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Sylwia Vargas
Sylwia Vargas

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Talk Notes: 'Talmudic Gems For Rails Developers' (RailsConf 2021)

What is this post about: As a part of my professional growth, I make time to watch conference talks on Ruby, Rails, JS, React, tech writing, and tech trivia. Previously, I'd just watch them but now I will take and publish notes for future reference. This talk was a part of RailsConf 2021 that I'm participating in at the time of writing.

Talk: 'Talmudic Gems For Rails Developers' by Yechiel Kalmenson, or @yechielk

One-paragraph summary: Am I my colleague’s keeper? To what extent are we responsible for the consequences of our code? More than two thousand years ago conversations on central questions of human ethics were enshrined in one of the primary ancient wisdom texts, the Talmud.

Impression: I absolutely LOVED this talk and I will reference it often moving forward. I loved how Yechiel was calm and funny and smart and knowledgeable, how the talk was well-organized, and how much I have learned from it 💕

Table of contents:


  • Talmud: a written record of the conversations between ancient Jewish sages; it's a living document; you can put yourself in between the debates; > "it's like an ancient twitter thread" 😂

Parallels between Talmudic studies and programming

  • similarities for starters:
    • teasing out the abstraction from a specific example
    • highly analytical with a strong creative component
    • require prolonged concentration ("being in the zone")
    • similarities in method
  • How to grow ourselves:

    • "Appoint For Yourself A Mentor, And Acquire For Yourself A Companion" Avot 1:6
    • We all owe our knowledge to books and courses -- we all depend on others to be where we are (and to provide a sanity check)
    • How do we find a mentor: Yechiel's relationships started more organically, someone he knew and reached out for feedback or for advice
    • "One who is timid cannot learn, nor can an impatient person teach" Avot 2:5
    • do ask if you have a question! approach people!
    • surround yourself with people who are like yourself; do pair-program with others;
    • chavruta: a way of studying Talmud between two people who bounce ideas off each other (just like pair-programming), helping each other grow and teaching each other; see here
    • "Do Not Separate Yourself From The Community" Avot 2:4: participate in events, share resources, talk, be active
    • consistency: Yechiel does not condone #100DaysOfCode, he wanted to rename it to #86DaysOfCode, which leaves one day for mental health to not burn out;
    • "One who reviews their studies one hundred times is not comparable to one who reviews their studies one hundred and one times" Chagigah 9b

    "When I did the #100DaysOfCode challenge, where I really noticed the growth was not on the 100th day when I sat down and coding was natural. I didn't have to force myself. By doing something over and over and over again, you build habits, you make it a part of you and that's where the true growth happens"

  • How to grow our team:

    • Mentor others: paying it forward, helping others, investments; but
    • "I have learned much from my teachers.. but from my students, I have learned more than from all of them" Ta'anit 7a
    • "If you only know Aleph, teach Aleph!" The Lubavitcher Rebbe -> find someone who doesn't know Aleph and teach them Aleph
    • If you can't mentor others, blog it out! There's no reason not to!
  • How to grow the world around us:

    • we are all in it together
    • "Just-World Fallacy": we assume that if someone is down the luck, we assume that they deserve it
    • "Error messages" are your friends, they tell you what's broken and what you can fix
    • "In programming, you spend the majority of your time with things being broken. Hell, if it worked you'd be done programming" Steve Klabnik
    • MINASWAN - Matz Is Nice, And So Are We
    • A nice shout-out to Ben Greenberg ( @bengreenberg ) and Ariel Caplan ( @amcaplan ) for inclusive PRs to Rails repo
    • "It is not your duty to finish the work, but neither are you at liberty to neglect it" Avot 2:16

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Top comments (5)

sylwiavargas profile image
Sylwia Vargas

💕 thank you for telling me this!
Yechiel's talk was amazing, and I hope it gets published soon!

yechielk profile image
Yechiel Kalmenson

Thank you Sylwia!

I couldn't have written a better summary myself!

sylwiavargas profile image
Sylwia Vargas

Well, that's good because as a speaker that's not your job 😂
thank you for a wonderful talk.