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In Memory Of Chris Seaton

I would like to write a few words after Chris left us. Chris was a very charismatic person, wherever he went he always presented his ideas and work in a great and exciting way. He did not need to convince anyone, people were convinced by his ideas just by hearing from him. He had a talent for explaining things in a very simple yet fast manner. He was always very professional, getting things done. In a few occasions we had some big challenges for TruffleRuby and we had to try multiple approaches (e.g., how to reuse the core library from Rubinius, how to get the openssl extension working, etc) but nevertheless we persisted and kept trying until we found the solution.

TruffleRuby

In 2013, Chris Seaton started TruffleRuby during his internship at Oracle Labs. At that time he knew very little about Ruby, but yet he took on the challenge. He had also started a PhD on irregular parallelism. But he found TruffleRuby so interesting that he wanted to switch his PhD topic to "Optimizing Ruby with TruffleRuby" and his PhD advisor accepted. The next year, TruffleRuby was open-sourced.

Working with Chris

I have been working with Chris and the GraalVM team since 2014, when Chris wrote me and called me to ask if I would be interested to join the TruffleRuby project. At that time I had just finished my master, I was a CRuby committer and quite invested in the Ruby community and my master thesis was on Virtual Machines and parallelism. I then had to decide between doing a PhD on TruffleRuby much like Chris, or start working at Oracle Labs directly. I chose the PhD and here I am 8 years later, still working on TruffleRuby, basically my dream job.

I wrote my first paper with Chris. He came up with the original idea, I worked on improving the implementation and refining ideas and we wrote the paper together. It was a great experience, these were the early days of GraalVM, there were so many ideas, some unproven ideas, some crazy ideas and also some great ideas that eventually all came together.

In 2019 Chris moved to Shopify, to work on running TruffleRuby in production. So basically I was still working with him and having regular meetings, just in a different company.

Recent Times

Most recently I met Chris at RubyConf 2022 in Houston. We spent one afternoon together to get TruffleRuby to run some Shopify application, and clean up some old PRs and branches on TruffleRuby. Nothing unusual, Chris likes to keep things clean and tidy. We then went to dinner with quite a few Shopify folks as Aaron tells it well. RubyConf was a great time for me, the first in-person Ruby conference I attended since COVID. Chris' talk was great, as usual. I think my talk was well received too. It felt a bit like when we first met in person for RubyConf 2014 in San Diego.

I am really sad that Chris is leaving us like this and it feels so unexpected. But while Chris is not around us anymore, I am sure he would want to have his work and ideas continued and this is something we as a Ruby community can all participate by making Ruby and TruffleRuby faster, better and using innovative research.

Pictures

The whole TruffleRuby team met in Linz in 2018, where much of the GraalVM research is done: 2018-09-10 18 35 00

This is a screenshot of a call with both the Oracle and Shopify TruffleRuby teams in 2021: truffleruby-teams

Benoit Daloze

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