Bruce Tate is the second featured speaker to provided feedback on our erubycon speaker interviews.
Bruce Tate Answers
Bruce Tate is a kayaker, mountain biker, and father of two from
Austin, Texas. An international speaker and respected author, Bruce’s
primary focus through the years has remained steady: rapid application
development of web applications. He specializes on putting highly
effective teams on the most productive and most appropriate
Q: Tell me a little about your background, where you are working and how did you come to start using Ruby?
I have been programming for about 30 years, and programming for
money for the last 25. I worked at IBM for a number of years, got
bored, and left to work for a startup which immediately blew up. Then,
I was an independent consultant, which was a little like saying
“Unemployed, but with business cards.” I did Java development,
training, mentoring, and consulting for five years or so, and began to
think that things were getting too bloated, too complicated, and
unsustainable. Dave Thomas challenged me to give Ruby a try, and I
did, and loved it, and hated that I loved it. All of my reputation, my
books, and my customers were all wrapped up in Java, but I knew it was
not the right language for the types of problems I was trying to
solve. I interviewed a bunch of people to understand what was
happening, and then decided to write a book about the learning
experience. That book, Beyond Java, caused a lot of controversy, but
the stuff seems pretty tame these days.
Eventually, I shifted my consulting practice to Ruby full
time. I later turned a consulting gig into a full time CTO position at
building a charitable contributions portal. At ChaningThePresent, you
don’t just make a donation. You get an hour of a cancer researcher’s
time, you make a blind person see, and if you like, you can make that
tangible donation in the name of another, and get a customized card to
announce your donation. We hope to be the de facto resource for
nonprofits on the web. We think we’re well on the way.
Q: What unique opportunities do you see for Ruby in the enterprise?
I do everything in Ruby. As computing power gets less expensive,
we need to use more of that power, and let the base programming
language do more of the work. Our infrastructure is just about all in
Ruby these days.
Q: What obstacles do you see to getting Ruby used more in enterprise
We don’t see insurmountable obstacles. We do think tools have
room to grow, especially in the area of refactoring development
environments. The dependence on so many C libraries, like ImageMagic,
is a pain for deployment. And we use Rails, which has its share of
warts. Caching in the persistence layer is harder than it needs to
be. Migrations don’t scale beyond small teams. But none of these
things even dent the long term productivity that we experience. Any
framework will lead to its share of technical debt. Rails is no
exception. All in all, it’s a fantastic framework.
Q: Play oracle for a moment and tell me what you see as the next “Big
Thing” in software development.
I always get in trouble for doing this, but I’ll bite. From a
language perspective, we seem to be getting closer and closer to a
functional language. Ruby is just one step in that direction. We won’t
see major movement in the core language for another 10 years,
though… we’re locked pretty hard into a 10 year programming language
cycle. I think we’ll continue to converge on a set of frameworks that
HAML-like languages putting a dent in HTML, and one of the AJAX
providing a layer over the browser. It’s becoming clearer that HTML
Domain specific languages will be unleashed, and driven from
things like IDEA’s language workbench and programming languages and
concepts in Ruby. This will take us closer to functional programming
languages than we’ve ever been.
From a language and feature standpoint, we’ll see continuations
play a bigger role. AJAX is complicating web development again, and
we’re going to have to make some simplifying assumptions. AJAX tripped
up continuation based models for a little while, but I can easily see
an abstraction with better encapsulation that lets AJAX play.
So those are three things that I see in the 5-10 year window. In
the more immediate timeframe, we’ll see Ruby continue to push Java on
the applications end. No single language will dominate, but a bunch of
us have already moved beyond Java. There’s still a place for Java, and
C++ or COBOL for that matter. But mind share is moving on. It’s
Q: What erubycon talk are you most interested in hearing?
It’s an incredible docket. I can’t pick just one.
Thank you Bruce. Folks can get more information about erubycon at