Derek Neighbors

The more I learn, the less I know.

Community Ruby Revolution Rebuttal

By Derek Neighbors, Published on August 7, 2011

Mark Turner has made a great response titled “Ruby never powered a revolution” to counter my recent post “Ruby is Just a Bunch of Tools”. Excerpts from Mark’s post bold.

“I decided he was wrong.”

Mark, I am never wrong. However, I have been known to be mistaken a time or two. :)

“Ruby was never about revolution, Ruby is about making us, as developers, happy. For many of us it was a language whose syntax, expressiveness and quirks touched the right nerves. It was the feelings we got about the language that made us want to use it. It wasn’t it’s speed (lulz), it wasn’t it’s libraries and it sure wasn’t its popularity. For many of the people that have been using Ruby for a long time, at one point they dreamed of getting a job that paid them to write Ruby. Today they are plenty of jobs.”

I think I consider Ruby on Rails, Ruby for right or wrong. Ruby purists can bitch and moan about that all they want, but the reality is if Rails didn’t exist Ruby would have virtually no adoption and barely be considered a real language. I think a lot of the idealism I speak about came from the Rails community. Driving for testing, convention over configuration, etc.. Hell the fact that active record got people to the point where they aren’t writing SQL queries is simply an amazing feat. Something Smalltalk and the likes were never able to get widely adopted.

Define plenty of jobs. The Ruby community is microscopic in the grand picture of programming. A quick search of for ruby yields 1,735 results, .net yields 9,986, java 17,239. While this is impressive it’s still a fractional portion of the world today.

“At the heart of Derek’s argument it would seem that the abundance of tools, and the creation of those and new tools or workflows are somehow unrelated to changing the status quo or spreading new ideas. I don’t understand this argument. I get a smile whenever someone decides that a tool doesn’t fit their needs so they make their own. I get exited whenever someone brings a new idea to Ruby or is unhappy about the way a library/application they use works so they fix it.”

It is not the abundance of tools nor the creation of tools that is the problem. It is that the community thinks technology is the answer to everything. Instead of pushing against the status quo to think differently. The drones are just trying to make the status quo faster or more efficient. Making a better (speed, syntax, etc) test framework is not the same as introducing the concept of TDD or BDD for the first time in a meaningful way to get wide spread adoption. I am not seeing any real creativity from the community, it is all geekery instead. While a faster, cooler, automated foo is great, it’s not pushing the industry forward.

“Derek also has a point about the abundance of “non Ruby ideas” at regional ruby events.”

I articulated this poorly. I was trying to say that we are too focused in on hearing speakers talk about tools they have written instead of talking about the possibilities of where the community can go. Regional conferences used to be about people sharing cutting edge ideas and trying new things. Now they are about the “speaking circuit” for tool/library authors to pimp their shit or the Ruby personalities to measure their community e-peen for organizing a conference.

Personally, I have seen other platforms start to catch up and people that are more language agnostic seem to be moving the industry forward the most. I am finding the revolutionaries more in the Agile community than the Ruby community at this point. Ruby has a special place in my heart (as does Rails) for inspiring me to stand up and fight for change. To not accept the status quo as reality and champion the future.

I write this as I prepare to speak at Agile 2011 this week. I am starting a new Django project with a team while doing agile coaching at a .NET enterprise client. While still committing code to a Ruby project for a Fortune 50 client. Guess I’m an innovation slut instead of a Ruby whore these days.