Friday, April 20, 2007

Post event reflections: Singapore Ruby Brigade Meetup at CLL

[See previous post: Singapore Ruby Brigade Meetup at CLL, 18 Apr 2007]
  • "How many lines of code to patch to make KRJS work?"
  • "Have the affected the codes?"
  • "Any one here does test development? How do you manage without Hpricot Forms?"
  • "What have you been using FX Ruby for?"
  • "Why are we letting the Phython people sit in front?" [Laughter]
  • "Was it complicated to understand the Flickr API?"
I didn't understand a word. But it didn't matter. I learned what I sought to discover. One of which was, "What makes this community tick?"

Ruby Brigade Meetup
I would describe the participants as a group of like-minded individuals interested in learning and sharing what they know about Ruby On Rails.

One guy patiently explained, in a nutshell, what Ruby on Rails was. So now I know 'Ruby' is a programming language (like Java and C++). And Rails is a... framework.

I think.

Here's Choon Keat sharing tips on performing functional tests on code written using Ruby.
Choon Keat - telling it like it is

He showed lots of code.
Lotsa code!

And more code.
Did I mention there's really a lot of code?

He ended his presentation by asking if anyone was lost. The room remained silent. I had the feeling I wasn't the only person who's lost. Heck, I wasn't even with him in the first place (I said this to Choon Keat and he laughed good naturedly).

That's the whole point of the Ruby Brigade meetups. Ruby isn't something taught in schools. At least not yet.

It's a Learning Community for people into Ruby on Rails. It's an informal classroom. It's organised by the community, led by the community, for the community.

Sausheong presented on something I didn't quite catch.
Sausheong giving a demo on FxRuby

Then he showed this neat screen-saver program he wrote using Ruby. It pulls images from Now that, I get! But it runs only on Windows though. :|

After that, there was the familiar networking geek-bonding sessions (just kidding).
Ruby Brigade Networking Time

And ideas being propagated.
Idea propagation!

Not everyone was into software development, as I learned during the self-introduction session. Not all were experts. Seven people raised their hands when Douglas asked who were using Rails full-time. The rest seemed to say they were "playing with it".

These people who have learned Java (some of them anyway) and are now adopting Ruby/ Rails.

Lets see... there was a Software developer, Systems Integrator, a few Programmers, a Web designer, an owner of a software company (who teaches inmates in Changi Prison!), someone who's starting an email portal (and considering if he should adopt Ruby), a freelance PHP programmer, one guy who's been "playing around with Ruby for three years and taking up Rails", a Java programmer, a self-confessed "recovering Javaholic", and another who said he was a "reformed PHP programmer" and passing through Singapore. One guy said he was there to see if Ruby was something he needed to learn. One fella into Jango, another guy working on internet project (not a programmer), more freelancer programmers (projects for SMEs), one full-time Rail developer (Choon Keat), and a Web developer in a design company (Douglas).

The word "guy" comes up quite a bit, doesn't it? :)

Another fella made an even deeper impression. He introduced himself as "Mohan", from Chennai, India. He arrived in Singapore only two days ago. First time in Singapore. Working for a financial company here. While in India, he was searching for information about Ruby/ Rails. Found his way to the Googlegroup, where he learned about the meetup.
And so there he's was, at the meetup, on his second day in Singapore, in the library for the first time.

Nice chap, that Mohan. He arrived early. Helped set up the notice board, and even collected it back at the end of the session. I told him about he can sign up as a library member. I think he'll get a lot out of the public libraries here.


The main question in my mind was, "Do they need the library for their activities?"

I counted about 30 people in the room. Choon Keat said they usually didn't get such a turnout. Their previous meetings were at coffee joints, so presentations like tonight wasn't possible. These guys were sharing stuff that isn't taught formally. And Ruby is something that's apparently gaining ground among developers and programmers.

Apart from providing the venue and facilities, the library can supporting their sessions with books and related materials. And who better to recommend related books to such a community than the practitioners themselves. This group can easily be an informal advisory panel to the library in selecting related Computer & IT materials for the collection.

I told the group there's a definite possibility that the library could work out some regular arrangement to facilitate a learning community like theirs. I'm pretty clear on how it fits the library's 2010 plans. Now I've to think of ways (with the help from this community of course) to convince my colleagues why we should do this.

Either that, or start a dating service for some of these guys! Just kidding, fellas.


