Dave Thomas talks about Ruby at Amazon

The Robot Co-op got a chance to sneak into Amazon and see Dave Thomas talk about Ruby today to a crowd of skeptical-at-first C, C++, Java, and Perl developers.

Dave Thomas gives a quick tutorial of David Heinemeier Hansson’s Ruby on Rails framework:

Even though the crowd lobbed some difficult questions, Dave must’ve been doing something right because the free-for-all for copies of the latest edition of Programming Ruby reminded me of a Britney Spears concert (without the synchronized choreography and hot pants):

I think on some levels that there was a misunderstanding present at the talk. Dave Thomas might not know exactly what it’s like to design, build, and maintain a code-base that 1,000+ developers are contributing to and which runs a site that 35,000,000 people are using. And sometimes I feel like some developers might not know just how much innovation and productivity rely on language, the ability to have fun writing code, and the development environment that it all happens in. I could be making all of this up, but it’s possible that someone armed with both of those pieces of information could build something pretty interesting pretty quickly.

In the meantime, prototyping over at the co-op continues in Ruby on Rails, and we’re going to allow another batch of 20 pre-pre-alpha testers in by the end of next week. I designed the logo, and at least one person seems to like it. Also, before you know it, I’m not going to be the only one coding up this thing with a paycheck.

P.S. Dear Dave Thomas, it came up in the talk that it was necessary to scrape Amazon’s detail pages in order to get Sales Rank data… and that this information wasn’t available in the web services. That’s actually not true… I’ve been using it on All Consuming since web services first launched. Just thought you might want to know, so you don’t have to keep adjusting that scraper to every little change on the detail page… that gets old quick.

4 Responses to “Dave Thomas talks about Ruby at Amazon”

  1. gabriele renzi Says:

    I’m dumb but I did not understand: how happened that dave gave this talk?<br />
    Did he call up amazon saying “guys I’ve got thus funny thing I <strong>have</strong> to show you!” ?

  2. Erik Benson Says:

    Amazon regularly has people come by and give talks. I think Dave was going around doing a bunch of talks about Ruby, and Amazon sort of fit into his schedule. That’s my guess at least.

  3. Dave Thomas Says:

    You know, I looked at the web services interface many times, and I’m sure that there was a problem which meant I couldn’t get a sales rank—perhaps it was the terms of use?<br />
    <br />
    In terms of not understanding the pain that they’re going through there—I think I take exception to that. I’ve been developing software for more years than I care to remember, and I’ve participated in many painful projects, at all levels. I fully understand the issues that these develoeprs face.<br />
    <br />
    By why make the comment? At no point did I say “rewrite Amazon in Ruby.” Instead, I presented a language that has a different way of looking at things. The folks in the audience are free to decide whether any of these ways have merit. Knowing Ruby changes the way I write Java. Perhaps seeing some of the stuff I presented might inspire one or two people to change the way they write C++ or Java too.

  4. Erik Benson Says:

    Hey Dave. I agree with you 100%. I apologize for misrepresenting your experience with these large projects… I guess I was really just trying to say that even though you never said to rewrite Amazon in Ruby, many of the questions were built on that premise. Many of the people in the audience were thinking, “how can we use Ruby to solve Amazon’s challenges?” Mostly because the way they think about problems is to a large extent framed by the problems they face when working on the Amazon website.<br />
    <br />
    I think the talk went really well and that ultimately you did get across some of the interesting ways that Ruby changes the way you write and think, regardless of language. We’re definitely continuing to use Ruby over here…

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