RubyGarage on Build Stuff ‘16 Ukraine

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Dozens of Ruby-related events take place annually all around the globe. Thousands of passionate Rubyists visit these events to promote the Ruby language, support the thriving Ruby community, learn something new, see new countries, and just hang out with old friends and make new ones.

Here at RubyGarage we also participate in these Ruby events. So far this year we’ve already attended RubyC (the major Ukrainian Ruby and Ruby on Rails event), won first place in a local IT Duel (where our developers competed with developers from other companies to develop bots), and finally visited Build Stuff ‘16 Ukraine, which took place in Kyiv last week. In this article we’d like to tell you a little about this conference and share the impressions of our developers who attended.

About Build Stuff

Build Stuff is a software development conference that usually covers topics that are pretty hard for non-developers to understand. That’s because it’s intended, in the words of the official website, “for those who actually build stuff.” Build Stuff began in Lithuania in 2012, and for four years it has been highly regarded by developers from all over Europe.

In 2015, Build Stuff decided to expand their boundaries and came to Kyiv with a team of world-class speakers from the USA, Holland, Belgium, Israel, and Great Britain. After this successful experiment, Build Stuff returned to Ukraine again – twice! This July, the Build Stuff conference took place on the beach in the sunny and lovely city of Odessa. And finally, last week, Build Stuff came back to Kyiv.

This November, all attendees at Build Stuff had the opportunity to visit five sessions per day as well as panel discussions. There were also open spaces where you could hear insights from industry leaders about the latest developments, trends, innovations, and new waves in software development.

The theme of the conference was “The Old New Things,” and speakers took a look at old programming languages and technologies and the ways they can make unexpected comebacks. We could go on and on about the details of the Build Stuff conference, but it’s more exciting to hear the thoughts of our developers who were there. Vova Oberemok, Vlad Shmyhlo, and Roma Mukhin — three of our full stack Ruby/JS developers — agreed to share what they loved most about the Build Staff, the talks they visited, and the topics covered.

Roma Mukhin found three talks especially interesting; the first was by Paul Stack, lead product developer at HashiCorp. The talk was titled “Centralized Logging without the blood, sweat, and tears.” Here’s what Roma highlights about this talk:

“People usually go one of three ways: they don't store logs, they use a SaaS provider such as Splunk, or they spend a lot of time configuring custom logging stacks. Paul Stack told us about using Amazon Web Services (AWS) to make life easier. The combination of AWS Kinesis for streaming logs from the server, AWS Lambda for working with the data passed from Kinesis, and the ElasticSearch – RESTful search and analytics engine for actually storing the data. This stack is easy to scale (using Terraform or directly from the Amazon Console) and is cheap to implement. But the main reason to use such an approach is the speed of logs processing – you get fantastic log writing operations capacity.”

If you’re interested in this topic, you can watch a video of Stack’s talk on Vimeo. Besides the talk about Easy Logging, Roma also liked the report from Tal Kol, a Mobile Architecture Lead at Wix.com, about building a react native application for 100 million users.

“Wix has around 200 Javascript front-end developers and only 10-20 native iOS and Android developers. Using React Native allowed them to have 70% of the application code base in JavaScript. That allowed them to have fewer iOS and Android developers, and it turned out that front-end developers can easily be retrained to use React Native after using web frameworks – just two weeks and they could write React Native for mobile.

The main feature of React Native is that you have one React Native application for both iOS and Android platforms. Also, Wix uses Redux in their architecture for maintainability and testability, and Mixpanel to store all states from Redux, which allows easy debugging and logging, unit testing and e2e testing. iOS and Android developers are mostly needed by Wix to implement some native custom effects, but the bulk is still JS. Kol described their workflow at Wix and inspired the audience to move mobile app development to React Native using their product as an example.”

Vova, who also attended this talk, shared his thoughts as well:

“As I’m a front-end developer who can also write apps for mobile devices, this talk was interesting for me. I liked that Wix uses React Native in production, which means that this technology is already ready for use in real projects. I also liked that both websites and mobile applications can use the same code base.”

