Saturday, May 31, 2008

Putting Ruby into Words

Since I've started learning about Ruby and reading some of the community blogs and books, I have this sense. I am the first to admit that it's a poorly defined sense, but somewhere deep inside of me, something was wrong with the community. Thankfully, there are Debian Developers out there with the same feelings who have a better way with words. To lazy to read the link? No problem, here's the critical bit:
What's troubled me for some time about the post-Rails Ruby community is that it has a distinct bent away from its Free Software roots. I understand Matz actually used to use (not sure about today) Debian Unstable, and Ruby traditionally displayed its roots quite strongly, with a Perl heritage and a community consisting largely of hardcore *NIX people. With the advent of Rails, the move has been towards things like TextMate and OSX. Software like Gems (no relation to Gemstone) fits in fine with one of these systems, but not so well with modern Free Software systems, and I think it's symptomatic of the change. Given this propensity in the Ruby community, and given the numbers Gemstone is posting, I'd be surprised if lots of Rubyists don't move that way as soon as it's available.
I couldn't agree more! When I first learned the preferred editor for Rails development is an OS X only commercial app, I was literally speechless.

There are other examples of this divergence from the Free Software world. For example, Rails recent decision to abandon Trac, a reliable ticketing system used by a whole set of large FOSS projects. Rails now uses Lighthouse, itself a Rails application, that is decidedly closed source. If this sort of behavior continues, I think you'll see a spike in useful stuff coming out of commercial shops followed by a slow decline as the ecosystem that comprises free Ruby code begins to shrink and eventually die off. At which point you've got a free language whose community and ecosystem is more about commercial interests than free software.

1 comment:

Cliff Wells said...

I've noticed this trend as well, although I don't think it's confined to the Ruby community. It appears the whole "web 2.0" crowd is moving to OSX. I've seen it in the Rails crowd and the TurboGears community as well. I was pretty dismayed when I attended FOSCON (a free alternative to OSCON) a couple of years ago for a Rails presentation by DHH and the whole room clicked open Macs (it was made worse by the fact the event was held at FreeGeek, which is an organization where volunteers fix older PCs and install Linux on them). Overall I found it pretty tasteless. Sort of like showing up at a food bank wearing Armani.

As far as Gems goes, I don't necessarily agree that it doesn't fit with FOSS. All mature scripting languages have a similar system (PHP/PEAR, Perl/CPAN, Python/Eggs, Ruby/Gems). Debian would like everyone to *only* use Apt, but I don't think that's a realistic goal. There are simply far too many little language-specific packages that programmers want to use and there are far too many Linux/Windows/Mac package formats for the language developers to support.