Richard, a.k.a. Schneems, is a long-time Rubyist that works at Heroku. He has been a Ruby instructor and created an open-source contribution project called CodeTriage. He lives in Austin, TX.
What is your best story as a Ruby instructor?
For one class, I made a homework assignment where I wrote a bunch of failing tests and asked my students to write code to get them to pass. It was supposed to teach the
Array methods as well as be an introduction to testing. Several people proudly proclaimed they were "done" super early. When I looked, they all had failing tests, and I couldn't figure out why they thought they were done. After talking to them, I realized that the output said
0 failures 10 errors and my instructions told them to look for 0 failures. The students genuinely didn't link the concept of errors and failures and were taking my words literally. They saw
0 failures and thought they were done. They didn't have any prior context with the tool, so all the red words didn't mean anything to them.
It was a fantastic reminder of how vital wording is and how much context we carry with us, even if we don't realize it. It's a lesson I have to keep having from time to time. It feels good to recognize that simple thing you do is actually a difficult task you've mastered. It's also profoundly humbling and forces me to continually strive to write better tools, docs, and blog posts.
What is one thing you wished more programmers know about Heroku?
There's a bunch of foundational features people are continually discovering. For instance,
heroku run bash gets you an interactive shell where you can debug, roll back a failing build with the cli, and have our own CI service. Really though, I wished people knew all the work we do that doesn't result in a customer-facing feature but goes towards safety and stability. When some people say "I can build my own Heroku", I think it's because they don't see how much work goes into maintaining those services and doing it well.
How about a heart-warming CodeTriage story?
For the uninitiated CodeTriage is a service to get people involved in Open Source. We've got over 50,000 developers signed up over the years. I know of a few who have used the service to get commit access and get on some core teams.
When COVID-19 started getting bad, I tracked down several virus-related open-source projects and put them on the homepage and invited others to submit their own. Some of them have been very successful for example this Python web app for visualizing pathogen evolution is almost at 100 subscribers. We're living through difficult times with a lot of anxiety and uncertainty. It feels good to be able to focus some of that nervous/anxious energy towards good causes and open-source work.
What have you learned about programming in your Master's program that you didn't already know?
Ohh, this is a good one. I don't have a CS background, so the most valuable things I've learned are foundational. I learned a bunch about how operating systems work (Intro to Operating Systems), I made some of this into a short talk about how threads work. Another surprising class for me was Human-Computer Interfaces (HCI), which I loved. I learned a lot of professional/power/soft skills, such as how to effectively run a brainstorming session that I use all the time at work. I didn't even know that was a thing you could get better at.