Play iterated games. All the returns in life, whether in wealth, relationships, or knowledge, come from compound interest.— Naval (@naval) May 31, 2018
Programming (or writing or making art) is knowledge wealth building. Practicing your craft is compounding interest, and the best practice is to have a side project.
Working on an application from inception to deployment teaches you so much more than you would learn at work. Your work projects are too big for you to master every part of the application. When the application is small, you can take the time to master every part from the authentication to the deployment.
Keep Ruby Weird is a celebration of side projects that delight. None of these talks will make you a millionaire, but you’ll learn something. Maybe that something will help you on a future project. Maybe it will encourage you to start your own absurd side project.
Opening Keynote - Yukihiro ‘Matz’ Matsumoto
2018 is the last Keep Ruby Weird, and they managed to get a talk from Matz. Did they have excess budget and need to spend every penny? Did they troll us by having a very normal conference talk at their weirdo conference? Who cares? You get to watch a talk from the creator of Ruby!
Matz talks about how method hash arguments work in Ruby today and considers how they will work in the future. Nothing is set in stone, and they’re still taking comments/suggestions. If you want to learn about some weird edge cases for method hash arguments, this talk is for you.
Distributed Fizz Buzz: Passing the Microservices Interview
Skip it! This talk is an advertisement for the actual talk, which is a three day course on microservices.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Guide to Color Theory - Louisa Barrett
Louisa explains the basics of color theory via Ninja Turtles. If you use colors but don’t know anything about color groups, what emotions are associated with which colors, how to get color groups from the color wheel, and what properties make up a color then this talk is for you.
It’s a very introductory talk, but I still learned something. I had no idea how the properties of color worked.
Game Show (Intermission)
Skip it! The Game Show was fun in person, but it was filler. It’s not going to be as fun online.
Using psql to \watch Star Wars And other silly things! - Will Leinweber
Will uses the ascii version of Star Wars to explain the Postgresql \watch command. The \watch command is like a tail for your query. It reruns the query at some specified interval and displays the output. Combine \watch with a Postgresql function and a counter, and you’re watching Star Wars!
Then comes the step up. Will uses ffmpeg to render Star Wars as emoji characters. He even hooks up his Mac’s webcam to ffmpeg to render live video of himself as emoji. It’s an utterly delightful moment.
If you like Will’s talk, check out his talk from Keep Ruby Weird 2015. They’re both must sees.
Cats, The Musical! Algorithmic Song Meow-ification - Beth Haubert
Beth sets out to write an application that takes a song as input and returns the same melody but sung by cat meows.
Extracting the melody from a song automatically is really hard, and she doesn’t get that part working. Instead she outsources the task to an online melody extractor. Even that extractor is terrible.
This is a good talk to watch Beth encounter setbacks and work around them. There are compromises and work arounds, but she gets it working. The payoff? A cat rendition of the Game of Thrones theme.
Using Ruby to build a modern Memex! - Andrew Louis
Andrew obsessively catalogues every detail about his life. To categorize that information, he creates a Memex. The Memex was a thought experiment from the 1940’s by Vannevar Bush. He wanted to organize data by associations. For Andrew, that means being able to look up every podcast he listened to on a road trip three years ago.
I want this. I want a personalized search engine for my life.
The most impressive part is he’s using Ruby on Rails and Postgresql. I expected him to be using a Graph Database, which is almost a Memex. Graph Databases are super super new, meaning they’re all still pre-1.0 and unreliable. This is a friendly reminder that Rails and Postgresql are still incredibly powerful.
Andrew wants to share his Memex but doesn’t know how. He’s unsure about opensourcing it. He never mentions it, but users of opensource have entitlement issues. There is an emotional cost to fielding support and feature requests. The DigitalOcean Marketplace would be perfect for his Memex. He could build a 1-click, only need to support one version of the OS, Rails, and Postgresql, and share it with people without outsourcing it.
Transcendental Programming in Ruby - Yusuke Endoh
Quines are simple to write in Ruby. This example is from the wikipedia article on Quines. Represent your program as a string and eval that string.
Simple, right? Nope, nope, nope. Yusuke shows off some absurd quines.
This talk was on the weirder side of Keep Ruby Weird. Definitely check it out.
Closing Keynote - Avdi Grimm
Avdi Grimm, of Ruby Tapas fame, starts his keynote as a discussion about the roots of Object Oriented Programming and how the world misunderstood objects and methods in OOP. Alan Kay’s original description of OOP is more similar to the Actor model and Functional Programming than it is to modern OOP. Avdi iterates all of the problems with object messaging and how it’s broken.
