Ruby on Rails != Its Core Team

While observing the hullabaloo surrounding the Rails community in recent days, one meme kept popping up that struck me as simply not true: The notion that the Rails community is centered around a group of self-aggrandizing rock star programmers, namely DHH and his core team. This cannot be further from reality. The strength of Rails lies in the vast, diverse community of developers who have sought time and time again to help each other out, to teach others, and to share code, primarily because it gave them joy to do so.

As a complete nobody in the Rails community, I’ve done much more observation and learning than I have done sharing these past few years. As such, I’d like to share with you a list of people in the Rails world who have established themselves not through their status or through the force of their personality, but through their output.

  • Dave Thomas – The author of the Programming Ruby/PickAxe book, and the main author of the first few editions of Agile Web Development with Rails, Dave was probably the guy who taught you Ruby and Rails.
  • David Black – The author of the now-classic Ruby for Rails (refreshed edition coming out soon), David provided some essential reading for the Rails developer looking to harness the power of Ruby. Also director of Ruby Central, the organization behind RubyConf and RailsConf.
  • Jamis Buck – A guy who whittles wood in his spare time while living in Idaho, Jamis created the invaluable Capistrano deployment tool to help us automate away tedium. He used to be on the Rails Core team, so putting him here may be fudging the list criteria, but his contributions have been so huge (both his projects and his blog posts), that he deserves a mention.
  • Ezra Zygmuntowicz – Literally writing the book on Rails deployment, Ezra did the hard work of figuring out what exactly constituted a solid Rails stack when the existing options left plenty to be desired. He has since worked on a myriad of projects, including Merb.
  • Yehuda Katz@wycats may be the man who saves Rails from itself. As the lead driver for Rails 3.0, he’s already begun sharing the gory details of the Merb/Rails merge to the eagerly waiting masses. He’s also contributed greatly to jQuery, Merb, and Datamapper.
  • Leah Silber – Whenever you go to a regional Ruby conference, you’ll always see Engine Yard as the top sponsor. While EY may send Ezra, Yehuda, and others to present at these conferences, it’s the behind-the-scenes help provided by Leah and company that really make a conference successful.
  • David Chelimsky – Behavior Driven Development is a complete win that we in the Rails community get to enjoy, and as lead developer of RSpec, David has shown a solid and steadfast commitment to continuously improving the tool so that it in turn improves our software.
  • The Thoughtbot team – This company’s work speaks for itself: Shoulda, Factory Girl, Paperclip, and Hoptoad.
  • Ryan Bates – Putting out one or two RailsCasts a week for over two years, Ryan has been amazingly consistent both in the quality of his work and in his dedication to helping us become better Rails programmers.
  • John Nunemaker – RailsTips may be the most consistently helpful of all the Rails blogs.
  • The GitHub team – Even without considering the contribution the site itself has made, the developers behind GitHub have contributed some fantastic projects to the community, namely Cheat, cache_fu, Jekyll, and god, and they’ve done plenty of helpful blogging along the way.

The people above have written essential libraries, authored books, produced other educational material, and/or helped organize conferences. In other words, they’ve taken the great technical work of the Rails Core Team, and created a community around it.

The above list is by no means comprehensive. So if you believe I’m missing someone, please leave a comment below. Also, in addition to Jamis and Yehuda, there are many of members of the Rails Core team who do it for the music, so to speak, and nothing else. But hopefully the list above conveys the point that Ruby on Rails is so much more than DHH and its small group of core committers.

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