I will try not to turn this entry into a rant, because we’ve seen plenty of that as of late.
However, I would like to share my experience regarding Ruby and the communities I’ve encountered in order to represent a sort of difference between the enthusiast and the hyper-enthusiast.
I will not make comparisons to other languages, because frankly, they aren’t relevant. I will however mention that I first played with Python 6 years ago and after about a year of tinkering went straight to Perl and stayed there until a little less than two years ago.
Upon finding Ruby, I was amazed by the language, but even more so by the community. A year and half ago or so when I started playing with it, I had never heard of DHH or 37 Signals or Rails or anything like that. I was enticed by my friend James Edward Gray II to learn the language, and soon thereafter began lurking about RubyTalk.
Soon I saw some names coming up a lot, both in conversations and in posts by the individuals themselves, such as David A. Black, Hal Fulton, Curt Hibbs, Chad Fowler, Jim Weirich, James Britt, and of course _why. This is just a random list of people who I noticed quite rapidly, but basically, these were people who came to Ruby before the Rails explosion, and they all have made significant contributions to the Ruby community.
There are hundreds of people I’ve spoken to in this community who have made some wonderful contributions to Ruby. Many of them are regulars on RubyTalk, some I’ve met at Ruby Users Groups (Such as new_haven.rb or NYC.rb), some I met at the RubyConf this past fall. These folks are what forms the core of the Ruby community.
In the last 3 to 6 months, there has been an incredible amount of buzz regarding Rails. It seems now, that the number of people who are interested in Rails moreso than Ruby, or those who are interested in Ruby because of Rails outnumbers the smaller core of those who just love Ruby. That doesn’t bother me one bit.
Part of growth is accepting the changing face of a community. As our userbase changes, the needs, interests, opinions and desires are sure to change as well. The only issue is that of identity, of reputation. I do not want to be lumped in with the hyper-enthusiast, if the meaning of the word is faith based decisions.
I also don’t want everyone who knows I’m into ruby to assume I’ve mastered Rails and that I love it as much as they do. I haven’t and I don’t. Rails is very nice, and I’m at the beginning of a rather large scale project in it, but to me, it’s just another impressive piece of Ruby software. No amount of marketing or hyper-enthusiasm is going to change my opinion on this. Maybe when I’m done with my project, I’ll have some substantial experience based opinion on it, but as for now, I’ll leave the defining word on Rails to those who know it and use it best.
The core issue here is that the level of noise is rising and rising in the communities. Or at least, some of us percieve it as noise. Do we really need to sell ruby? Do we really need to focus on standardization and point for point comparisions between language Foo and Bar? In my experience, Ruby sells itself. If you want to impress a potential employer, show them some software written in it, show them some things you’ve done. Prototype something quickly and cleanly and let them see it up front.
All this time that some very vocal members of the community spend ‘defending’ ruby or preaching it’s wonders from the mountaintops, myself and many others spend doing ruby. To me, that’s worth a lot more. To others, maybe it’s not. I have no problem with this difference in opinion. I just need to make it clear that I came to Ruby before it was cool, and even if people were calling me a tax collector, or even comparing me to a COBOL programmer, I’d still love it.
If you want to support Ruby, let it speak for itself in beautiful code. That is far louder (and far more useful) than faith based words. So this might have turned into a bit of a rant after all, but I just needed to speak up a bit for the Old School Rubyist, who doesn’t give a damn about what loud people on either side of the fence are saying.