by your humble servant.

said on 26 Jan 2005 at 12:13

Phil, that line was a reference to “Infinite Jest”.

Tom, thanks for the link. I knew I’d seen at least one other article on ORN with RaET, but I’d forgotten it was on ONJava.

said on 26 Jan 2005 at 12:48

…replacing the flame in the Statue of Liberty with red gems and putting PickAxe 2 in her left hand.

I will take care of this.

said on 26 Jan 2005 at 18:34

How exactly does one get published on O’Reilly? Just send a proposal to one of the editors?

said on 27 Jan 2005 at 06:50

Yeah, that’s about it. I started off by sending chromatic a proposal for an article, he liked it, so I wrote it up and sent it in. It’s really not much more complex than that.

said on 27 Jan 2005 at 13:40

chromatic – sure, yup, no problemo! That was a while back… August 2003 or thereabouts, I think…

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