Remembering Ruby

I’ve seen some discussion over the years on how to onboard new Ruby developers.  What about re-onboarding “old” developers though?

I’ve been a Ruby developer for several years.  I remember the bump to Rails 1.0.  We used to have to hand-crank our app servers while walking uphill.  You kids don’t know how good you have it.  I digress while I shake my cane.
As I was saying, I’ve been in the community for a long time, but I have also been away from ruby for several months on other languages.  I consider Ruby my “home” language, though, and the Ruby community is a special community that I enjoy feeling a connection with.
So how do I reorient myself?  How do I stay connected with the language and the community that I am not always directly involved in?
  • Twitter
  • Local Ruby Brigade
  • Practice
  • Playing Around
I follow a lot of developers on Twitter, as one does.  Sometimes I binge add people, and sometimes I cull the list.  I love the community, but I don’t love the drama.  The drama sometimes eats at me, actually.  The things that we get worked up about also eat at me, but sometimes we get a little caught up in the swirl.
I like seeing the evolution of the language and ideas.  I like seeing other languages come into play, too.  I don’t think Ruby is necessarily the best language solution for all problems, and I believe that it’s important to have a varied language toolkit at your disposal.
Local Ruby Brigade
User groups are a fantastic resource.  The Dallas Ruby Brigade has always been very open and nurturing in my experience.  There are monthly meetings where people give talks, and I’ve given a few over the years.  There are also weekly meetups where we code and socialize.  We also have an active mailing list where we discuss current events, upcoming meetings, and also ask and answer questions.
I felt safe as an inexperienced developer, and I am tremendously grateful.  A local user group is a really great place to keep your chops up and get experience talking in a group setting (whether in the front or in the audience).
After a couple of years I felt like it was my turn to “give back” and get more involved, which has been very fulfilling.
Certainly you can practice the wrong things, but I find practice very valuable.  Repetition helps me learn and cements ideas for me.  I also learn by doing.  I need a concept to have a practical application or else I just will not see it.  For the past several months I have done Exercism exercises in several languages.  For a while I was doing Ruby backend services, so I did Javascript exercises to keep up those chops.  Then we started doing a lot of native apps, so I focused on Ruby exercises.  I’ve also looked at a few katas here and there.  Sometimes they’re really hard and I don’t get them.  Sometimes they’re too easy and I don’t get much value out of those either.  Usually they’re just right though.
Scratch An Itch (Play Around)
I’ll occasionally try to cook up a little project to work on.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve redone my blog.  Not each of those has seen the light of day, and that’s ok.  It’s more about the process.  I usually also have a new data model in mind, which means that the data needs to be transformed.  I love data, and this is a really fun exercise for me.  ActiveRecord is great, but it can also be pretty limiting.  Sometimes raw SQL really is the best way to express what you need to do.
I also try to make it to at least one Ruby conference a year, as well as submit talks on various things.  Thinking about what I might be able to shed light on or what things of value I might be able to share helps me take a critical look at my own growth and evolution.
I realized as I was walking around thinking about doing something in Xcode that this isn’t just Ruby for me.  I bounce around languages a lot based on the projects I work on.  One thing that is unique to Ruby, though, is the community.

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