In memory of Chris Seaton
I could hardly breathe when I read Chris Seaton’s final tweets last Saturday. He said he wanted to take a “permanent rest”, and my brain desperately tried to fill in the blanks: …from Twitter. He must want to rest from Twitter. Or from Ruby, maybe. Or perhaps work or programming in general, like _why.
Hundreds of people came out that day to thank him for his contributions to Ruby and computer science but also for his friendship and kindness — he meant a great deal to a great number of us.
When Mike Dalessio confirmed a few days later that Chris had passed away, I wasn’t surprised, but I was still shocked and heartbroken.
Chris inspired so many of us. He was easily the smartest person in any room, but he was also humble — he often used his voice to promote other people’s work. He had a way of explaining things that made you feel smart, and he put so much effort into mentoring and encouraging others.
I never worked directly with Chris, but I was in the same wider team at Shopify for a bit, and I loved hearing about the research he had found and the things his team were working on.
Chris used to offer to meet up with random people in the community when visiting London. He was like that.
I took him up on it one time. We met for coffee in Mayfair and talked about TruffleRuby. He helped me profile Phlex and explained how ropes work. He offered to mentor me at work and teach me all about compilers.
He had a way of showing you that the things that seem scary and difficult — like compilers — aren’t that bad when you break them down. Of compilers, he said you’re just taking one string of text and converting it to another string of text at the end of the day. He inspired me to keep working on the Phlex compiler and offered advice when I got stuck.
I loved that while others were trying to ‘tame’ Ruby with strict typing and aggressive Rubocop rules, Chris was optimising what he called “idiomatic Ruby” — and for him, that absolutely included the wild and wonderful meta programming.
I don’t know what Chris was struggling with in the end, but I know he didn’t deserve it. He was the kindest human, and I will miss him very much.