I enjoyed attending RubyConf immensely, but I also regretted it. Not all is well in my personal favorite open-source community. (This article is full of complaints; for my love-letter on the same subject see here.) [Ouch, check the comments. My position on weekends is, um, not universally held.]

This Is Serious · Look, dammit, Ruby isn’t an insurgency or a conspiracy or a party, it’s a profession and a vocation and we’re getting getting paid for doing it. So why the flaming hell are we meeting on weekends like Trekkies or scrapbookers?

I have both a vocation and a family, which is a tough row to hoe at the best of times. Here’s my son last Oct. 31st, whom I spent a weekend away from in Charlotte, NC, hanging with geeks. You can see his real eyes through the holes in the mask and it’s never good when I have to look into them and why I can’t read him his bedtime stories or throw a football because I have to go to Charlotte or Tokyo or Shanghai.

Boy in hallowe’en costume

Ain’t he cute?

An essential part of my compromise is that I may work insane hours and have to cross oceans too often, but at least I’m in the house on the weekend. Only the Ruby community thinks it’s OK to blow that up. They’re actively discriminating against people with lives and families and they’re wrong. Let’s start acting like grown-ups.

Transpacific Language Gap · Check out Charles Nutter’s Ruby Community Seeks Autotranslator. Charles is pointing at a great big hairy elephant in the room that nobody mentions; core Ruby development is done in Japan, in Japanese. Gaijin are not really in the loop. Look in the mirror: Rails development is done in English and any Japanese Rubyists who want to play have to do it in English. Ruby isn’t one community, it’s two, and we don’t talk enough. Both are nice, and we get along just fine, and Matz does an amazingly good job of straddling the divide, but let’s not pretend it doesn’t exist.

Charlie proposes applying a good auto-translator. In my dreams, we find someone who’s fluently bilingual and who wants to contribute to the community by translating both ways. But a semi-decent automated tool would be a step forward. Any volunteers?

Werewolf players at RubyConf

Werewolf game at RubyConf; Japanese not being spoken.

Which brings me to the third point, also raised by Mr. Nutter.

Play Or Code? · Charles asks: Is Werewolf Killing the Conference Hackfest?

Werewolf game at RubyConf

He’s accusing, not coding.

The issue is pretty fully explored in the comments to Charles’ piece. On balance, I’m probably with Chad Fowler.

I’ve only played a handful of games, but I did OK, on the winning side in Charlotte two out of three games, and narrating one for the first time, which is kind of fun. And I did once manage to gleefully expose Charles’ wolfish essence; he was tired and being just way too quiet.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: she (Nov 13 2007, at 04:21)

I dont think there are "two communities" as such. For example I would consider myself to be quite good with english, and part of "ruby-matz" group instead of rails, and I am sure that there are many many other non-rails non-japanese ruby users.

Maybe not everyone goes to rubyconf :D


From: Luis (Nov 13 2007, at 04:29)

"it’s a profession and a vocation and we’re getting getting paid for doing it.">

Are 'we'? You are, but how many are not? I've always felt that weekend conferences were a nice way for the paid members of the community to acknowledge and give ground to the actual volunteers in a community, who otherwise tend to be pretty overwhelmed by the paid members of any community, and who can find it quite difficult to get vacation for mid-week conferences.


From: Janne (Nov 13 2007, at 05:14)

As a non-native English speaker I must admit I feel just a touch of Schadenfreude that we for once seem to have a piece of computing infrastructure where native mastery of English is not assumed in order to participate (and native knowledge of US culture, holidays, in-jokes and media events of the day are needed to participate fully in the social aspect).

And, well, when was the last time a western conference arranged its schedule to fit Japanese or Chinese work habits or holiday schedule? Doing a weekend conference is perfectly normal here.


From: Andrew Kobayashi (Nov 13 2007, at 09:56)

So being the fluently bilingual English Japanese somewhat geek with an interest in Ruby and Rails that I am - what can I do to get involved and help?


From: Mike Moore (Nov 14 2007, at 09:32)

I don't get paid to write Ruby and I paid my own way to Charlotte. But I'm obviously a minority now.


From: Austin Ziegler (Nov 14 2007, at 11:03)

I'm not sure, Tim. Even though I didn't make it to RubyConf this year, I prefer the weekend conference because I don't actually get paid to do Ruby. (Leave aside that my company doesn't have a developer conference policy yet for anything, so I didn't make it to OOPSLA this year, which I wanted to.)

A weekend conference means I only have to take one day of precious vacation time in order to attend. At my expense. A weekend conference means that I get slightly better fares because I'm staying over a Saturday night (but only slightly at this point). A weekend conference means that the conference gets slightly better rates than workweek conferences, at least for the rooms.

I don't have kids, but I have things I want to do on the weekends, too. But the reality is that if RubyConf were to move to the workweek instead of the weekend, I would no longer be able to even consider attending. Or presenting. Or anything else. Ruby is a passion of mine, but it doesn't put the food on the table for me.


