S.O.S: Save Our Sanity

When I first got started in Rails, I was almost more amazed by the community than by the framework. Admittedly, at version 0.7 Rails wasn’t nearly the framework it is today, but it was still really incredible—or at least, you could tell it was going be really incredible. But the community was really something else.

After tooling around with the first tutorials Curt Hibbs-style, I stumbled into the online Rails community—the mailing list and IRC channel. This was the golden time, when you could get an exuberant answer to almost any question, be it trivial or deep, high-level or specific. People were eager to help and share their knowledge and excitement about Rails. David himself was there, and other folks who I later learned were Rails bigwigs, all helping people out.

If you’ve stopped by there lately, you’ll know it’s not like that any more.

Growing Pains

Why is the Ruby on Rails community nowhere near as good as it used to be? Why is it more and more unusual to find Rails committers in the main community help areas? Why does #rubyonrails resemble nothing so much as #php, only with a lot fewer ops? Why has the signal-to-noise ratio on the mailing lists dropped so sharply?

Well, you might say, the Rails community has exploded since you joined it, old timer. This is simple, undeniable fact. But I don’t think that the complaints I have stem from this newbie-splosion. Some of the problems, sure. But not all.

In theory, if people move from newbiedom to intermediatedom, and from intermediatedom to expertdom at even a quarter of the pace of newbie influx, then the balance of knowledge will remain the same. And certainly there are tons of educational resources that didn’t exist back when I came to the community—informational blogs, question and answer sites, online manuals, paper books. The number of people using Rails professionally has blossomed, so you know the expertise is there.

Growing pains are not the root of the problem, so what is?

The One True Answer

I wrote a really long article to answer this question. Long enough to exceed the reasonable limits for a blog posting, and also long enough to warrant its own date-independent place on my site. Continue onward to read my answer. Watch out for the fangs.


Thanks to Marcel Molina for his help with the editing and direction of this piece.


Now, Typo’s page system doesn’t allow for comments on pages. But you can comment, complain, or whatever, right here instead.

No Comments

  1. The content of your show is great, I really enjoy it…

  2. I think it would be usefull for other users also.

  3. Delhi Times says:

    That is strange 🙁

  4. i am not sure as to why 🙁

  5. Gonna have to give it a try!

  6. Thanks for the write-up.

  7. Webster says:

    Very clear 🙂

  8. Well done, nice instructions.

  9. https://www.slash7.com/articles/2006/03/22/s-o-s-save-our-sanity says:


    most excellent – thank you for thinking this through and taking the time to write it down so that we can link to it 🙂


  10. foo says:

    great artical

  11. Anders Janmyr says:

    Very good article. I can recommend a related article called "How to report bugs effectively" – http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~sgtatham/bugs.html

  12. ms t says:

    wow what a stupid article, are you on crack ? what an idiot. In the real world someone would punch you in the face but online its easy for you to hide and create your own spin on what a web community should or should not be according to you. You wouldn’t last long in the real world someone would smack you like a school girl for the shit you say in your article lol. Help vampires, trolls, sounds like religious nonsense anything to make people conform to the nerdy way of virtual oneness

  13. Gonna have to give it a try…

  14. Carl says:

    Nice article. I think I’ll be linking to it a lot 🙂

    Also, typo in the article. (at: https://www.slash7.com/pages/vampires )

    "Even if it’s not a question you see go by(e) fifty times a day"

  15. That’s awesome…

  16. But I’m not sure why!

  17. There is some strange behaviour with this 🙂

  18. Very nice write up 🙂

  19. After reading the article and the responses, I can see some points, but it leads me to believe that all of you have become very bitter people. Now here’s the big question: if it is so draining and tiresome to help someone with a problem, then why bother responding at all?

    I admit, I don’t know about this site much and how it is structured, but someone passed this article along to me because they thought I was a vampire. Now I can see vampirism if I visit the site daily and ask questions constantly, but this was the first time to the site (yes I’m talking about a different site than this blog), a site that is supposed to be there to help people with probems that they haven’t been able to figure out. Believe me, I try to figure out problems myself because that is how you learn. But sometimes the answer isn’t that easy and one hopes that somebody might be able to help them out.

    Maybe I didn’t know the ediquette of asking the question properly, but I had exhausted my means of finding the answer myself. Yes I could have spent more days looking, but I don’t know about you guys, but I have deadlines and don’t have days to search the web when a project needs to get out!

    The point of my rant is simply this . . . if you are frustrated with people and helping them find answers to problems, they don’t! Do us all a favor and just pass them by. Don’t answer the question. Leave it someone willing to help. Yes, I received my answer, but it was a nasty response by several people obviously to bitter to answer kindly. They thought it was funny, I didn’t. I found it frustrating. I admit I let it get the best of me and probably should have just let it go.

    I would have rather has no answer than to waste my time with these tactless people.

    My final response, if you find that you yourself are one of these people, too frustrated to help someone on a help site because you think the person asking for help is "TOO DUMB or TOO LAZY" to find it on their own, then I think you need to look at yourself and check your ego. Maybe you don’t remember the time in your life when you apparently didn’t "KNOW EVERYTHING", and probably needed help.

  20. P.S., ignore the typos! i.e. etiquette . . . probably others

  21. i am not sure as to why 🙁

  22. I use Firefox in Ubuntu.

  23. Thanks. Updated appropriately…

  24. I use Firefox in Ubuntu!

  25. I had and the fix I found 🙂

  26. James Thompson says:

    I have taken your article and have passed it on to our development team to read. As I mention in my email to the group, I see a little of me in the article and it would be good for everyone to review it also.

    Thank you very much for taking the time to write it in such a way that when it is read, hopefully those who need it the most will not be offended.


  27. I use Firefox in Ubuntu…

  28. I thout to do it in my local version.

  29. I had and the fix I found…

  30. Gonna have to give it a try 🙂

  31. Island Resa says:

    Thats correct…

  32. The problem is my browser 🙁

  33. Thanks. Updated appropriately…

  34. Thanks. Updated appropriately 🙂

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