Archive for January, 2009

recent news Jan 13 2009

Lately, I have been really busy with my business, an upcoming training and some non rails-merb related experimentations. (I’m learning objective-c and playing with macruby)

However, here are some of the latest news:

  • Merb 1.0.8 should be released soon with some bug fixes and some improvements
  • The Merb book got 2 new sections, Sequel and Active Record. I’ll be spending quite a lot of time on the book in the next weeks.
  • Ted Han is working on reorganizing the Merb wiki
  • We started a new mailing list for people wanting to help with the Rails wiki
  • We also started a mailing list for people wanting to help with the activism effort

For those in the Phoenix area, next week, Yehuda and I will be at integrum/gangplank‘s for the Phoenix Rails User Group.

We are looking to meeting you all.

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Meet the merbists: Hampton Catlin

Matt Aimonetti interviewing Hampton Catlin
Meet today’s merbist: Hampton Catlin
I’m personally looking forward to seeing Hampton’s work migrated to Rails 3 in a few months.


Matt Aimonetti: Hi Hampton, could you please introduce yourself and tell us what you do for a living.
Hampton Catlin: I’m Hampton Catlin. I’m “The Haml Guy” as I’m apparently termed all the time when introduced. I’m an early Rails hacker who has done a lot more than Haml, but whatever. These days, I’m doing a ton of iPhone development and am currently heading Wikimedia’s efforts for a new mobile platform… based on Merb!


Matt Aimonetti: How did you get started with Ruby, what’s your background?
Hampton Catlin: Well, everyone is welcome to laugh. But Slashdot introduced me to Ruby. I got into it about two months before Rails because the hotness (it was an obscure project at the time) and I grabbed a copy of the Pickaxe and never looked back. Prior to that I was working a crappy job getting people coffee at a bank. And then prior to that I was doing research for Nasa at my university with Java beuwolf clusters. It sounds fancier than it was.


Matt Aimonetti: You chose to learn and use Merb, could you please let us know why and how that happened?
Hampton Catlin: I had known of Ezra for a while and Yehuda. And so when I heard about the project, I was very interested. At the time I was looking forward to using a “Rails Light”. Of course, we know Merb is much more than that, but that was the original attraction.

Also, at some point I got really upset by the use of global variables in both of the frameworks, so I did some major patching to Merb to change over to module based constants. Aka, Merb.root instead of MERB_ROOT. I was ranting about it enough that I decided to do something about it. Also, I did some patches that messed up Merb with some weird documentation stuff. Sorry, Ezra.


Matt Aimonetti: Do you have some Merb projects available online we can look at? what was your experience so far?
Hampton Catlin: My most successful iPhone app (which was recently purchased by Wikimedia) was an app to browse Wikipedia. I chose Merb because I knew that I wanted something a little more bare bones than Rails, and it turned out to be a really good choice. And now, I’m getting a chance to extend that work into an entire platform for Wikimedia mobile. I am still looking for help with it….
Its not live yet with wikipedia, but that’s the code that you can help with! :)


Matt Aimonetti What is your favorite aspect of the Merb framework?
Hampton Catlin: Its modular design. Its as complex or as simple as you would like it to be. Also, its easy to run Haml, and the more people that use Haml, the harder my nipples get.


Matt Aimonetti Could you please mention an aspect of Merb you hope to see being improved in the near future?
Hampton Catlin: Honestly, everyone is wild about gems, but I’m not particularly. I find gem management a bit cumbersome. I’m most likely doing something wrong or not doing it the right way. But yeah, I still find it cumbersome. I’d like to pair the excellent Gem support with better library creation support. I think both are needed. I don’t want to throw stuff in my /lib folder or randomly in my project. I want some structure and some simplicity. Somewhere between plugins and base libraries. I think this is where Merb *could* shine.

Also, resource handling. I wrote make_resourceful for Rails and I keep needing to do something similar for Merb. m_r is not very popular because I haven’t really put much time into spreading the word. Mostly, I just use it. However, there are about 60 other Rails developers in the world that use it extensively. So, its a small, close-knit group of developers using the tool. And, I think something like it could be much more elegantly mixed into Merb. Obviously its a plug-in, but I think its a low hanging fruit. “current_object” as a method should ALWAYS be around when its logical.


