Forking Ruby—my RubyConf Keynote is now up

code better • have fun

There’s a sound that no presenter wants to hear, and that’s dead silence. And that’s what greeted me when I made the suggestion in my RubyConf keynote that the community should fork the Ruby language. I think by the end of the talk, though, most people were convinced.

Am I anti Ruby? no.

Am I suggesting Matz is doing a bad job? Not in the least.

But I do think the complexity of the current language inhibits experimentation with language features. Want to implement parallel Ruby? If you do it with the current syntax and semantics, you’ll be struggling with the integration of global variables, the non-threadsafe nature of require, continuations, and so on, and so on. So before starting these kinds of experimental projects, I’m saying we should fork the language. Produce variants that let us focus in on the aspects under test. Make the new language a rich-enough subset that you can do useful work with it. Then let people play with it. Maybe the ideas are stellar, in which case we can all talk about integrating the changes back into the mainline language. And maybe the idea didn’t pan out, in which case we can quietly forget it, and we’ve done no damage to the language itself.

A mutation is an altered fork of the original. And mutations are essential to the diversity and strength of a genetic line over time. Let’s not be afraid to create Ruby mutants and let them compete.