Topic: Thoughts on the Rails community

I have a bit of rant (and I hope this doesn't come off as whining, but):

I've been a developer for a long time.  I have worked on hundreds of projects in dozens of languages/platforms, but I'm super-new to rails.  I'm not claiming to be the best developer on the planet, but I'm not a newb, and I generally read and research quite a bit before I ask questions.

In light of that, I must say that the rails community is one of the least friendly, least helpful, and smug communities I've ever encountered.  I have asked several questions within this forum, and have only received one response thus far.  I asked what I thought was a relatively simple question yesterday in the AJAX forum (http://railsforum.com/viewtopic.php?id=29780)I got dozens of views, no responses, which is fine.  However, when I asked this same question on IRC earlier today the responses were basically:

- "you don't understand the difference between client side code and server side code" (which I do, trust me on that one)
- "javascript and ruby don't work together" (ummm... I asked a question about a javascript helper function in rails.  I think that kind of implies that they do work together)
- "think before you ask stupid questions" (oops, how silly of me to ask a question in a help forum or an IRC channel)
- "look at the source code" (even after I explained I had looked at lower level functions like remote_function, url_for, etc and already knew that the reason this didn't work was that the url parameter was escaped somewhere in the chain)
- "that won't work" (even after I explained I knew the code I presented wouldn't work.  I put it out there as an illustration of what I was trying to do.  Obviously it doesn't work or I wouldn't be in there asking the question, would I?)
- "that's impossible" (impossible?  Seriously?  I've met many, many great developers over the years and the one word I've NEVER heard from ANY of them is impossible.  This problem was nowhere near impossible.  I already had a solution.  I was just looking for something more elegant... more fitting the ruby and rails world)
- Someone even tried to bait me into an argument about the relative merits of javascript vs ruby (??? wtf?)

At the end of the day, NO ONE answered my question!  Now I realize that these are just regular folk online like myself, and no one is obligated to answer any question, and I'm not paying for support, rails is free, yadda, yadda, yadda.  I get all that.  But what's with all the attitude? 

I remember reading Zed Shaw's rant against the rails community briefly before getting involved in rails at all and I kind of dismissed it as the work of some frustrated, angry, slightly-crazy socio-path.  Well, he may or may not be any of those things, but I'm actually starting to see some of the claims he made of the community first-hand.

(And when I say community, I really mean railsforum and the rubyonrails IRC channel specifically)

In fact, the only time I really got any type of response here is on day 1 when I made the mistake of making the observation that the railsforum is written in php.  I thought that was kind of ironic and funny, but apparently no one else did as it seemed to touch a couple of nerves.

I repeat again I'M NOT TRYING TO START A FLAME WAR.  Please don't take this as a sign of disrespect or a form of antagonization.  I'm not trying to rustle feathers... I'm just relaying some of my experiences here. 

Has anyone else had similar experiences?

Last edited by skcuslleb (2009-04-24 22:49:39)

Re: Thoughts on the Rails community

Unfortunately when you get a group of somewhat anonymous people together online, they feel they can get a big ego or talk smack to people they don't know without repercussion. Who knows why. Maybe they lack recognition in their day jobs. I'm sorry to hear that you have had bad luck on railsforum.

I usually am able to find answers to my woes without having to specifically ask on these forums, but I do try to help out the forum when I can. (Busy family life).

I've dabbled in quite a few languages myself and have concluded that Ruby and Rails just makes sense. At my day job, I work with a bunch of Coldfusion developers. I'm so glad I don't have to write CF code. Yuck!


There are good people out there. Just look at my post history. Anyways, don't let people get you down. Rails is here to stay, and it's the only back-end language I want taking up memory space in my brain.

Thanks,
Jason

Re: Thoughts on the Rails community

Some people on IRC #rubyonrails are a bit too proud of themselves, but that's the game. Overall I find the community to great.

EDIT: remember we take from our spare time to answer questions, so if nobody answers you:
- have you considered your question to be unclear?
- pay someone

Last edited by Johnson (2009-04-25 05:35:56)

Re: Thoughts on the Rails community

schmidtjra wrote:

There are good people out there. Just look at my post history. Anyways, don't let people get you down. Rails is here to stay, and it's the only back-end language I want taking up memory space in my brain.