The two talks we’ve highlighted so far were technical. But there were also some talks about improving soft skills. Roma visited one such talk by Alex West, Art Director/Trainer from Nerd/Noir, LLC, about visual thinking warm-ups for developers. Roma says that this was the most memorable talk for him.

“Alex talked about VTS (Visual Thinking Strategies). During his talk we discussed three different pieces of art (pictures). The complexity of the pictures grew from first to last. We discussed 3 questions:

1) What do you see in the picture?

2) What do you think the artist wanted to show with it?

3) Why do you to think this is what the artist wanted to show (referring to question 2)?

The whole audience took part in this discussion. As the discussion moved along, more and more people got involved. I noticed that this method helps shy people talk about their point of view and their ideas. This method can be used for design and development teams to develop thinking skills by viewing and discussing works of art in a group. It's a cross-disciplinary technique which allows individuals to talk in a collaborative setting about art without needing a background in the field. I think it can be widely used during our retrospectives or other events to make the working atmosphere more friendly, increase the level of creativity in team, and get people to say what they are thinking.”

The most memorable talks for Vlad were Paul Stack’s about Easy Logging (which we already mentioned) and Sean Chittenden’s about Production Readiness Strategies for an Automated World.

“Above all other speakers I remembered the guys from HashiCorp, Paul Stack and Sean Chittenden, who showed an extremely high level in DevOps. And it’s not surprising because they both personally worked on developing Terraform”.

Vlad also points out that there was a large number of talks about functional programming, which is a topic he’s particularly interested in. In fact, Vlad recently finished giving a series of lectures here at RubyGarage about functional programming. Vova also attended one lecture on functional programming by Pawel Szulk. Here’s what he says about it:

“Pawel was talking about how to effectively handle the recursive scheme using fixed point data type. He also covered standard procedures for functional programming such as catamorphism, anamorphism, and hylomorphism. This didn’t give me anything new from the practical side, but expanded my outlook as a functional programmer.”

As we already mentioned, this year’s Build Stuff was centered around the theme “The Old New Things,” and both Vlad and Vova told us about one talk specifically on this subject:

“I was really impressed by the talk about Functional Frontends with Elm that was held by Erlang developer Rob Ashton. It’s really awesome to recognize that such cool underground technologies, that differ so much from what we’ve used for front-end development before, are being promoted at such conferences.” – Vlad Shmyhlo

“I was glad to know that Elm is used in production. And by the way, Rob wasn’t the only speaker who uses it in production. Jezen Thomas also gave a talk called ‘Haskell on Rails.’” – Vova Oberemok

Vlad recalls the last talk of the conference, Long Sad History of MicroServices (TM) by Greg Young, the author of CQRS (Command Query Responsibility Segregation).

“Greg emphasized that it’s not worth following all the fashionable trends and using these ideas and technologies in cases when they’re not necessary at all. I especially remembered his phrase: ‘If you cannot build a monolithic system, what makes you think that you can build a distributed one?’”

Aside from the talks, our developers took part in a game organized by Wix — the Wix Treasure Hunt. In a hall there were 10 people in special Wix t-shirts. All these people had a QR code on their necks, and all participants had to scan each QR code with any app that can do so. Each QR code was a link to the Wix Treasure Hunt website. When participants followed the link they had to register and answer one question about the history of programming languages or about a logical task. The main goal of this competition was to find all 10 people and give correct answers to all the questions.

Vova managed to give 9 correct answers in 12 minutes 12 seconds, but unfortunately time didn’t play any role in this game. In the end, he finished in fourth place. But we’re very proud of Vova anyways, because he managed to get in the top 10 among 50+ participants.

Before we go, we’d like to say thanks to Build Stuff for such a cool conference. Our guys came back with many great stories and impressions. It’s always worthwhile to get out to events and spend time with other people who do what you love! See you next year!

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