JRuby's Importance to Ruby, and eRubyCon 2009

I'm going to be speaking about JRuby again this year at eRubyCon, in Columbus OH. I just got back from Rails Underground, which reminded me how much I love the smaller regional Ruby conferences. So I'm totally pumped to go to eRubyCon this year.

The idea of "Enterprise Ruby" has become less repellant since Dave Thomas's infamous keynote at RalsConf 2006. There are a lot of large, lumbering organizations out there that have yet to adopt any of the newer agile language/framework combinations, and Rails has most definitely led the way. I personally believe that in order for Ruby to become more than just a nice language with a great community, it needs to gain adoption in those organizations, and it needs to do it damn quickly. JRuby is by far the best way for that to happen.

There's another aspect to adoption I think has escaped a lot of Rubyists. In 2006 and 2007, Ruby gained a lot of Java developers who were running away from bloated, over-complicated frameworks and the verbosity and inelegance of Java. When I asked at Ruby conferences in 2005, 2006, and 2007 how many people had done Java development in a former life, almost everyone in the room raised their hands. When I've asked the same question in 2008 and 2009, it's down to less than half the room. Where did they go?

The truth is that the Java platform now has reasonably good answers to Ruby in Groovy, Scala, and Clojure, and reasonably good answers to Rails in Grails and Lift. And yet many Rubyists don't realize how important it is for JRuby to continue doing well, many still seeing it as simply "nice to have" while dismissing the entirety of the Java platform as unimportant to Ruby's future. It's an absurd position, but I blame myself for not making this case sooner.

I believe that JRuby is the most crucial technology for Ruby's future right now. Regardless of how fast or how solid the C or C++ based Ruby implementations get, the vast majority of large organizations are *never* going to run them. That's the truth. If we can leverage JRuby to grab 1-2% of the Java market, we'll *double* the size of the Ruby community. If we completely lose the Java platform to alternatives, Rubyists may not have the luxury of remaining Rubyists in the future. It's that big a deal.

So I hope you'll come by eRubyCon and hear what we've been working on in JRuby and what we have planned for the future, especially our work on making JRuby a stronger JVM citizen. I'm certain to expand on the Hibernate-based prototype code I showed at Rails Underground, and hope to have some additional, never-before-seen demonstrations that will shock and amaze you. And if there's time, I'll demonstrate my two research pets, the "Ruby Mutant" twins Duby and Juby.

See you there!
Written on July 27, 2009