Avdi realizes that the same problems with OOP messaging apply to his life. He’s so laser focused on accomplishing a checklist of goals, that he postpones happiness and doesn’t enjoy the journey.
The second half of his keynote is about being present and enjoying the moment. That focusing on the a goal at the expense of your day to day life isn’t healthy.
Be content that your goals will take a decade to achieve. Savor the journey, especially with your family.
Oh, and take more selfies.
In Go when I have an array, or slice, of structs, I prefer to always make that an array of pointers to the structs. You might want to do this so you’re not copying the entire struct every time you append to the slice. Using pointers is nanoseconds faster, but the real reason is developer ergonomics! It’s cumbersome to make changes to an array of structs.
For example if you have the following struct.
If you want to change the value of the contents of the array, you would instinctively write something like this.
It won’t work. When you iterate over array, item is a copy of the struct that’s in the array. Any changes we make to it are scoped to our for loop.
If you want to make changes to the array, you need to assign the updated struct to its index in the array.
If you use pointers in your arrays, you don’t have this problem. The item variable is a pointer, and you can manipulate the struct directly.
Here’s a Go Playground to play around with it.
Libraries shouldn’t log. Logging takes resources and should occur as rarely as possible. If an error occurs deep in your program, you don’t want to immediately log it, bubble the error up the stack, and then log the same error again but with additional context. Thus, you should try to log as close to the UI as possible. If you’re writing a web service, only log in the handler before you send a response. The code for accessing the database is a dependency and should be in its own package. We treat it like a library and only concern ourselves with its API.
But… having more context would be helpful. Even though it’s wasteful, logging an error twice reveals more about the current code path when the bug occurred.
One way to provide more context is to have very specific messages for each log line that are never repeated. For example…
If the Datastore package is returning a Postgresql error, that error could have come from any request to the database in CompaniesGetAll, and the error messages from the Go Postgresql adapter are especially obscure.
Enter github.com/pkg/errors, a package that lets you wrap your errors with additional context. Calling errors.Wrap(err, message) returns a struct that conforms to the errors interface where message is prepended to the error. Everytime an error is returned, you can add context to that error message.
My preferred way to use errors.Wrap is to keep it concise. The message added should have the format “verbing noun”.
Now your errors have more context AND you are not logging in your packages.
- I will allow an exception for packages that start their go routines that run alongside your app. If your package needs to log information, please please please let the user pass in an io.Writer. Most loggers support the io.Writer interface, so your user's can use their logging library and format. If your logger writes JSON and you use Datadog's tracer, error messages from Datadog aren't going to match your pretty formatted logs
- I wish there was a standard interface for logging that gave you log levels.
- Secret trick: if your apps performance is degrading, disable logging. Verizon disables logging when new iPhones launch to prevent themselves from being DDoS'd by thirsty Apple users.
- Zerolog, my logger of choice, lets you use Diodes, a ring buffer, for writing logs. If logs are written to Diodes faster than stdout can read them, logs get dropped until stdout catches up.
Interviewing and dating are strangely similar. I assumed they’d magically work themselves out without additional effort on my part! I kid… I kid…
Expect to Be Rejected a Lot
It’s inevitable, but being rejected is the only way to build up a tolerance to rejection.
The Best Leads Are Through Your Social Circle
I’ve never lived Patrick McKenzie’s scenario where the company has decided they’re going to hire you and the interview is just a formality. Having someone who’s worked with you refer you to a company lets you skip some steps. Sometimes it’s only the HR screening. Sometimes you jump straight to an onsite interview.
Be Legitimately Interested
This should be obvious, but 2008 Jim needed to learn this. Don’t apply to a company unless you’re interested. Every interview process is going to ask you why you’re interested in [company]. You should know before you apply. If you have to practice it in the mirror, maybe you shouldn’t be applying.
Sometimes this will come up when they ask you how you heard about [company]. Once I was able to honestly reply that I read their engineering blog and fell in love. They rejected me.
Alternatively, it is very very hard to answer this question if the real answer is that [company] uses my favorite tech stach, pays above market, and the people are decent human beings.
Ask Questions that Start Conversations
One sided discussions are boring. Both you and the interviewer want to ask questions that start conversations.
2008 Jim didn’t have questions to ask companies. At my early jobs developers had no input on the tech stack or build and deployment pipeline. I was less engaged in interviews, and interviewers probably mistook it for disinterest.
My current favorite questions are about testing and build pipelines. Having automated builds and deployment is more and more common. It might be a very boring question in five years.
