RubyConf 2014 - The human bits
There were tons of great technical talks at Rubyconf 2014: performance, testing, architecture, new frameworks and new language features. However, Matz kicked off the conference from a different perspective: he described the Ruby community being made of sharks who need to be fed with new shiny stuff. Otherwise we may lose interest and move away from Ruby. I’d rather be a dolphin, or a unicorn. But in the end I was quite excited (as a shark might be) to hear about Ruby 3.0.
“In open-source, no one can hear you scream” – Justin Searls
In “The social coding contract”, Justin Searls didn’t depict the ruby community as a happy people singing in harmony “MINASWAN” (“Matz Is Nice And So We Are Nice”). “Late adopters [of open source projects] often behave as consumers”.
Here is the story of a typical open source project: You google for a ruby gem (i.e. a SOAP client for Ruby). You can’t find it so you make one and release it. Other people with the same need start using it and submit a few patches. Your library is becoming quite popular, it feels so great to see other people use your stuff! After a couple of months, things start to change. You get less contributions. You get more requests to fix bugs and add features from late adopters. These late adopters are often not really cooperative, and you can be left feeling that they don’t value your efforts. You are then likely to get overwhelmed by trolls and rants.
Justin insists on the fact that maintainers should learn to say “No”, otherwise they may burn out. And he adds: “In open-source, no one can hear you scream”. We can fix this by going beyond emails and GitHub comments using video chat to pair with people. The lack of real human interaction is what makes trolling a thing. He adds that people don’t seem to get to a consensus on Twitter, and it seems they have a better time when they speak to each other.
“Languages are not only tools to communicate but also to think” – Randy Coulman
Speaking of language, Randy Coulman points out that “languages are not only tools to communicate but also to think”. Language influences our thoughts and learning new languages increases our “solution space”. This solution space can greatly benefit from mathematics.
“If you can write a program, you are good at mathematic” – Tom Stuart
Tom Stuart did a brilliant talk where he demonstrated how mathematics are not about greek symbols, numbers, and formulas to learn by heart but instead that mathematics are abstractions used to solve problems. When we find an honest and minimal abstraction to a problem, we can solve it in interesting, simpler ways. And even if we don’t want to hear it, he believes that “if you can write a program, you are good at mathematics”.
“Your future is Decay and Obsolescence” – Sandy Metz
And mathematics could be what saves us in the long run, since Sandy Metz told us that our future is Decay and Obsolescence. After inviting us to take 30 seconds to introduce ourselves to the people around us, she brought us along on a journey where we learned about the history of scrolls, codex, books, press and Linotype. Her dad worked on Linotypes for decades and he would “never ever have clean hands”. The Linotype was used to print newspapers until the late 70s. Almost overnight, newspaper switched from the Linotype to modern printers. And her dad had to move on.
We work in IT, but most of what we do relies on the web. It’s been around for only 20 years and our jobs depend on it. So from there, Madame Sandy told us our future: “Everything will change. The first thing is that you’ll die. And everybody you know will die”. People we love will die. It will be hard. Death, decay and obsolescence is our future. Along the way, our body will fail us. We will develop low back trouble. Our job will change as well.
What really matters is happiness, health and the world we leave to our children. Happiness, do real things and tell the ones you love that you love them. Health, get some exercise, take care of your body. Community, we can contribute to open-source but we are bigger than Rails and Ruby so we should also teach, do things for others and help the ones who need it the most.
“We deserve our success but we are lucky enough to have the wind in our back.” – Sandy Metz
Several speakers brought humanity and community to their talks. They helped us step back, see the big picture and keep in mind what is really important. Ruby conferences gather Ruby developers in the same place for a couple of days. We learn new practices and discover new tools but the most vibrant memories we have happen in the hallway or during the 5K run, Karaoke, Birds of a Feather, drinks and social ice-cream. Those memories are the social interactions. This is how we take care of our community.