Virgin Diggnation Rotating Java and JavaScript on the Server
Jan 29

My interview with Steve Yegge on Rhino on Rails

Google, JavaScript, Tech, Web Frameworks with tags: , , Add comments

I have been a long time follower of Steve Yegge and his long blog entries that manage to keep your attention. He has the opposite style to me (I know how curt and bad my writing style is!), so I envy it a little.

Ever since he presented on the ‘Google Rails Clone’ at FooCamp and posted about the internal Google Rhino on Rails project, people have been curious to learn more.

  • What does it mean to port Rails to JavaScript?
  • What can’t you do since JavaScript doesn’t have the same meta programming facilities?
  • Rails = a group of Active*, so did you re-implement everything?
  • What do you gain out of having JavaScript all the way down?
  • Does it actually make sense to have jjs? Server side JavaScript generating client side JavaScript? Argh!
  • What is the state of Rhino?
  • Will Rhino support JavaScript 2?
  • How does the JVM help you out?
  • What are the ramifications of implementing ActiveRecord with Hibernate
  • Fun other languages to play with

And of course, the big questions:

When do I get to see it!

I happen to be in Seattle at the Google offices, so I was able to ask all of these questions and more. Steve was a fantastic host, and I really enjoyed chatting with him.

This is the kind of video I want to explore at Google. We have many great developers working on cool technology. I want to get them on camera, participating with the community when I can. Sometimes we can talk about products and APIs, but sometimes we will talk about fun ideas and projects that we are working on such as Rhino on Rails.

Anyway, give it a watch and let me know what you think:

17 Responses to “My interview with Steve Yegge on Rhino on Rails”

  1. Jesse Kuhnert Says:

    Sweet! I was temped to bug you about this but figured you wouldn’t be able to talk about it. Thanks for sharing – very much appreciated.

  2. Raphaël Valyi Says:

    wow, great interview! Dion your questions are exactly the good one I wanted to ask. Hope Steve Yegge won’t take it bad as he did a great job and didn’t get much choice, still I’ll explain why I don’t believe into Rhino on Rails myself.

    Well Steve tries (without much conviction, notice!!) to make us believe the price of porting again an again Rails all the time as it evolves (to 2.0 for instance) + porting a few the plugins (not the full eco-systeml of course) + having NO community like Rails + having a crippled language is cheaper than just adopting JRuby on the JVM.

    I don’t think so, I rather think dropping the exact Rails framework inside a J2EE server + the legacy Java stack is cheaper than what he did. As he recognized, Rails on the JVM is now getting faster and faster. It’s indeed very closed to be faster than native Rails (if not already just like JRuby in general). I generally tend to believe in what Google does, even invested into it, but I should say I would rather see those brilliant guys all together with Sun behind JRuby on Rails.

    I don’t think you would need to wait 3 more years before a Ruby newby could play with JRoR and still get better results than with Rhino on Rails. Come on! Why would JRuby not be “acceptable” already? If you really don’t want Ruby, then use the minimal Rails API + Java beans everywhere. You’ll have much less Ruby code than XML you generally get in any J2EE project. And this is totally hypocrite as XML dialects are just sucking languages unfriendly to work with, so replacing them by a few lines of well known Rails declarative Ruby code is just “acceptable” for me.

    Not to say than betting on (J)Ruby is betting on a winning horse in the long run. It’s not like betting on Javascript just because that the only runtime Microsoft did not pay enough attention to block in their browser. I think Javascript is OK for GWT and even a bit more, but I doubt it’s OK for Rails. Even if some Google guys might jump into the Rhino on Rails synergy, in the outside world I doubt anybody might try it as we the normal guys aren’t forced to use Javascript on the server side as well (thank god!). So the synergy is going to be small. Google might be big, I doubt it’s the kind of open source synergy Google use to believe in.

    Hope to get more folks in JRuby, it’s an amazing project! And I already mate less talented people than the JRuby leaders I should say…

    Best Regards,

    Raphaël Valyi.

  3. jherber Says:

    excellent interview. looking forward to seeing steve’s book and his improvements flowing into rhino. and hey, there’s always tamarin if you want to code in ecma script 4.

  4. steve Says:

    I’m unable to watch video interviews or listen to podcasts because I have a hearing problem. Subtitles or transcripts make this information accessible, and is also useful to everyone else who are then able to search for keywords.

  5. Phil Says:

    Yeah, I don’t have flash installed. A transcript would be interesting.

  6. Dr Nic Says:

    V. enjoyable.

    PS. Dion – can you move the Spam Question above the Submit button? :)

  7. Nathan Youngman Says:

    Thanks for doing the interview Dion, good to get some quick insight into Steve’s project. I tend to agree that some sort of meta-language to handle CSS quirks would be the thing-to-do. I ended up looking into HAML & SASS after a recommendation from a fellow at RubyCamp/Vancouver. They look very interesting, and if they could handle some of the layout quirks automatically via CSS hacks, microframeworks or JavaScript DOM tricks, the web would be a happy place to work. Thankfully, Microsoft’s internal builds of Internet Explorer 8 are now passing the acid2 test… one of these days!

  8. Mark Says:

    …many thanks for sharing that… really interesting.

  9. roberthahn Says:

    Hey: thanks for doing the interview. Like steve above, I also have a hearing problem. Can you make a transcript please? Thanks!

  10. edovale Says:

    Very interesting interview!!
    On a side note, do you know who is the guy in the statue?

  11. roberthahn Says:

    edovale: see

  12. Simon Wright Says:

    Server side javascript with Rhino on Java…
    Wouldn’t this be very similar to Helma?

  13. miranda Says:

    very good
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  14. replicahandbags Says:

    thanks for your share.

  15. 浮気調査 Says:


  16. Troy Gaylord Says:

    I’d be curious to know if he would have gone 100% Ruby on Rails if he was given the green light by Google and if so, what would he have done with the scaling issues at the time?

  17. Jason Wong Says:

    Hmm. I’d really love to do FPGA’s, but I’ve always been too busy to really sit down and start learning. Ilove the notion of playing with hardware: it’s obviously one of the reasons Iended up doing operating systems, since that (along with compilers) is about as close as you can get to playing with the hardware, without actually designing or building it yourself.

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