My ideal interview would be talking shop about interesting bugs and what crazy ways [company] is dysfunctional (Every company is in some way). Alas, here are the questions I actually ask. I try to split them up and not ask every interviewer the same question.
Questions for the recruiter
- What is the role?
- How many employees?
- Type of funding? Bootstrapped? What series? (You should know if they’re public)
Questions for engineers
- What languages/frameworks do you use? Why does it fit your use case?
- Where do you store code?
- How do you deploy?
- How is work planned?
- How do you monitor your app?
- Who responds to downtime? Is there a run book? Pager duty?
- If you could change one thing at [company] what would it be? (A polite way to ask “What do you hate?”)
Questions for Managers
- How do you measure success? Six months to a year from now how do I know I’ve met my goals?
- How does your team celebrate victories? (It’s bad if they never stop to appreciate what they’ve done)
- What does the career path look like?
- What does a bad sprint/project look like?
Questions for Everybody
- What are you looking for in a coworker/employee?
Questions someone asked me that resulted in a good conversation but I would never ask
- What’s your most controversial thought?
As of August 14th, I have a new job!
I didn’t plan to find a new job. I wanted to start my own company and was going to stay put until I could start my own thing. A friend talked me into applying for a tech lead position at his company. I had the qualifications, and it would have been a huge promotion. I applied for other jobs, but I didn’t think any of them could beat this.
It was my first onsite interview, and I bombed it.
My first onsite had only one technical interview. They asked me to model what happens when a user buys an SSL certificate. They didn’t say it explicitly, but they wanted a sequence diagram. I didn’t know what that was. I thought they wanted me to design a system, so I started mapping out services.
My solution was way too complicated and confusing. I can blame my nerves, but I spent all of my prep-time reviewing Cracking the Coding Interview and working Leet Code’s interview questions. The question was new, so I was unprepared. Bombing this question helped me prepare for later interviews.
I regret that my first choice was my first onsite.
If I hadn’t applied to other companies, I would’ve mourned my lost free-time and given up on interviewing for another year. Instead, I doubled the number of applications I had, and continued studying in my free time.
Job Hunt Stats
95 days 38 jobs applied for 17 responses 6 onsites 14 rejections 2 offers 1 process ended once I accepted an offer
Homework Is a Crapshoot
Every company judges homework differently.
I spent a week working on a homework assignment for [data metrics company] only to be rejected for doing the bare minimum. They purposefully left the scope vague to see if a candidate would go above and beyond.
Another homework assignment I wrote in two hours and emailed it to the recruiter with notes on what I would improve if I had more time. It was good enough to skip a technical phone screen and jump straight to onsite.
No One Thinks Twice About Your Interview
I’d heard that interviews matter more to you than the company interviewing you. I didn’t expect to have hard proof. I ran into two people one to two weeks after they had interviewed me. Neither recognized me or remembered my interview once I brought it up.
One exception was an interview I had with a CTO. He interviewed me when he was the VP of development at a different company. He remembered me. I should’ve asked if that was a good thing or a bad thing. 😅
I Love My New Job
It’s only been two weeks, but I love my new job. It’s 100% remote, and most of my team is remote. The team is brand new built to implement a killer new product. I couldn’t be more excited.
Does your company have crazy white boarding interviews where you’re expected to recite the curriculum of ivy league computer science programs? Your company probably has a deep existential fear of hiring someone who doesn’t know how to code.
Does your company spend most of the post-interview aghast that the candidate said he read trashy romance novels for fun? Your company is probably most afraid of hiring a bad culture fit.
What would it look like if your company was afraid of someone interviewing for the sole purpose of using your offer to get a raise?
I don’t know.
I had a weird interview experience, and this is the best explanation I have. The CTO and Director of Engineering both got really excited when I mentioned that my manager knew I was looking for a new job. I wish I had asked about it. It completely changed the tone of an interview that felt lukewarm.
Today I learned how to fix a type casting bug in our Postgresql script with regular expressions. This deserves celebration! Details below.
We have a database table that matches data to other tables based on a specific column. The values for the column are provided by the user and stored as strings. Depending on the table being matched, the values can be strings or numbers. If the user submitted bad input for a number match, accidentally including characters in their match column, the query fails.
The code handling the input was exactly the same for every match column type. I didn’t want to add a special case for this. The problem was in the query, so the fix should be in the query.
Update: I subscribe to Andy Croll’s Ruby newsletter. He suggests using \A and \Z to match the beginning and ends of a string because ^ and $ will match the ends of a line. If your string has newlines in it, it will be accepted by the regex.
