home about me text processing with ruby

I’m Rob Miller

I work as a business strategist, a software developer, a marketer and a writer. I'm based in London, and I work with consumer businesses to help them solve brand, tech, and marketing problems.

If there’s a problem I might be able to help with, feel free to email me. You can see my CV here.

Recent posts

  • 🌐 Artificial Morality (→

    Bruce Sterling on AI ethics:

    In the hermetic world of AI ethics, it’s a given that self-driven cars will kill fewer people than we humans do. Why believe that? There’s no evidence for it. It’s merely a cranky aspiration. Life is cheap on traffic-choked American roads — that social bargain is already a hundred years old. If self-driven vehicles doubled the road-fatality rate, and yet cut shipping costs by 90 percent, of course those cars would be deployed.

    Technological proliferation is not a list of principles. It is a deep, multivalent historical process with many radically different stakeholders over many different time-scales. People who invent technology never get to set the rules for what is done with it.

  • 🌐 Sayre's law (→

    Related to the last link is Sayre’s law, which states that “in any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake”. We’re distracted by trivialities and are powerless to effect meaningful change.

  • 🌐 #distracted – BLDGBLOG (→

    A piercing view of modern outrage culture, which sees the opposition to fascism distracted by low-stakes nonsense while society is slowly dismantled.

  • 🌐 The Unhappy King of Snooker (→

    From five years ago, but still beautiful and resonant: a profile of Ronnie O’Sullivan, the haunted and preternaturally gifted snooker player.

  • 🌐 Elizabeth Wurtzel and the Illusion of Gen-X Success (→

    A poignant piece on the passing of Elizabeth Wurtzel (author of Prozac Nation) and the precariousness and vapidity of the modern creative industries.

  • 🌐 Sn*wflakes and F*ggots (→

    A wonderfully thoughtful and thought-provoking article about the growing culture war in the UK, as we slowly circle the drain.

  • 🌐 Cardiologists and Chinese Robbers (→

    A useful name for an intuitive fallacy.

  • 🌐 How to Make A Memex (→

    I discovered this after writing up my post about Roam Research and, inevitably, it says much of what I wanted to say more effectively than I was able to say it.

  • 🌐 How a cabal of romance writers cashed in on Amazon Kindle Unlimited (→

    It turns out the world of self-published, Kindle Unlimited romance novels is cuthroat and scammy. Algorithm-gaming, fake readers, fake content, all generating millions in revenue. Kindle Unlimited is particularly susceptible because of the way it calculates and shares revenue.

  • 📄 A fortnight with Roam Research

    I’ve been using Roam Research for a couple of a weeks now, and I have some thoughts about it.

  • 🌐 The Evolution of Socio-Technical Systems (→ PDF,

    A fabulous paper from the early 1980s. Taking examples from coal-mining, it explains the interactions between people and technology and the evolution and emergence of productive relationships between the two. There are so many lessons here for modern technical teams.

  • 📄 Ruby’s $_ variable

    Ruby has many cryptic variables, but one of them is particularly useful – especially if you’re processing text from the command line.

  • 📄 Mini Munging, Brighton Ruby conference, July 2015

    The slides and summary from my talk at Brighton Ruby 2015.

  • 📄 Command-line purging of Varnish caches

    Varnish, the HTTP proxy, is a fantastic tool. Here’s a way to purge cached pages from the command line, a task I find myself wanting to do frequently.

  • 📄 A Caching Analogy

    Explaining caching is hard; here’s an attempt.

  • 📄 Ruby regular expressions: the /o modifier

    An explanation of the little-used – but handy-to-know – o modifier to Ruby’s regular expressions.

  • 📄 Real progress in long-running command-line scripts

    Sometimes, you write Ruby scripts that take a long time to execute. Here’s how to show progress to your scripts’ users – part two in a series, this time showing how to display real progress to users.

  • 📄 Faking progress in long-running command-line scripts

    Sometimes, you write Ruby scripts that take a long time to execute. Here’s how to show progress to your scripts’ users – part one in a series, this time dealing with how to show indeterminate, faked progress to reassure users that something is happening.

  • 📄 Persisting data in Ruby with PStore

    Ruby comes with a powerful persistent storage system that’s backed by flat files and handles concurrent access and transactions out of the box – stuff you’d expect to need a database for. It’s criminally underused, and it’s called PStore. Never roll your own file locking code again!

  • 📄 Paths aren't strings

    If you find yourself passing around lots of file paths in your Ruby scripts, you should save yourself a headache and use Pathnames, not strings.

  • 📄 Nokogiri as a command-line tool

    Most Rubyists are familiar with Nokogiri. It’s a combination XML and HTML parsing tool most commonly used for “screen scraping”: that is, fetching a web page, and searching through it to extract information of interest. When a website you’re interested in doesn’t offer an API, it’s often the only way to extract information from it.

  • 📄 Publishing tech books with LeanPub

    My experience writing a book using the fledgling publishing platform LeanPub.

  • 📄 Decoding "Almost Sinatra"

    In 2010, Konstantin Haase wrote a golfed version of Sinatra that was just 999 bytes long. What can it teach us about both Sinatra and Ruby?

  • 📄 ARGF in Ruby

    Ruby has a construct, inherited from Perl, that makes it easy to write scripts that work with input from both files and standard input. It’s called ARGF, and here’s how to use it.

  • 📄 Ruby's -e, -n and -p switches

    Ruby inherits lots of goodness from Perl. One of those things is the ability to invoke it in one-liners from the command line, and when you do so there are three switches that come in handy. Here’s how to use them.