At Suria Labs, we use Ruby on Rails widely throughout our specially crafted web and mobile apps which is why we’ve decided to get to know a key figure in the local Ruby scene: Jimmy Ngu is the man behind 2017’s RubyConf Malaysia. Here he talks about how you can get involved.
Tell us a bit about your background.
It’s always been web development for me. My first job was to build a web application for engineering companies. It was basically an ERP software which is kind of like SAP but it was web based and used ColdFusion and it was really old school. That was about 14 years ago and since then I’ve always been in the web development field. I’ve done some ActionScript for Flash and then from there I jumped to WordPress and PHP. After that, I joined Mindvalley which was where I started learning Ruby on Rails and now I’m a developer at Rapid River.
What did you study in the beginning?
I studied Software Engineering but to be honest, I don’t think that whatever I learned during my studies is relevant to what I do today. It does help me to understand the bigger picture but last time we were all learning C++ programming and Java and this is definitely not what I’m doing right now!
Could tell us a bit about the Ruby Conference in KL?
Last year (2017) was the second time we hosted the conference for Ruby on Rails in KL. We almost doubled the size of our audience since the first conference in the previous year and we doubled the duration as well which was held over two days. Basically, we followed the setting of the RedDot Ruby Conference in Singapore and we brought something similar to Malaysia.
What normally goes on during the conference? What sort of discussions are brought up?
It’s a Ruby Conference, so basically, it’s anything and everything about Ruby. We have people talking about the core, as in the Ruby programming language itself and the development of it. We also discuss what’s going on across the news feeds as well as the future outlook of what the Ruby language will be.
It’s over 20 years now, but the Ruby programming language is constantly evolving because of the way that we use the language. When it was created there was no multicore processor and the internet wasn’t still a huge thing. Nowadays, (programming) languages itself are evolving to support those so you can leverage on the multi core processor through parallel processing and those kind of things.
During the conference, there are a lot of newbie friendly talks to guide new learners through their journey. Another topic that’s talked about is workflow and how people are managing their team and so on.
We also did more stage presentations in the recent conference compared to the first one. There’s constantly a lot of back-and-forth going on between the speakers and audience. We also had a workshop for DRY-rb which is a framework for writing procedural Ruby.
Are there pros and cons to using Ruby?
I guess the pros and cons would depend on how you use the language. Ruby is mainly popular for how natural the syntax looks. If you look at the Ruby syntax, it reads like English and that’s obviously the main intention of the creator. He wanted to create a language that is very easy for us as developers to write and read, but this is a very difficult thing to do because if you write a language that’s easy for the machine to read, it will be very hard for humans to read,.
Obviously, machine language is the closest to the machine and obviously, it will run the fastest, but if you write in a high-level language such as Ruby then it’s very easy for us to read and write it but it will be very hard for the machine to read because more needs to be translated. I think Ruby gets a lot of flak for not being fast enough, but then again if you want to benchmark a language, you have to also take into account the development side of things and the human side of things.
What kind of businesses are adopting Ruby in Malaysia?
Within the Malaysian market, the web industry is still pretty much driven by E-commerce and not too much by pure technology. But the trend is that people are using Ruby on Rails to build MVP products. For example Suria Labs work on MVP products and that’s a very good choice because Ruby on Rails is a very rapid build kind of web application platform.
Where’s the first place someone should go to if they’re hoping to learn Ruby on Rails?
The first place to look is always online, there’s enough information for newbies to actually learn and also make something just from online materials. There are free and paid courses online, both are good but it depends on how you learn. There are also bootcamps and full-time courses such as the ones provided by NEXT Academy.
Personally, I prefer to find out how to do certain things and if doing that requires me to do other things then I’ll also get to learn more. Maybe certain people prefer to learn everything in theory and then only try to apply it, but for me, I think the fastest way I can learn is when I do it the other way round.
Best advice for someone who’s just getting started with Ruby on Rails?
I think the ability to learn things independently is vital. A lot of people depend on a facilitator which is also good and that can also help you get quick results because you’ve been given relevant information. But if you hope to work in the technology industry, you have to do more than that, you have to learn how to find relevant information independently too.
Obviously, in the beginning you won’t be sure on what it is exactly that you’d like to learn or you wouldn’t know what’s relevant—that’s fine. But try to learn to do that along the way and that’s the best advice I could give. That will serve you a long way.
Suria Labs are proud to organise the RubyConf MY 2018 on the 25th and 26th of October. Head to rubyconf.my to book your tickets now!