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An off by 1 retrospective

17 Jan 2011

This is called a procrastinating post. Something you write when you can't be bothered to apply proper syntax and grammar rules to more interesting ideas.

The naughties1, what a decade! It seems nobody really did a decade retrospective for the years between 2000 and 2010. As if the world really wants to forget this decade. Looking back I don't really blame them.

But for developers, it was a dream decade: Agile practices, dynamic languages, distributed version control, NoSQL databases, mobile platforms, ubiquitous ADSL connections, software everywhere.

For me the past decade has one color: ruby red. From that day in late 2001 when I first picked up the 1st Ed. of the Pickaxe and read

"I believe that the purpose of life is, at least in part, to be happy. Based on this belief, Ruby is designed to make programming not only easy, but also fun. It allows you to concentrate on the creative side of programming, with less stress. If you don't believe me, read this book and try Ruby. I'm sure you'll find out for yourself." from the foreword of the 1st Ed. Pickaxe

I was hooked. All Ruby users/fans owe a debt of gratitude to Dave Thomas and Andy Hunt for that 1st edition and getting Matz's words out of Japan and in the lingua franca of our times.

People introducing Ruby used Rails as the ice breaker and then pointed you to _why's Poignant Guide for the approach with the most effect. Nowadays there isn't that much of a need to clarify what Ruby is. What is even better, I find that the need to clarify the difference between Rails and Ruby is also reduced. But then again it might just be that after 10 years of educating2 my colleagues I live in the middle of a Ruby oasis.

I had the pleasure and luck to experience the western Ruby community from it's infancy and some people need particular mention.

Top of the list is Guy Decoux. Guy would often answer questions on ruby-talk with just code. Maybe it was partly because his grasp of English was poor (which I doubt), but those emails served to underline the expressiveness of Ruby for me and also taught me an awful lot about code. Unfortunately Guy died in a fire in July 2008 and left a noticeable gap in the community.

whytheluckystiff makes the list for his sideways approach to programming. He also pulled a unique vanishing act creating a veritable legend unparalleled in any programming community I've ever participated in.

James Edward Gray II earns a mention as well, for years of Ruby Quizzes and a one time tip about using Hashes instead of creating classes to store a bunch of properties. That was an AHA! moment in my dynamic languages learning curve.

Jim Weirich makes my list for rake and Jamis Buck for Capistrano. Like gunsmiths to a gunslinger they provided the tools of my trade to the same devastating effect.

I could reminisce about the good old years when Rails did not exist and the neighborhood was quiet, but to tell you the truth, I don't really remember it that quiet and I am not an old geezer...yet. It was new and exciting and there was tons of learning and yes, there were fewer people participating and the expertise level seemed high, but that was mostly because 90% percent of today's libraries and technologies did not exist and in the beginning all we did was focus on the language and the cool things you imagined you could do with it. Now we know and have created (many of) the cool things we imagined and there's a lot more people out there making even cooler things.

I could do without the "rubyist" tag. I can develop in a variety of languages even if sometimes I do not want to and I am definitely going to learn a few more before I retire, but the years since I started writing code in Ruby have been the most productive and enjoyable of my career and if that needs a tag then I'll live with it - as long as I keep accumulating tags.


1 yes it is written like that on purpose.

2 read it as "incessantly talking about things Ruby and constantly and loudly arguing that everything is so much easier when done in Ruby"

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