(This interview appeared before on 23rd Sept. 2006 on the PuneRuby blog).
Today we talk to Karmen Blake, a Ruby/Rails teacher at Spokane Community College.
Satish Talim>> Hello Karmen and welcome. Could you tell us something about yourself – your background; where you are based…?
Satish Talim>> Given the choices out there, why did you select Ruby?
Karmen Blake>> It is not that I sat down and did an â€˜eeny, meeny, miny, mowâ€™ and was stuck with Ruby. After years of priding myself on using PHP/MySQL and JSP/Servlets, I thought what else would I need for web development. Even though PHP and JSPs have their quirks, I worked through them and was proud of the things I could do with what I had in those platforms. The day I started reading the â€˜pickaxeâ€™ everything changed.
Satish Talim>> How did you learn Ruby and when?
Karmen Blake>> I was headed to a conference March of â€˜04 in a plane ride from Seattle, WA to Orlando, Fl and just a few days before this, I received my copy of the â€˜pickaxeâ€™. Great timing for me to crack open this book and dive into Ruby on this plane trip. I started reading and was immediately impressed. I was so impressed I could not put the book down. I had read most of it by the time I got to Orlando. On the way back from the conference I re-read a majority of the book and skimmed parts I missed earlier.
Satish Talim>> Which features of Ruby do you like the most?
Karmen Blake>> As a teacher and having taught many different languages I compare Ruby to these languages that I knew. In particular I compare Ruby to Java. I taught a 3 quarter sequence in Java and so any language I learn I use Java as a litmus test. I love that in Ruby things are by default intuitive and natural (I know this sounds a little vague but for those who have used Ruby you know what Iâ€™m talking about). It just feels good. I love dynamically typed variables, everything is an object, attr_* family for classes, meta-programming and DSLs, iterators, and ruby library in general (Iâ€™m constantly amazed how Iâ€™ll find methods for exactly what I need).
Satish Talim>> Do you think Ruby has the potential to be a mainstream programming language?
Karmen Blake>> Will Ruby be a mainstream language? I donâ€™t know. I believe it has the potential to be a mainstream language. My gauge for â€˜gone mainstreamâ€™ is if it is adopted by computer science departments. Computer science departments in general are slow adopters of languages and donâ€™t switch unless a language is either mainstream or has been mainstream. Fortunately I teach at a community college where I get to move quicker in relation to the industry. I make many curriculum changes every year to keep up. Most teachers think Iâ€™m crazy for keeping up with technology but I think it is exciting! Who would want to teach the same thing year after year after year for 25-30 years? Not me! As a result, the 3 quarter sequence that I used to teach in Java – Drum roll, please – I use Ruby now. More recently Iâ€™ve added another class to the mix so I teach a total of 3 Ruby classes and a Rails class. That is now 4 classes that involve Ruby. How cool is that?!!
Satish Talim>> What applications, utilities have you developed in Ruby and what platform are you running these applications on?
Karmen Blake>> I use my instructor website as my Rails sandbox. I try new things on it first. Starting this last summer and currently I am consulting using Rails. Iâ€™m pushing Rails into places where Java/JEE used to reside. As a result I have had to do some integration work using Ruby, Java, and XML. In my consulting work I use a Mac and at the college I use Ubuntu. Last year I presented Ruby and Rails at the Course Technology Conference and it went over well. Iâ€™m trying to do my part in education to push Ruby and Rails to a mostly .NET and PHP crowd.
Satish Talim>> Anything else you would like to share with us?
Karmen Blake>> Thanks for giving me this opportunity to share and inspire others.
Satish Talim>> Thanks Karmen for sharing your views with our members.