From: Joe (Nov 14 2007, at 11:57)

If why's followup to this post isn't already in the comment queue, it should be:



From: Paul Prescod (Nov 14 2007, at 22:49)

I've organized several weekend conferences and tutorials: in fact, LONG weekend conferences. Some people curse it (mostly my fellow organizer ;) ) but it is great for university students and for those who can't get time off work for open source/scripting language conferences.

Who says that scripting languages and open source are not an insurgency? It might feel that way if you worked for ICBC (a freakish meld of government bureaucracy and insurance) or Peoplesoft/Oracle. Heck, even if you worked for Blast Radius.

Not everyone has the influence on their companies that Tim Bray does. I doubt that even the average Sun employee can say: "I want to skip Java One this year so I can go to Rubyconf or Pycon. The time all comes out of the same conference budget, right?"


From: Dennis (Nov 15 2007, at 06:25)

There's nothing preventing you from taking a couple days off during the week to make up for the family time you lose on the weekend. Since it's a working weekend, I bet your company wouldn't even charge you vacation time.

Meanwhile, those of us who use Ruby for startups while we keep our day job can still make the conference. In our case, our employers probably would charge us vacation time during the week.

Just takes a little consideration and flexibility, and everybody can be happy.


From: len (Nov 16 2007, at 06:06)

Hmmm... chicken hawk didja say?

This is an example of why coding is a game for the young and why the web appears to be a middle school Friday night dance with the school bullies hanging out in the corners. Once we have those kids, priorities shift rather dramatically. If you don't enjoy the baby face that they lose at about ten years old, you don't get a second chance.

I'd enjoy this except I'm now in the phase where I have to take away a cellphone because of excess use (wow, is THAT expensive) and a debit card because of treating the buds to lunch. 18 is harder. Meanwhile, those low slung hip huggers on my 13 year old daughter make me very nervous.

Hard to be The Man and Dad at the same time? :-)


From: Giles Bowkett (Nov 16 2007, at 19:00)

<b><i>[the Ruby community is] actively discriminating against people with lives and families and they’re wrong.</b></i>

Yes! The Ruby community is also actively discriminating against people who don't have money! And people who don't live in North Carolina! I'm tired of being persecuted! Kudos for making a stand against oppression! I'm with you! Damn the torpedoes!!!!!



From: simple Paul (Nov 19 2007, at 09:31)

The solution seems obvious from the outside: stop working insane hours. I'm sure you're indispensible (I've been there too), but it's just not worth it. Not with a son as cute as that.


From: simple Paul (Nov 19 2007, at 10:04)

I found the quote I was looking for before. I heard it first from Jim Rohn.

The first grader asked his mother why Daddy brought home a briefcase full of papers every evening. She explained, "It's because Daddy has so much to do he can't finish at the office and has to work nights." "Well, then" said the child, "why don't they just put him in a slower group?"


From: Simon Brocklehurst (Nov 19 2007, at 11:26)


I can 100% empathise with you on the being away from family and friends stuff. It's miserable when that starts to happen too much.

I have to confess, though, to being a little mystified about the "only the Ruby community part thinks it's OK to blow that up" bit. Apart from anything else, it's just not true...


From: Jason Toy (Nov 20 2007, at 14:31)

Hi Tim, I just put up the initial version of the autotranslator, you can see it at http://translator.rubynow.com


From: John Joyce (Nov 21 2007, at 16:58)

What!?! Language Divide?!?!

That's insane!

How many programmers in the world are bilingual or multilingual?! MOST.

If you're crying because you can't learn another language, then you need to get over your ethnocentric selfishness.

English is by and large the de facto world language today, no doubt. However, there is no justifiable reason to insist that everything has to be in English or any other particular language. Believe me, in most countries, people learn a language because it's useful. Language is a tool for communication. You could learn a lot more by picking up a human language, even for programming.

Just learning another human language alone will improve your computer language skills and might even give you some new ideas...

As for Werewolf... who cares?! This boys all paid their money and have the freedom to decide how they spend their time. If they want to dork out like that, that's fine. If you want to have a code fiesta, have it and invite people.

As for poor working guy who has to leave his family on the weekend, well boohoo, life is what you make it. Nobody made you go to RubyConf. Most people don't have the luxury of going. Sounds more like you want to change these things because they are inconvenient for you. Poor well-paid guy...

If you only knew how much programmers actually get paid in Japan...

(a LOT less on average than in the USA)


author · Dad · software · colophon · rights

November 12, 2007
· Technology (87 fragments)
· · Ruby (93 more)
· The World (126 fragments)
· · Events (47 more)

By .

The opinions expressed here
are my own, and no other party
necessarily agrees with them.

A full disclosure of my
professional interests is
on the author page.