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David Black: Co-Founder Ruby Central, RubyConf, The Compleat Rubyist: International Top-ranking Ruby Programmer, Author, Trainer, Speaker, Event Organizer

This week, Stephen Ibaraki has an exclusive interview with David Black.

David BlackDavid A. Black is an internationally recognized Ruby programmer, author, trainer, speaker and event organizer. A Rubyist since 2000, David is the author of "The Well-Grounded Rubyist" (Manning Publications, 2009), and a frequently invited speaker at technical conferences and users groups in the United States and abroad. In 2002 David co-founded Ruby Central, Inc, the parent organization of the International Ruby Conference (RubyConf); an event he has been involved in planning every year since 2001.

David is currently a Senior Developer at Cyrus Innovation, Inc. He is also one of the three instructors, along with Gregory Brown and Jeremy McAnally, for the recurrent Ruby training event "The Compleat Rubyist."

In addition to his computer-related activities, David is a cellist (professionally trained and still active, as time permits) and had a previous career as a media scholar, earning a Ph.D. in Cinema Studies from New York University and teaching at Seton Hall University for thirteen years.

To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link

The latest blog on the interview can be found in the IT Managers Connection (IMC) forum where you can provide your comments in an interactive dialogue.


Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic

:00:32: David, you have a lifetime of outstanding contributions in a number of fields. Thank you for sharing your considerable expertise, deep accumulated insights, and wisdom with our audience.

:00:46: Can you give us a brief outline about Cyrus Innovations?
"....Cyrus is a consultancy based in New York City and is an Agile development consultancy. We do Agile process and also development and a mixture of coaching and development with our clients...."

:01:27: What are key lessons from "The Well-Grounded Rubyist"?
"....I would say that "The Well-Grounded Rubyist" is my position statement so to speak on really knowing what you are doing and understanding what's going on...."

:03:33: Can you give some background on "The Compleat Rubyist" and what are some important little known tips?
"....We thought of it as the Three Tenors of Ruby. Three friends who all do Ruby – we've all taught a lot, written a lot; we are all very experienced as Ruby developers and are just trying to share that with a group of students...."

:06:40: Share with us a little about the next International Ruby Conference (RubyConf)?
"....It's not until October or November....This is not a promise but we are hoping to have it in Hawaii...."

:08:06: David gives some background on the International Ruby Conference.
"....In 2001 at the first Ruby Conf we had 33 people. In 2010 in New Orleans we were in the vicinity of 700 people....It has grown a lot which is partly attributable to the Ruby on Rails framework...."

:09:48: You've made reference to Matz. The audience may not be familiar that Matz is Yukihiro Matsumoto, the creator of Ruby. What prompted you to get involved with Ruby?
"....Matz actually created Ruby in 1993 as kind of a personal project he shared with some friends....I got interested in Ruby from finding "Programming Ruby" by Dave Thomas and Andy Hunt (the first English language Ruby book)...."

:12:13: David shares a little known story about Matz.
"....We had actually crossed paths without knowing each other several years before I even discovered Ruby. I thought that was cool. I thought that gave me some real Ruby street-cred...."

:13:49: You are involved with the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). Can you get into more detail about what you are doing for the ACM?
"....I'm really new to the organization....I am trying to create a smorgasbord of interesting small to mid-sized modules or units about Ruby and illustrating things that Ruby can do. Hopefully it can provide some value for a lot of people coming to Ruby who have used other languages and are intrigued and want to get a sense of what to do and where to go next...."

:16:57: What can be done to upgrade the employability of recent graduates?
"....My impression is that the people who do best are the ones who make themselves adaptable. Not necessarily just good at one thing but are able to take on different technologies and who have the mindset of agility (with a small 'a'); being adaptable to different situations and different things that are asked of them...."

:19:06: What can be done to update the employability of early career, mid-career and end career computing professionals?
"....I don't have statistics on this and maybe it really isn't more than others....My impression is that in terms of hiring it's somewhat of a young person's market...."

:21:37: You mentioned that you came from a non-typical background. You were a cellist (and you still are) and you are a media scholar, you have a PhD in Cinema Studies. How did you get into computing?
"....It's even stranger than it sounds...."

:29:29: What specific competencies and skills are in high demand?
"....My sample pool is not really representative – I tend to be a little bit skewed towards Ruby....It seems to me that we're experiencing a wave of interest and popularity in functional programming languages (I really don't know statistically if this parlays into job counts, etc.)....It often comes down to luck (being in the right place at the right time), and sometimes just knowing how to play to your strengths...."

:33:55: How will this change in three years and then five years?
"....I've kind of learned through my own experience that 5-year plans and even 3-year plans are difficult to make and correspondingly I shy away from predicting the future...."

:40:32: What are the best resources to keep computing professionals upgraded? Where do you look for computing resources?
"....I'm actually old school. I read books, I talk to people, I try things out...."

:43:32: If you could sum up your life experiences with career tips for the ICT professional, what would be your tips and the reasons behind them?
"....The thing I come back to is agility....You should be adaptable and make a virtue of necessity....Another thing that people face a lot of the time (and I have faced in my career path) is deciding what to do next....The advice that I give myself is given a choice between A and B, if you already have job A and somebody asks if you want job B and you're not sure....ask yourself 'If I already had job B, would I accept job A?'...."

:48:21: Can you profile what is needed for IT professionals to be successful in today's agile driven technology climate?
"....Being attuned to the relationship between process and result...."

:52:09: What do you see as the top challenges facing us today and how do you propose they be solved?
"....Obsolescence....The ongoing need for education...."

:55:21: If you were conducting this interview what additional questions would you ask, and then what would be your answers?
"....What is your second favorite programming language?....What is the best thing about Ruby?....What are your upcoming writing projects?....What are your upcoming teaching projects?...."

:01:02:29: You talked about Ruby Rails 3, what are the best things in Rails 3?
"....From what I've seen....Active Relation framework....Changes to the routing syntax...."

:01:04:03: Ruby has been out there for a number of years. What sort of influence does Matz still have on the entire Ruby ecosystem?
"....He is still the designer of Ruby. He is the final arbiter of what is Ruby. It has become an interesting question in relation to the fact there is more than one Ruby interpreter....But given that there are a lot of interpreters it's been handled in an exemplary way in terms of collegiality and collaboration among the various implementers...."

:01:06:12: Why Ruby (in 3 or 4 sentences)?
"....I can tell you why I use Ruby in one word: Love...."