Aaron Sumner

One nobody's thoughts on the GoGaRuCo mess

If you're a Ruby on Rails developer and have been paying half attention over the last several days you've no doubt heard about the controversial presentation given recently at the Golden Gate Ruby Conference (GoGoRuCo). If you need to catch up, read Martin Fowler's take–it includes references to most other commentary so far. Issues of sexism aside, what bothers me about what I've learned about some of the individuals making statements on this matter is their apparent disregard for the potential of Rails in "professional" environments.

Just a little background: You'll likely never meet me at a Ruby or Rails conference. (I was at FiveRuns' Rails party at SXSW and talked to like three people–that's about as social as I get.) I use Rails to develop relatively tiny apps for an incredibly niche market. You'll probably never use any of them. And I'm pretty lucky: I work at an organization in which I get to call my own shots when it comes to the platforms I use to do my work. Nobody has to give me the OK to wholeheartedly adopt a non-mainstream application framework, and nobody second-guesses my methods as long as what I'm doing works. And, for me, Rails is like magic. Projects that used to take months now take days, and I've got time to dip into development work while also paying attention to all the other things I have on my plate on any given day.

However, I've been putting myself in the shoes of a developer working in such an environment who learns about Rails, finds it compelling as a platform, and suggests it to his (or her!) boss. Said boss, being savvy enough to Google this "Ruby on Rails" thing, comes across the inevitable–like "Rails doesn't scale," it uses some "obscure" language called Ruby, and, apparently, its advocates use porn to make their points. Boss says thanks, but no thanks–we'll stick with our tried-and-true Java/.NET/PHP.

The way I see it, the stigma Rails faces is big enough. Now, the first two issues can be overcome with data–dig a little deeper and learn that Rails does scale, thank you very much, and learning Ruby isn't bad at all–dare I say, it's even a little fun. But I worry that this matter won't be as easy for some to talk their way through. This negative perception of the little framework that could may be more than a project manager/CTO/"suit" who, like it or not, has to answer to someone else, cares to take a risk on, especially in our current economy and job climate.

The moral of the story is that happened at GoGaRuCo didn't stay at GoGaRuCo. It's kind of like the kid who loses out on a job because of those spring break photos mindlessly posted on a Facebook profile. The next time you're considering your audience for a presentation, remember that audience extends beyond the four walls of a conference room, and the things you say can affect people in ways you never imagined. And think about this: The opposite of professional is amateur, and I would imagine that many of those who find nothing wrong with this style of presentation, who suggest that those who do take issue need to grow a thicker skin or stop sucking up to the boss, wouldn't be too happy to be labeled as amateurs at what they do.

In other words: Grow up, please, for the sake of Rails.

. Questions or comments? Let me know what you think.