MRS 013 – Dave Thomas

This episode is a My Ruby Story with Dave Thomas. Dave has spoken about Elixir at two Ruby Remote Confs. He challenges the way people think about the way they do code. Listen to learn more about Dave!

[00:02:42] How did you get into programming?

Dave first got into programming when he was attending school in England. At the age of sixteen everyone takes national tests. A group of friends and Dave took these tests early so they did not have classes to take spring semester. Their school decided to send them to take a computer science class at a nearby technical college. There he fell in love with programming and decided to switch his focus in college. He went to Imperial College, where computer science was a brand new degree: it was only in the second year of being offered.

[00:05:45] How did you get into Ruby?

Dave has always been a language nerd. In the 90s you had to be determined to work with computer languages. People posted their compilers on usenet in parts. He downloaded files from this site to play with these languages. In 1997 or 1998, he downloaded Ruby overnight, started playing with it, and fell in love. It was similar to Pearl, which he was using at the time. Dave thought Ruby was easier to work with and it became his language of choice. He wrote a book with Andy Hunt and it became the pickaxe. Dave and some friends set up the first Ruby conference in Florida after the book was released.

[00:13:50] Do you feel like we get as many of “breath of fresh air” talks these days in Ruby as we used to?

No but that is to be expected. The problems, people, and interest have changed. Ruby has matured and there are fewer people in the community than there used to be.

[00:15:23] In terms of this cycle that you're seeing, where would you put Elixir?

Elixir is brand new, whereas Ruby had been around a long time. Elixir caught on fast, which was a surprise. People were doing large-scale commercial work in it within eighteen months. There are elements of homesteading going on; a lot of people are coming from Ruby to Elixir trying to tell people how to do it. Dave has been through thing similar to this in the past where he can recognize things that will be potentially harmful to the community and try to stop some of those things happening.

[00:22:06] How did you discover Elixir?

He came across it twice. The first time was five years ago but he did not really find a use for it. Then a year ago he was doing a Rails course in Virginia with Cory Haynes. He wanted a functional language so that people could better understand functional programming. Cory suggested Elixir and Dave tried it out again that night. He fell in love with the potential of Elixir. It wasn’t an opinionated language, just transparent. Elixir is fast and reliable.

[00:29:18] Contributions to the community

Dave became one of the people that everyone came to ask about Ruby, which he is proud of because it spread a new way of thinking about programming. He evangelized Ruby and Rails to more than 10,000 people. He has done evangelism just to make programmers happier.

[00:36:11] What are you up to now? 

He is still trying to help people write code with Elixir in order to help their lives become easier. Dave has created a course on how to write Elixir “Dave Thomas style.”



He wants people to do their own picks. Think of 3 things that make you proud to be a human being.