On Friendship, Civility, Leadership, and Accountability in the Ruby Community

I was lured to Ruby two years ago – initially by way of Rails until I found the wonderful and powerful language that made it possible. Since that discovery, I quickly made Ruby my primary programming language and made strives to find projects where I could use it to best effect.

However, unlike many of you, my life is constrained by the health of someone near and dear to me. I am a caregiver. Most of the friends that I made in my pre-caregiver life simply could not identify with or understand my decision to assume this role. Slowly but inexorably these friends disappeared. My life became circumscribed by the needs of this loved one.

And then I attended my first Ruby conference and was changed.

I found a different set of friends and a different community. Early on, I was introduced to the mantra “Matz is nice and so we are nice”. It has been my impression that, generally, we Rubyists are decent folk. As such, I have dedicated a sizable portion of my life to them as was evidenced lately by Ruby DCamp.

I have had the privilege of meeting numerous brilliant and even compassionate individuals who share the same passion for Ruby as I. I am proud to call some of these individuals my friends.

Yet we are an unusual community, made up of individuals of a diverse set of ages and backgrounds. By nature there will certainly be misunderstandings.

While it is wrongheaded to expect that people from such diverse backgrounds can share the same values, they can at least share their opinions in a civil fashion. To that extent, I emphatically agree with the assertion made by Rich Kilmer, for whom I have developed a healthy respect of late, that we should all demand civility.

However, it is unfair for Rich to assert how we, as individuals, should value ourselves. How we value ourselves is about as personal decision as they come. Clearly, in these remarks, Rich is defending his close friend, Chad Fowler from Giles’ outrage.

While I will not endorse the demeanor of Giles’ retort, I do uphold the generalities of his initial message: We should defend our community from chaos. The role of the leader is to unify. Leaders who sow chaos are not leaders at all.

Our de facto leaders should be at least as accountable as the rest of the community. Responsibility and accountably naturally follow authority otherwise wherefore trust?

While I do not support lashing out at one another, the community needs a way to make its leaders accountable while ensuring that respect flows both ways and civility is maintained.

Posted by evan on Friday, October 31, 2008

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