ruby values

If you’ve attended GORUCO in the last ten years, you may have noticed that the conference looks … different this year.

GORUCO 2016 organizers

On the surface, it’s bigger (fourteen speakers!) and in a larger, more beautiful venue (Pier 60!). But look deeper.

You may have noticed that only two talks are about Ruby-the-language. It may seem odd for a symposium named Gotham Ruby Conference to discuss Python, Elixir, Go, and Rust.

You may have noticed that six talks are not explicitly about technology at all, and instead focus on the human side of software. These speakers are exploring deep subjects like trust, human-to-human interactions, verbal communication, and how people organize themselves into teams.

You may, indeed, be asking: Why? Why change the format? Why take this risk? Why should I attend?

ruby is much more than a computer language

Ruby is my community, my tribe.

I found it relatively late in life, at age 35, after I had already been using Ruby-the-language for three years. I was lucky enough to find Ruby-the-tribe because I was invited by co-workers to attend GORUCO 2009. It opened the door to a human-focused philosophy of software development that I didn’t know existed. Ruby saved me.

You may not have had a late life enlightenment like me; but I bet that what you love most about Ruby isn’t metaclasses or syntax, but its values.

Ruby is about making humans productive and happy, and so it naturally attracted people who valued: clarity and concision; sustainable work practices like automated testing; empathy and user-centered design; and teaching and learning as first-class activities.

These values were totally unknown to me in my previous career. My motto at one point was, “Keep your head down and code.” Ruby taught me to pick my head up and pay attention to the people I was working with. Ruby taught me that writing software is a marathon, not a sprint. Ruby taught me that growing large software products requires a healthy team.

Ruby-the-tribe taught me all this, long after I had learned Ruby-the-language.

ruby as a shining city on a hill

Ruby, then, has never really been about the parsing or lexing. It’s been the people who have made it special.

Ruby has set an example in this way: I wrote C and FORTRAN for twenty years but hardly ever found a person with whom I shared values. There’s no “C++ Community”, truly; the people number too many and are too differentiated to ever form a tribe with shared values. What if C++ developers who share our values see the community we’ve built? Why wouldn’t we invite them in, make them feel welcome, and model those values for them?

But like anything built by humans, time is changing Ruby.

New York is notoriously the largest and least-loved of any of our great cities. Why should it be loved as a city? It is never the same city for a dozen years altogether. A man born in New York forty years ago finds nothing, absolutely nothing, of the New York he knew.
 — Harper’s Monthly, 1856

The attendees of GORUCO are, more and more, using other languages to grow software. Famous Rubyists have gone on to influence the development of Rust, Elixir, Crystal, Go, and many other languages, libraries and frameworks. For me personally, this has included rewriting most of Cloud Foundry’s core components from Ruby into Go over the last three years; and led a colleague to write the Ruby-like BDD tools Ginkgo and Gomega.

Ruby-the-tribe is reaching out to dozens of other communities, and spreading our values to users of other languages. This is wonderful; this is how Ruby is spreading and giving birth to new communities.

embrace change

My GORUCO co-organizers and I have seen these changes happening over the past few years, and are embracing this change.

We’re rebuilding GORUCO as a polyglot conference that emphasizes and embodies the best of Ruby’s practices, values, and community. This is an opportunity to extend Ruby’s reach, to pull more people into Ruby’s orbit who share our values, and to keep Ruby alive even as its community members use a much broader set of tools and languages.

T-shirts from 8 of the 10 years of GORUCO

ruby is nothing without you

GORUCO needs your help and support to keep Ruby-the-tribe alive in NYC. If you love Ruby, I’m appealing to your sense of obligation, your sense of community, to join us.

  • Attend GORUCO, and support the message of human-focused, sustainable software development.
  • Tell your friends and colleagues about your past experiences at GORUCO, and encourage them to attend.
  • Particularly encourage attendance if they’ve never used Ruby-the-language.
  • Tell the world what you love about Ruby-the-tribe; what values we share and how it influences your current work. I’ll be doing this under the #rubyvalues hashtag.

A century from now, Ruby may not be remembered as a language; but with your help and support now, the principles and values we hold dear will spread far and wide, and the world will be better off as a result.