  1. Thanks for the event writeup. I think a dating service might not be necessary after all, what with Web 2.0 and geek chic being hot now, :D

  2. Thanks for having us! Being able to meet in the library makes a big difference. Many of the ideas are difficult enough to understand, without having to listen to waiters shouting and coffee cups rattling.

    If the library is looking to add to its ruby bookshelf, I'm sure all of us would be glad to suggest titles. Here are two of the best places to look for books on Ruby (mixed with others, unfortunately):

    Pragmatic Bookshelf

    O'Reilly Store - Ruby

    Hope to see you again at the next meeting. . .

  3. Hi Ivan, thanks for your help in arranging the meeting room and facilities. I'm very pleasantly surprised that NLB has such initiatives to reach out to the community in helping people to learn. I suppose the days where the library is a passive repository of books and librarians are only the guardians of silence and orderliness are in the past :)

    About your offer to help out the Ruby and Rail community in Singapore I think it's a great step, we do need this boost to keep the community growing and prospering. Besides facilities, I think the NLB can also help in promoting the community, as well as maybe hosting space for the community? So far we've been staking out at the Google Groups but we don't have a permanent meeting space (both physical and virtual).

    As to how we can contribute back to the community, I'm pretty sure we can give good recommendations on books and other materials, that is not an issue at all. Another thing we can perhaps do is to provide introductory level presentations to the general public on Ruby and Rails. The stuff we did last night were probably for practitioners, not first timers.

    To generate other ideas on contributing back to the library perhaps you can elaborate more on the NLB's 2010 goals?

    BTW I'm not sure if my wife would be amused if you tried to arrange a dating service for me ;)

  4. Anonymous1:27 pm

    I don't think the answer given to you is correct. Ruby should not be desrcibe with Java or C++.

    Ruby combines syntax inspired by Perl with Smalltalk-like object-oriented features and has a littel Python feel too.

    Now, I confuse you more. Talk to your IT Deputy Direct Tan You Tong, he may be able to make more sense to you and maybe help you pitch to NLB's management.

  5. Anonymous1:32 pm

    Yes, Google book search is a great tool! Love it.

  6. Anonymous7:23 pm

    Kudos to NLB, honestly, I'm really impressed how a library can play such an important role in building a learning community.

  7. Anonymous4:07 pm

    First off, thanks for helping set up the meetng and many thanks to all the contributors.

    I think it's entirely justfied to support the Ruby & RoR community at this formative stage. There are potential commercial aspects but this is about nurture, not subsidy.

    Many people say SG lags other places technologically and for sure, its compact tech sector is a factor. Please continue to advocate for us and I am sure we shall do the rest. Nigel.

  8. Thanks Iven, I amazed about your helping tendency, passionate about offering your service by venturing into new avenues and even wrote a blog about you very next day of the meeting my blog. Let me know if I could contribute anything related to Computer related books.

  9. Hey Ivan, thanks for the help, you're the man!

    Anyway, I'm using a competing framework called Django (named after a famous jazz artist Django Reinhardt).

    What Django (written in another language called Python) and RoR shares is that the web framework should be lean and mean, so that it lets developers easily develop website applications.

    However, there's a major philosophical software: RoR aspires to be opinionated software, while Django aspires to be explicit.

    An analogy is the difference between Classical Chinese and Modern Chinese. RoR resembles Classical Chinese in the sense that a short expression can have deep and powerful meanings. There's lots of clever and magical expressions you can do with RoR.

    Django on the other hand is more vernacular, and aspires to express the meaning more explicitly. The expression may end up slightly longer, but it makes things easier to read. This leads to better code maintainability in future. 6 months down the road, you may even be forced to read your own code, so my view is that if the code ends up being too clever, you may not even understand what you wrote.

    Of course, these are only my views, and I've never actually used RoR. Will definitely want to learn it in future so that my views are more accurate. :-)

  10. Anonymous5:21 pm

    Hi all,

    I am working for a software integrator company. My projects includes working on Java and Ruby on Rails and Ajax. I think Web Services is really cool. We also recently have to now work on REST and they are talking about mashups and Struts. Can anyone tell me if there are some good training or conferences so that me and my team members can get to speed with these technologies. Learning from books is not my cup of tea, even not when I was doing engineering ;)

    All the help that group members can provide in this regard is much appreciated.


  11. Hi Vaibhavi, you'll have to contact the folks at "Singapore Ruby Bridge". They have a google group.


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