Matt Aimonetti Thank you for your time. Anything else you would like to add?
Hampton Catlin: Buy my book. Buy my book. Buy my book. Buy my book. Buy my book. Buy my book. Buy my book. Buy my book. Buy my book. Buy my book. Ok, not really. My book isn’t very good. But, I just wanted to make a “The Critic” reference.


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Presenting the Rails Activists

Today is Monday. I usually don’t like Mondays.
Being Monday goes with waking up early, going back to work, and lots of deadlines.

However, today is a special Monday. It’s the first Monday of the year and I have a special announcement!

During the Rails/Merb merge announcement, it was mentioned that I will be joining the soon to be created “Evangelism team”.

A few people asked me what being a “Rails Evangelist” means. To reassure my parents and close friends, no, I didn’t join a new cult worshiping locomotives. However, I still think that public transportation should be improved, especially in this time of crisis (but that’s a different topic).

A technical evangelist, is usually someone who knows and uses a specific technology and thinks others should look into it. This is something I’ve been doing for Merb while being part of the core team. I initiated and helped organizing MerbCamp, re-did the wiki, started working on the merb-book, spent time looking for and listening to users, spent time with third party developers and people pushing Merb to a new level (YellowPages, Wikimedia and many others).

This interaction with the end users and the third party developers is something the entire Merb team valued a great deal and I always felt it was something the community really appreciated.

As part of the merge, it was agreed that we would push things further and have a team within the Rails team to take care of “communication”. Rails is a bigger project than Merb and communication between the dev team and the users isn’t always something easy to do.

That’s why we have formed a separate team that will help communicate and support the community better. We now even have an official page on the Rails website itself :)

The Rails Activists

The A-Team just got announced on the Rails blog.

Instead of being called “evangelists”, we are going to be called “activists”. I think part of the argument was that the E-Team doesn’t sound as good as the A-Team.

We started with team of 4. You might not know them yet but they all are brilliant people and I’m really glad to be working with them.

Gregg Pollack, from Rails Envy. You might remember Gregg from the Rails vs * commercials or from the Rails Envy podcasts. I’ve known Gregg for a little while and he’s someone you can rely on and always full of energy/new ideas.

Ryan Bates
, mainly known for his Railscasts. I only met Ryan once in person, but I’ve always been impressed by his work (don’t tell anyone, but I secretly dreamt of having something like Railscasts but for Merb :) )

Mike Gunderloy. I actually did not know Mike but I have read and enjoyed his blog and have seen his work on the Rails guides. Mike is an experienced writer and developer. He joked the other day saying that he started programming before any member of the Rails team was even born. Mike is a great addition to the team and I’m looking forward to learning from his experience.

Gregg and Ryan also covered the event, you might want to check their blog posts (Gregg’s and Mike’s)

So what are we going to do?

Pretty simple. We’ve boiled it down to 2 sentences:

The mission of the Rails Activists is to empower and support the worldwide network of Ruby on Rails users. We do this by publicizing Rails, making adoption easier, and enhancing developer support.

if you prefer a few more details, here are some of the tasks we are going to work on:

  • Public Relations with media of all sizes
  • Ombudsman work to ensure good user-to-user support
  • Community Leadership at events and conferences
  • Media Organization to help create good promotional opportunities
  • Website maintenance
  • Documentation efforts
  • Developer support

Do we need help?

Absolutely! The idea is not that we are going to do all the work. The concept of this new team is to help organize the community. We are going to build a Rails Network, a network of people involved in local Rails “evangelism”/activism, people contributing and/or translating documentation, third part developers etc…

First thing would be to join the mailing list and share your suggestions, comments, concerns, etc., with us.

Secondly, we have already set up some forums to hear your feedback.

To start off, we are asking people to let us know what they would like to see happening in the Rails3 timeframe.
We have other forums for more general feedback, but we need to work with deadlines so we can prioritize accordingly. Using the Rails3 milestone should help us focus on a short/medium term deadline. Long term and not specific suggestions are welcome in the other forums.

Finally, contact us. You can find multiple ways to do so on the activism team web page.

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