H@W #2 - Matteo Parmi: ruby hacker and opensource enthusiast

Hi guys, the second Hackers @ Work interview is with Matteo Parmi.

Matteo is a friend of mine and we worked together in Bitmama a web agency here in Milan, Italy.

He was the developer team leader, a perfect CTO for any startup if we were in the Valley. He is a great developer and he loves discovering the web for new technologies and new programming patterns to apply in his projects.

The Interview

“Hi Matteo, welcome to Hackers @ Work interviews series, can you please introduce you to our readers telling us about your background and who are you?” I’m a lazy boy trying to get some money doing what I love to do. I’m a web application developer since 12 years ago. I get across all the Internet ages but these days I’m love with ruby and all interpreted programming languages.

“As a developer, can you describe your setup in terms of hardware and sure also software, editors, IDE, energy drinks, music you listen when you code, … ?” I’m a Mac Os X user but I’m thinking about switching back to Linux operating system. The iTerm is almost the only application running fullscreen, with vim for source code writing and Google Chrome Javascript console. I’m mainly a Rock/Metal fan and that’s my music background while coding. However, I’m discovering more relaxing harmonies to get me more productive while coding. “Which are the key factor for a successful web application?” Good question. If we talk about code quality, the web application must be development with evolution in mind. Developers must be free to make changes, to refactor existing code without woo much effort.

It definitely must have a complete test bed and testing methods must be easy to write and to apply. Mainly to involve developers in writing tests.

Quick tests make software refactoring an easy do adopt practice.

As far it concern the successful in terms of users… well I’d like to know it myself as well =). </span> “What’s your toughts about introducing security in the software development lifecycle? Do you think it will help? Which can be the tradeoffs to reach? Security is crucial in web applications. I can’t imagine a template language that doesn’t care about output canonicalization and sanitize. On the other side, an ORM must take care about SQL Injections attacks and web framework to be resilient to form forgery and parameter tampering.

It’s all about frameworks in my opinion. Everyday, every software intended for developers should take care about security.

As you know, it’s so simple to introduce security bugs in you code. As example, think about the github and rails based applications security vulnerabilitity so famous a month ago.

That was a security bug introduced by developers not making defensive programming instead of a framework defect. </span> Opensource: let’s talk about your work as contributor / enthusiast. Which projects do you find more interesting or which projects do you contribute most? I release most of all my work as opensource. More complex projects are private and I’m afraid of that. However I try to refactor all of those private projects to bring some general purpose libraries out of the box and so I can open that code on github.

I think that reading other people source code is a great way to improve your skills as developer.

The great revolution in the last 5 years (from the opensource ecosystem point of view) I think it has been github. I yet remember the dark ages about sourceforge and svn… brrrrr! </span> The Web: do you see any interesting technology to go for the stage? Which ones will be the winning framework/project combos for 2012? I think node.js it must be a great pretender for 2012 Web scene. Having the chance to write both client than server side code one time is an appealing idea.

We have to admit that it’s even fast, a test bed with 50 cases with node.js it has been executed in a couple of seconds. Impressive.

You don’t even need a strategy to reload a source file after modifications, you just restart the server (50ms boot time) and you’re ready to go. Actually I’ll think twice before using node.js in a complex and strategic project. With Ruby and Rails you’ve get all what you need ready out of the box.

However the community around node.js is very active and both tools than libraries are written and released with an impressive speed.

Coffeescript is a surprising technology as well. I use it in all my projects nowadays, I can’t remember I wrote a line of vanilla javascript latest year and I even don’t know how to start it again =). </span> Node.js, socket.io, html5… technologies are moving towards the client.

Are we moving back to an seventies client-server approach with a common solid protocol like http? </span> A lot of work is yet to be done in this direction… http is not that efficient or at least it’s not so responsive to act as backend protocol for realtime client-server applications.

There are a couple for good written alternatives that are really promising like SPDY and Websockets but, answering to the question, I think we have to wait some time to reach a seventies fashioned client-server model. </span> Matteo, help a security specialist to help you. How can we improve your code with security bits, giving you hints with a gentle approach without slowing you down?

What do developers really need? </span> We need tools that calculates metrics, and that they perform code review and static analysis. Ruby scenario is moving quickly towards helping developers in improving quality (with tools to discover duplicated code), but as far as today I can see nothing about security analysis for the source code.

A reason can be that a dynamic language is not so easy to being statically analyzed. </span> That’s all Matteo, thank you so much for your patience and time. Before we leave, feel you free to close with an opinion, a thoughts, whatever argument you want to close with. You have a tweet (140 chars)… from now: stay satisfied stay wise

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Thanks Matteo for being hosted in this Monday edition for Hackers @ Work. We are 3 days late for some personal time issues, my fault sorry.

Matteo pointed out some very interesting points of view.

Web is pushing towards the code for being executed client side in order to overcome HTTP protocol inefficiencies.

Security must drive this change covering client side technologies and new way to write web applications. Even classical web penetration testing techniques must evolve in order to make sure we can find vulnerabilities in a node.js powered web application or in another client-side framework written app.

It seems testing to be fast, automated and reliable is crucial ina a developer workout. Security specialists need to move over Powerpoint or attack tools in order to fill test cases with security checks and even help people writing frameworks to embed security into them.

Rails make a great work in to this direction introducing a couple of years ago anti cross site request forgery token. This is the lead direction to follow.

Enjoy it.

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