I’m in Madison Wisconsin for the annual MadRuby conference. It seems to be a big deal because I see some of the people I’ve heard about on line. This will be an awesomely new experience.

I’ve been a .net developer for nearly a decade. Following Microsoft’s vision of the web all along and after all this time I am ready for something new. I still want to be nerdy and do web stuff but perhaps I need to branch out and learn something new.

The Ruby on Rails community is always talking about being happy and loving the web so I thought I’d dive in and see how they are doing things. This is how I ended up heading out to Madison to see how other nerds do things.


We are all the same

The tool specialist

The first person I get a sense of is the speaker for my workshop. His name is Bermon Painter. He has an awesome beard and a cool accent that you can’t put your finger on. Bermon shows us an awesome workflow that makes use of SASS, Ruby, and a bunch of frameworks and gems. Bermon is the kind of guy that can take a bunch of disparate tools and turn them into an awesome software building factory. He likes explaining things and gets enjoyment out of teaching others. Guys like this are fun to work with.

The know it all

At lunch I chat with a guy that seems to have been the expert on campus recruiting. Turns out he is also the expert on the importance of college education, and any other topic that comes up. This is also the guy that would brush aside the hundreds of existing frameworks to build his own special secret sauce framework that will be very powerful and effective for him. Unfortunately he likes his own opinion so much he ignores everyone else’s and his cool tools will be ignored because they are too specialized.

Just happy to be here

I sit next to a guy that spends the whole talk bouncing around twitter talking about how good the talk is but gets lost every time we are asked to do something. When not on twitter he is checking out startup meetups and planning his next conference attendance. When asked to write a SASS function that generates heading sizes based on the golden ratio he reaches for excel and uses cell calculations to run the formula to determine the 6 sizes we need based on a fixed value. He missed the point but I think he completed his signup for the next conference.

Death march soldier

Most of the folks here haven’t heard of SASS or most of the other tools Bermon shows us. They haven’t bothered looking into the tools mentioned in the workshop’s byline. They haven’t installed anything and tried it out in preparation for the workshop. They are waiting to be led. They wait for a tool specialist or a know it all or anyone else to tell them what to do. They need someone to point the way to the solution. They are scared to make mistakes.


Wrap it up

All it takes is one day in one workshop for me to realize Ruby, .net, Node.js, Haskell, VB.net, whatever. Every community is the same. Some people will push the boundaries and try new things and make mistakes and learn from them. Some will follow the yellow brick road. Some are just happy to come along for the ride.

So I’ll just stick to what I do now: almost everything in JavaScript, just reaching for C# to fix bugs or write a simple web service here and there. It seems like I’ll be doing this for another ten years still.


I’m Jason Rendel the Director of Portal and Collaboration Solutions for SafeNet Consulting. I love building cool things for the web and coaching others to love the internet like I do. Check out the rest of my posts on Medium. Or link up to start a conversation.