Dear fellow Rubyists: You're a failure to communicate

04 May 2009 – Warsaw


Because of the whole outcome of the situation, here’s the short abstract of what you can expect: it’s going to be about recent shitstorm that followed Matt’s ‘pr0n star’ talk on GoGaRuCo about CouchDB. If you’re tired or offended or otherwise not willing to read about the topic and my bitching about communication standards in Ruby community that’s to follow, it’d be best to read something else.

The Maturity

This is how mature people talk about their differences and discords:

  • “Hi, do you have a while to talk about your CouchDB presentation?”
  • “Wow, a girl. Sure I do, did you like it?”
  • “Actually not quite, I think you pushed the joke too far and too long and I felt disturbed and uncomfortable.”
  • “My apologies, I didn’t quite expect women to show on the conference and my talk with “pr0n” in title. I’ll be more careful next time, maybe it was indeed carried too far. Can I do something for you to make up for the unpleasant talk?"
  • “Yeah, I have this app on my laptop here trying to use CouchDB for storage. Could you show me how to do it, the PG-rated way?”

Etc. etc. Well, apparently that could be real only in the times before Teh Interwebz. Spinning the Internet Flame Machine instead of discussing how grown-ups do is a part of bigger phenomenon on how Internet affects the way we communicate, summarized wonderfully by this quote from Californication :

Just the fact that people seem to be getting dumber and dumber. You know, I mean we have all this amazing technology and yet computers have turned into basically four figure wank machines. (…) People… they don’t write anymore, they blog. Instead of talking, they text (…)

Apparently geek community should have “instead of discussing, they flame” added at the end with a special version for Ruby community s/flame/ghetto-flame. So when two women (1 2) present at GoGaRuCo have worded their discomfort while attending this talk, it was immediately picked up by everyone interested and used to fire one of the biggest flamewars in Ruby/Rails world since Zed’s infamous Ghetto rant. Where “everyone interested” means actually all the attention whores (yeah, I’m one aswell, as this post proves) willing to jump into any heated ruby/rails related discussion, from folks at reddit to authorities like DHH himself.

You see, personally I did like the presentation — or at least the version of it that made it onto SlideShare (said to be “lighter” than the originally shown). I’m OK with porn and being a white heterosexual male (and atheist on top of that) there’re actually not many jokes that could be offending to me. But that’s just me. I like dirty jokes and making presentation as un-professional as it could get, as long as it has all the necessary crunchy code and technical stuff (I actually don’t give a fuck about fluff as long as there’s crunch). That being said, I understand that being a woman surrounded by 200+ men and having a 30+ talk filled with even softcore imagery (great ass in G-string on the first slide, Matt!) and sex references can be disturbing and unnerving.

You can read great summary of the whole shitstorm, together with really insightful conclusion on Martin Fowler’s blog and that actually sums it all pretty much. But there’s one unsolved thing that no-one pulled out yet.

Failure To Communicate

I know that Teh Interwebz has its set of rules and actually being a creative part of the Web means being more-or-less an attention whore. That’s good or at least acceptable. I’m also aware of the fact that geek community loves flamewars and shit-throwing, reasons of which are perfectly summarized by century-old term, be them about “the right” editor, linux distro or single talk about one Ruby conference somewhere in San Francisco most of us wouldn’t hear about if the flamewar hadn’t taken place.

But I hate pulling out the whole “Ghetto” metaphor. Actually Sarah started on this one and instead of being politely ignored like a quiet fart amongst polite people (how naive am I to hope for “politely ignored” on the Internet?), it gave a bucketful of fuel for the whole flamewar. Even my mate Peter fell for this and that’s when I realized the things have gone too far. It’s not a way for a good and healthy discussion, it’s an invitation and encouragement to throw shit at each other.

And that’s a failure to communicate.

One more thing.

I am a fucking professional, you cocksucker!

What next Zed-coined term are you going to use next? “Rails community is still bunch of scrawny cocksuckers with carpal tunnel syndrome”? Yeah, that’d definitely make your blog post sound like a weighted and professional one. If you want to talk about professionalism, don’t “talk ranty Zed” about it because it’s simply ridiculous. You don’t get Borat while giving an etiquette lesson, you don’t talk South Park to your client, you don’t dress like Pedobear for serious discussion about child abuse. But you use Zed’s rant language when talking about being professional. How fucked is that?

The saddest thing about that is that Zed’s rants were supposed to be an act. Instead of being a good laugh at Zed’s issues with some members of US Rails community, it became a new standard of communication amongst rubyists. It reached the point where Zed himself put off the rant and probably regrets making it public in the first place. Sure, go on with that convention — as I stated already, I like dirty language and brutal honesty. But don’t talk then about professionalism. It’s unprofessional all the way.

I know that our heroes, for instance DHH and Linus Torvalds, like profanity (stating it openly or making fun of ubuntu names). But there’s a difference between “fuck, that’s awesome” or calling the-other-geeks-group “wanking walruses” and using Zed-talk when encouraging qualities like professionalism and politeness inside one’s own community.

It’s a difference between “innocently funny” and “ridiculously paradoxal”.

I can haz construktiv and polite diskushyn?

Pretty fuckin’ please with sugar on top.