Over the past several months that has been an increase in the number of blog entries and twitter messages about Ruby and while that is nothing new since Rails hit the scene, the tone of these messages are growing detectably darker. The past two days have bubbled up two posts, that I highly recommend reading, from people well respected in the community, Why the Lucky Stiff and Dave Fayram (KirinDave), which fall inline with similar posts from Raganwald and Zed Shaw. While I agree with the full range of comments and thoughts described in these varied posts, there is a thread of disenchantment to them that, especially coming from Why, is very painful. These developers have built wonderful things within the community, pillars upon which most other elements now either stand or are greatly influenced.
I think the problem that most developers are running into is not about Ruby specifically, but about the “Gold Rush” mentality that we exude for each new programming language. Anytime there is something shiny and new, we are driven to it with vivid fascination and undoubtably we like what we see or we troll it, there rarely is a middle ground. If we like what we see, we try to get as engrained in the community as possible, looking for our chance at spotlight and greatness, seeking our project of worth. Sometimes that is monetary greatness, sometimes its respect, and often times its just being known. We are mostly driven by the desire to not let our programming skills go unnoticed and that we can change the world and do great things. When you are driven by such a motive, you have to realize that its hard to verify/validate that motive because it is an insatiable hunger that eventually begins to feed on itself. You will never have that concrete “This kick ass thing that you can hold and see on the lapels of friends is my idea” except in very rare cases (Twitter, Google, etc.). I am guilty of this myself, so by no means think otherwise.
I digress. The issues that people are running into with the Ruby community, personal observation, are not Ruby’s fault. The are the fault of an innate desire within developers to create. That desire has to be there to make us get up and converse with binary electrical equipment all day and toil with its incessant cryptic messages. We are Dr. Frankensteins. We need to continually experiment and push and when our material, our canvas, cannot sustain new experimentation we throw it out (in flames sometimes) and move to the new material that seems foreign, different, and exciting. And so “upstart” communities within technology sphere jump from one bandwagon to the next and have been doing so ever since we made technology in to a religious war. Is vi better than emacs, who cares. Ruby vs Python, Python vs Java, Linux vs Windows – its too much for no benefit. People will use what they use, if its new and shiny and can help you, then use it. To clarify the linking is in no way meant to put Obie or his smackdown in ill terms, its just an example of how fractured people can become over little issues.
Hows about this, instead of banding together as a community of rubyists, cocoaheads, or erlangers and declaring all out war on anyone not in the community, why not claim ourselves to be polyglots and build a community around sharing. Languages should not be battle crys, they are materials with which we can create great things. Imagine if you blended languages and the new creations you could make. What if the limitations of a language were reason for you to just look for something else and connect the two up. We need to get past “I am __________________ (Language User)” and focus on “I am a developer and will use anything to paint my masterpiece”.
And with this post, please pass the salt - thanks.