Zed Shaw - Exposing the 'Ghetto'

Before I begin, I just want to wish everyone a Happy New Year! May 2008 bring happiness, peace and prosperity to all.

I've been keeping myself very busy lately with RSpec and Behavior-Driven Development, basically learning the ropes and how all the pieces fit together. For now, I'm totally enjoying it. But more on that in a future post.

Now, I know that everyone who read Zed Shaw's rant towards most of the Ruby and Rails communities will have an opinion on this. But I'll give my own thoughts on it. All I hope is that someone doesn't read this and think "Who the hell is this guy to give an opinion?" I might not be a 'somebody' in the Ruby or Rails communities at the moment, but I would really like to be part of those communities sometimes in the near future.

Upon first glance, Zed's rant seems like a completely immature piece, just looking to damage the reputations of certainl people and companies. But if you read closely, ignoring the unprofessional language scattered throughout the text, there's a whole lot of valid thoughts and reasoning to this entire rant.

Most of his attacks are aimed at two people: Kevin Clark and Dave Thomas. Kevin Clark has been a pretty big part of the Rails community, regularly contributing code and such, and Dave Thomas of course is the author of possibly the most well-known Ruby and Rails books in the market. His story on Kevin is that they possibly never got along and clashed multiple times, while the story on Dave is that supposedly Zed had a fix for a pretty serious bug in Ruby, yet Dave and others 'threatened' Zed to not release it. For what reason, it's not clear in the rant. Now, about these allegations, I don't know whether they're true or not (there's always two sides to a story). But from my own views, I think any environment has these types of problems all the time. My own workplace can be used as personal experience on these manners. There's always someone who wants to be smarter and better than you, and for some unknown reason they go out of their way to make sure they come out looking better than you can. It's stupid, but it's just human nature, I guess. I bet almost any other open-source community is the same.

He also goes on to write about Thoughtworks, a software consulting company that jumped on the Rails bandwagon a while back. Zed's beef with them is the fact that they charge a shitload of cash while providing not-so-great work in return. Isn't this is the case with almost all software consultancy places? I can name a few off the top of my head here in Puerto Rico. In fact, all you need to do is go to a website one of these 'expert software consultants' made, look at how the site is built, and anyone with an eye for software development standard practices can name a dozen things they would change immediately. This is no surprise here.

I do commend Zed for not making this a 100% negative jab towards Ruby and Rails. He included some people who he knows and have helped him out or were unlike those who he vilified before. Like I said, all communities have their share of bad apples, mostly people who want to be most widely known at your own expense. So the fact that he names some people who were cool to him shows that.

I've read a lot of other blogs where people are dismissing Zed for the way he expressed his views, that he burned his bridges and what not. But that's what he apparently wanted. He said he's not happy being part of the Rails community, so he wants out. This is his way of getting out. Now, I may not agree with the way he did this at all. You never know when you need to cross a bridge you burned in the past, after all. But being in the position he was, seeing and knowing a lot of things that went down, he has a valid opinion, and he's simply entitled to it.

I think Zed partly wrote this rant not to bash everyone associated to Ruby or Rails, but to try and help out, in his own way. He knows a lot more about the community than most of us will probably ever know. So hopefully some good comes out of him exposing some dirty details on how the Ruby and Rails world is run. In the end, it simply boils down to this: It's one man's opinion. No matter how important he is (or rather, was) to the Rails world, one man isn't enough to kill it, in my opinion.

Zed, if you miraculously read this, best of luck to you in the future, buddy. Hope the rant was worth it!

Written by

Dennis Martinez

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