Postgres has regular expression match operators. We can update our query to check that a value is a number.
The ^ operator matches the regular expression to the start of the string and the $ matches to the end. By combining them with [0-9]+ we check that every character in the string is a digit.
My brother was visiting and wanted to connect his iPad to our wifi. Because he’s in my contacts, I didn’t have to tell him my password; I just hit a button on my Mac.
It’s very inconvenient for my guests to type my super long wifi password. (All of my passwords are song lyrics with random characters.) I didn’t even know Apple had this feature, and it’s made my guests’ visits smoother.
Apple discontinued their wireless router. They absolutely should have, but it’s a shame. The Airport Express was terrible. If you used it for a Time Machine backup, everyone else’s internet connection would stall. Unplanned automatic backups would knock my roommate off of World of Worldcraft and cause Youtube videos to stutter. It was embarrassingly bad and missed the trend of having multiple access points. Eero should never have happened.
Peak iPhone is going to be a thing. Even if Apple was successful enough to sell an iPhone to every person on earth, they would hit peak iPhone. Investors don’t want stable, consistent returns. They want growth! Apple needs to grow its product line. It’s going to turn into G.E.
Ignore the Homepod, which is failing because Siri is terrible. Selling more products to your current customers is the best strategy.
Wait. What the fuck am I talking about. The Homepod might be the best product no one buys. It costs $50 more than the Bose Soundlink I bought in 2013 and has reviews comparing it to a $50,000 speaker? I… want that. Hell, I want Apple to design the power cables and other boring parts of my home appliances.
I want to live in a world where Apple is making my toaster oven.
- Apple will never sell everyone a phone. People's taste are too different, and some people don't like Apple for forcing its tastes on you.
- I love that a failed product for Apple would be a huge success for any other company.
- I don't own a toaster oven. They're all terrible.
I was interviewing recently and we discussed ways to improve my TicTacToe code. Here’s version two!
A bunch of the improvements were insignificant. The entire diff can be viewed here.
- Parentheses were removed from methods that didn’t take any parameters.
- Default values for method parameters were removed to be clearer to the library user.
- The Owner type was removed since it didn’t add any clarity.
- The board length is now a variable, so you could easily play on an X by X game board.
- All internal methods are now private.
I thought I knew about this when I first wrote TicTacToe. If the parent object of a case class is sealed, all match statements need to include every case. If every case isn’t covered, the match will throw a compile error.
We’ll never need an instance of the parent class, so we can make the Player a trait.
The player types, X and O, don’t need to hold a value, so we should use a case object instead of a case class. Case objects are singletons, so there is only ever one of them created.
Use an IndexedSeq instead of a List
When writing a library, you want to use the most generic type possible. We use an IndexedSeq instead of a Seq because the Range type inherits from IndexedSeq. For our TicTacToe board, no extra work is done to convert our board to an IndexedSeq.
Since we’re using an IndexedSeq instead of a List, we need to change how we check if a tile is empty or not. The syntax for decomposing a Seq is messy and I always forget it. We can use the isEmpty methods to check that the board space exists and that the board space is empty.
Give Better Names to Variables
Rename nextPlayer to currentPlayer. I always confuse next Thursday and this coming Thursday. I don’t know why I thought nextPlayer was less confusing.
Make the Game Status a Part of the Board Type
The old TicTacToe would calculate the game status every time Board.gameState was called. This is the most expensive part of TicTacToe. We definitely want to calculate the new status only once when we create a new state for the board.
One benefit of checking for victory when the user makes a moves is we only have to check the row, column, and diagonals for that move. We can ignore the entire rest of the board. We can split these checks into three different methods. Compare the new way of checking for a victory to the old way. The logic is simpler and we get to keep our immutable variables!
Refactor the Game Loop to be Tail Recursive
The TicTacToe game is recursive. We want it to be tail recursive, so it will reuse the same stack frame instead of indefinitely growing the stack. Our entire game logic is wrapped in a try catch block, but only the game.move method can throw an exception. Instead of using a lowercase try, we can use an uppercase Try, specifically a scala.util.Try. By wrapping our execution in a Try, we can assign it to a variable and use a match statement. Now our Try block has a clear execution path and always calls playGame in the tail position.
- Using an IndexedSeq instead of a List doesn't make a lot of sense in our example, but it was something I learned when reviewing my TicTacToe implementation with someone who knows Scala better than me. Seqs have worse syntax for decomposing them into a head and a tail than Lists do.
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