DevPals – A Programming “Q & A” Site
Ruby Inside: What's your motivation behind DevPals? There are other question and answers sites out there, so what is it about DevPals that you feel is unique or could become exciting over time?
Pat Toner: Right now on the Internet it's very difficult to make, and keep, developer friends.. coders you can count on to help you out of a bind. There are thousands upon thousands of programming forums, Usenet groups, Q&A sites, and every other conceivable concept you can think of, but they're all lacking one thing I need in my life: simplicity. When you write as much code as I do, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep track of every place I go for answers, and nearly impossible to keep track of the people I got them from.
Most other developer focused sites take the approach that "Eh, they're tech-types. They can figure out where to go even if I bury the 'Start New Thread' button behind 400 off-topic links, articles, and intrusive ads." Most developers CAN figure out where to go eventually, but do I really want to put up with that when all I'm looking for is a quick answer to a problem I'm having?
I have 3 guys who sit near me and I can shout over the wall at them if I run in to an issue. That's the kind of environment we're trying to create at DevPals. You create a profile, you make some friends, and all of a sudden you're shouting over the wall at 10,000 people instead of 3. And if you make yourself look pretty good in your profile, maybe one of your DevPals will be looking to hire you one day.
Why does DevPals focus on Java, .Net, PHP and Ruby only?
We want to start out with a somewhat narrow focus and expand as needed. Those four are where I see the majority of the industry moving now-a-days. While we'd love to add C++, Python, COBOL and every other language under the sun, doing so at this point would really detract from our goal of simplicity. I find that unless done exceptionally well, adding that many options makes finding information more difficult. We're trying to do just the opposite; make it easier to find. However, we do understand that there's a huge development world outside of those sections, so we're working on a solution for that as well.
Personally I code in Java, .NET, PHP, and am starting to pick up some Ruby. So there was probably some personal motivation in there somewhere as well!
What have been your first impressions of Ruby?
From a Java developer's perspective, Ruby on Rails is very exciting. With its focus not spending 45 hours setting up a project, database, and your MVC architecture, it's really a breath of fresh air. That's probably my biggest complaint with Java; it just takes so much time to get the basic architecture elements in place.
There are a lot of tools that help ease the process, but even then you're spending more time configuring things than you are coding. From my experience with Ruby, everything just seems smoother. It took me about an hour to go from the point where I wasn't sure what the syntax for an "if" statement was to having a working, database-driven "to-do list" application up and running. That's impressive.
Do you see a future in using Ruby (and possibly Rails) yourself?
Absolutely. Every client I talk to gets a "have you considered a Ruby on Rails solution?" pitched to them at some point or another. I REALLY want to tackle a semi-major project with Ruby just to get my hands a little dirty. I think some of the features we have planned for DevPals will provide a perfect opportunity to do that. Like I said, our focus is on simplicity and making things easy to share and find. That seems to be what RoR is built for.