Rails TakeFive: Five Questions with Xavier Noria

8/1/08 11:11 AM

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Rails TakeFive: Five Questions with Xavier Noria
Published on May 02, 2008 by dean We spread our wings again this week and head to Barcelona for a Rails TakeFive interview with Xavier Noria, noted author, lecturer, cofounder/CTO of ASPGems, and one of the most significant members of the dynamic languages community in Spain. FiveRuns: Welcome Xavier, and thanks for taking the time from your busy schedule to share your thoughts about Ruby on Rails. To start, what was your first “ah-ha” moment with Ruby on Rails and when did you know that the framework was a good fit for you? Xavier Noria: Writers say the first sentence of a book is the most important one. It delivers a promise, a first impression, it creates expectations. For me David’s screencast was a first sentence like that. The point of the screencast was not scaffolding, any developer knew that part of the demo was just automated code generation, the point was details here and there that were interesting enough to suspect there was something into it. By then I was working in a Java-based software company, though I had already been around dynamic languages for a few years in my spare time. We talked about Rails with Madrid-based enterpreneur Agustín Cuenca and he thought it was worth giving it a try as well. So we got a project, an application to manage salesmen commissions for Svenson. That was 2005. I did an immersion, working hard alone and reading AWDwR from cover to cover along the way. And once I was able to see the whole picture I knew for certain Rails was, indeed, a breakthrough in web development: best-practices came built into the framework, the application was trivially well-structured, zero configuration, transparent persistence, LOCs and timeframes were amazing and delivered with quality, the application source code was beautiful, we could easily adapt to project changes… we got a list of clear benefits validated by our own experience. The proof of concept was so good that I quit my job and founded ASPgems with Agustín and other partners. FiveRuns: Tell us a little about the Rails community in Spain. What you love about it, how it is grown, and what challenges the group sees ahead of itself, in both the near and long term. Xavier Noria: Juanjo Bazán talked in a previous interview about the Spanish community as a whole. More closely, there are several companies working in Rails in Catalonia, such as Moterus, Tractis, Linqia, Railes.net, we ourselves ASPgems (we are distributed, some over here in Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia, and Logroño), as well as freelancers like Simon Moore, or Francesc Esplugas to mention just a few of them. Quite healthy and growing. In Barcelona we knew each other through, you know, mailing lists, dinners, conferences and such, but now there’s a Rails user group. We have a monthly meeting at Linqia where we get together, chat, and have a talk or two. Good stuff. We are working on Barcelona’s candidacy for the forthcoming Euruko 2009 with the aid of people from all over the country.
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http://blog.fiveruns.com/2008/5/2/rails-takefive-five-questions-with-xavier-noria

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Rails TakeFive: Five Questions with Xavier Noria

8/1/08 11:11 AM

FiveRuns: Best of luck on that. Barcelona is amazing in the Spring. Let’s switch gears a little and talk about projects. What is the coolest and/or most innovative Rails project that you have seen in recent memory? Xavier Noria: There are tons of modern websites built on Rails. As of this writing take for example Github or fire eagle as recent and relevant work. In a more pragmatic view I think doc-rails is an excellent proposal for agilizing the maintenance of the documentation. That’s crucial in my view because, you know, everyone checks http://api.rubyonrails.org. I go there everyday! And everyone tries to understand the source code. The current published and internal documentation are useful but need some love, ranging from better coverage to consistent typography and style. Now if you are motivated and qualified to work on it you have a more efficient way to contribute than regular patches. Please check Pratik’s original announcement if you are interested. And as for companies, Obie’s Hashrocket is certainly something innovative. I wouldn’t call it recent in Rails-time, but well recent enough :-). The idea behind the company is brave and original. I wish Hashrocket the best. FiveRuns: In his RubyConf 2007 Keynote presentation Matz stated that “The suits people are surrounding us” – is this increasingly the case with the community, and what does this mean for the future of Ruby? Xavier Noria: Ruby is an open source project driven by its community, and Matz is its creator and language designer. That’s what matters to me. I love to see suits around, the same way I love to see alternative interpreters, better libraries, new web frameworks, positive book trends, etc. It means Ruby is getting mainstream as a dynamic language. I don’t really care about the popularity of the tool I like, but a richer ecosystem is a good thing, so that’s welcome. FiveRuns: Do you have any secret techniques, tools, or other Jedi strategies that you can share with our readers? Xavier Noria: Be passionate about what you do. That’s the real driver. If that holds everything follows. Well, being passionate is not something you can develop for any given topic, so I’ll say it the other way around: try to work on something you are passionate about. Now, if your choice is programming in Rails, read books, follow blogs, watch screencasts, everything. Rails is big and evolves at a fast pace, try to keep up-to-date as much as possible. Contribute to the community, help people who are learning, share tips, share code, share experience, learn from other’s work. Read Rails source code. I think programming is like any other area in life where you need to study and practice such as in playing tennis, chess, pool, piano, whatever. Study and practice. Try to be as proficient as possible in Ruby, JavaScript, CSS, HTTP, everything relevant to what you do. Read their musts. Master your tools technically, and use them to internalize them. Learn other programming languages, other frameworks, other paradigms. You can’t be an expert at everything but it will give you a healthy perspective. Be ready to look at your work from the user’s view, no matter if she is the end-user of a website or a developer using your library. Put yourself in their shoes. Forget how clever your program design is, forget the cool trick you figured out to be able to provide that feature. It’s not about you or your code, it’s about the user.

Xavier Noria studied math, worked as a proof-reader of math textbooks for six years and then switched to the software industry. He joined the R&D department of iSOCO and has loved dynamic languages since he read the Llama book in 2000. Xavier is a CPAN author and president of Barcelona.pm. He teaches dynamic languages at the University of Barcelona as a part-time lecturer. Xavier co-founded Rails software company ASPgems in 2006. He has contributed some humble bits to Rails, is a committer in doc-rails, and author of the plugin model_auto_completer.

http://blog.fiveruns.com/2008/5/2/rails-takefive-five-questions-with-xavier-noria

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