Thanks, Jason!

Johnson wrote:

EDIT: remember we take from our spare time to answer questions, so if nobody answers you:
- have you considered your question to be unclear?
- pay someone

I understand that, Johnson.  In fact, I said it in my post:

skcuslleb wrote:

Now I realize that these are just regular folk online like myself, and no one is obligated to answer any question, and I'm not paying for support, rails is free, yadda, yadda, yadda.  I get all that.

What I find interesting is that that is the exact answer you hear in every open source community about pretty much any problem.  Stability issues?  It's free, pay for support if you want it.  Bug?  It's free, pay for support if you want it.  People in the community suck and won't answer questions?  It's free, pay for support if you want it.

The frustrating thing here is that I wasn't looking for "support" per-se.  I figured out my own problem.  It's just that rubyists and railsists(?  I just made that up.  I think I like it) go on and on about the beauty and elegance of the language and the platform (which, admittedly are pretty sweet).  My solution was hackish and ugly.  I was just looking for something more "ruby-esque" and wanted to discuss with others to see if they (or WE) could come up with something better.  In the process, we may have all grown a tiny bit as developers.  And isn't that the whole point of IRC and forums?  It's not necessarily "support" in the commercial-software sense of the word (ie. tell me your problem and I'll come up with a solution).  It's "support" in the family and friends sense of the word (ie. tell me your problem and we'll work through it together).

And in terms of clarity of the problem as described, yes I had considered that I may have been unclear.  I've re-read my post here and I still think it's fairly clear.  However, is it reasonable to expect people to be 100%, crystal clear everytime they ask a question for the first time?  Maybe they only have a vague understanding of the problem themselves.  Is it not incumbent on anyone who attempts to answer the question to clarify the question before attempting to answer it if they are unsure?  There's nothing wrong with "I'm not sure I understand the question.  Did you mean x or y?"  However, there is something very wrong with "think before you ask stupid questions" or "you have no idea what you're talking about.  Go learn about subject z before you come back here".  Again, I'm talking about "support" in the family sense, not the commercial software sense.

I would suggest that anyone who has the urge to give the "it's free, pay for support if you want it" line first think about what you're saying and contemplate the words "community" and "forum" and "chat channel".

Re: Thoughts on the Rails community

One thing I find interesting is that you have responses from the chat channel, but you don't have your questions that you asked. I have been in said chat channel quite a few times and I won't deny that certain people can be a bit abrasive or dismissive, but I have also witnessed a few other things as well.

1) Poor Questions
By this I don't mean stupid questions, I mean questions that don't mean anything, don't mention what is trying to be achieved, and then a reluctance to pastie code which is the easiet way to help anyone who needs help fixing some code.

2) Hostility
A lot of people who go in there and ask for help/advice are doing things that are just plain awful and after they ask their question and people, often quite politely, tell them that's not a good way to do X, why don't you try Y approach, they get angry and start yelling about their original problem anyway and why can't they just be told how to fix it. It is normally at this point where the guys in IRC will start saying you don't understand X or Y .... Now from my point of view, if X is bad and Y is better you just have been told how you probably should approach that problem now.

I don't know anything about you or what really happened, I have seen no code or chat transcripts, and TBH that's not even my point, the point is that if you spend a lot of time in #rubyonrails then you will see the volume of just plain idiots who seem like they don't really want to be helped, they just want to complain about something.

So whilst you not have been helped, from the other side of the fence it is easy to see how your request may have been lumped in with the crowd, although without any indication of the subject matter or your input to the chat no one really knows who is right or wrong.

Re: Thoughts on the Rails community

cherring wrote:

So whilst you not have been helped, from the other side of the fence it is easy to see how your request may have been lumped in with the crowd, although without any indication of the subject matter or your input to the chat no one really knows who is right or wrong.

I posted a link to my question in the original post.  That was the question I asked on IRC.

Granted, many stupid questions are asked in forums and IRC.  Is that really an excuse for hostility?  Not really.  If a question REALLY is that terrible then just don't respond.

I can pretty much guarantee my question is not so stupid that it warrants put downs or ridicule.  If it's such a simple, stupid question then why hasn't anyone still answered the original post?

Re: Thoughts on the Rails community

Well I had a look at that and posted a question just to clarify something, but the post does lack a bit of context which can really help people who may be inclined to help.

Re: Thoughts on the Rails community

I find when something I ask doesn't get answered right off, I tend to reiterate the question in another way, while at the same time keep plugging away and try to find out more of the issue.

Also, the time of day and the day itself does seem to make a difference. It seems if you post at night, there are not as many people on at the moment. Also on weekends, people like to get out and do stuff, which is cool, but you just have to wait until they hermit back into their underground lair and get online tongue.

My 2 cents to you is, don't take non response as negativity. I know I myself when I do get on tend to first look for unanswered posts that I can either solve for someone, or guide them in the right direction.

It is frustrating sometimes when you ask something, and it seems to never get answered, but consider the fact that everyone here isn't paid to say anything; they post answers out of generosity, so also just ensure that you don't get the "entitled" mentality towards this either if you know what I mean.

Anyway, I hope myself and the rest of the railsforum crew can help your Ruby/Rails learning a bit smoother in the future.

Re: Thoughts on the Rails community

I spend a lot of time in the IRC channel, and at least skim every post that comes across here. If I'm not busy and I know an answer (or at least an approach) to a question posted here, I try to help. But like every other developer, I have commitments on a lot of different fronts and don't always have (or take) the time to answer (or even thoroughly read) questions. And I will admit - I never ever go back and read un-answered posts - I either have the time when they first come across, or I don't.

That's just me.

Now, as others in this thread have said, #ror has its share of asses. But it has its share of decent, kind, helpful people, too. Sometimes it's just a matter of timing - being there when the ass-to-non-ass quotient is relatively low. smile

But yes, the greater detail you provide, the better you format your pasties, the more receptive you are to offers of help (even if they suggest an approach you hadn't considered), and the less pedantic you come off, the better you will fare in the IRC channel, in general.

Re: Thoughts on the Rails community

danabrit wrote:

Now, as others in this thread have said, #ror has its share of asses. But it has its share of decent, kind, helpful people, too. Sometimes it's just a matter of timing - being there when the ass-to-non-ass quotient is relatively low. smile

LMAO

Nice. smile That's a hell of a way to put it, but true enough... wink

Re: Thoughts on the Rails community

I was feeling the same way... I asked a dead-simple n00b question, got only one reply from danabrit up there (Thanks btw! Great resources, didn't know a few of them. Though I wish you addressed the main question I had there... sigh... I know I wasn't clear, but I can't be - I don't know what I'm talking about, that's the help I need). Don't get me wrong though, I know there are a fair share of dim-witted tubelights out there (especially when I was learning CSS... gawd, designerstalk was ruuude. Sitepoint was great for me though...)
( http://railsforum.com/viewtopic.php?id=29898 )

Last edited by azharc (2009-04-27 15:55:40)

Re: Thoughts on the Rails community

I'm sorry you had a bad experience here at Rails Form and didn't find the answers you were looking for.

Personally, though, I've had the opposite experience with the rails community. I've always found them to be quite helpful, friendly, and welcoming.

Not that I'm in any way denying or minimizing your own experience, just saying that mine has been the polar opposite.

I don't think IRC is the best medium for getting advice. IRC channels tend to attract a lot of 'script kiddies' asking stupid questions, and that means the people there who can answer questions are often plauged by those types of things... It leads to a lot of impatience on their part, because they've seen the same thing 1000x before or they know the person asking hasn't bothered to do their research first, or isn't going to listen to them anyway, etc. So it leads them to jump to conclusions about everyone who comes in and the nice guy who's trying but is just generally confused can sometimes illicit the wrong reaction. I've seen ti happen a million times, not in the rails channel, but elsewhere. I've never been in the rails channel.

Re: Thoughts on the Rails community

I have to say this forum saves my butt more times in a day than I often can count - mostly through the use of the endlessly useful search feature. Over and over again I find the answer to my problem already cleared up, and I move on.

My questions here - when properly framed - often are answered before I can finish my next cup of coffee. And if it's not answered right away - I take a good hard look around and often see why.

I do watch out for the date especially the year of the posts - Rails is moving right along and sometimes those answers aren't so right any more - there's often an even easier way.

Anyway - I want to thank this lovely forum. Calculating the helpful to assful ratio seems to always cause a divide by zero exception.