My Why Story

Chris Wanstrath:

Now we can all stop obsessing about who we think he was and instead focus on who he actually was – a prolific and inspiring hacker.

I met Why The Lucky Stiff for the first time at SXSW 2006. By some odd cosmic occurrence, he was performing during the Interactive schedule. I’m not sure the programming committee realized it would be a performance and not a panel. But there they were. All new material. Attempted audience interaction, subterfuged by the shoddy conference WiFi[1]. It was great.

After The Thirsty Cups performed, I introduced myself. “Hi, I’m Adam, glad to meet you”, etc. Then I came with my wildcard. Until I’d met him and shook his hand, I’d harbored a theory that Why was really an A-List celebrity, probably one from Ocean’s 11, that was using an alter-ego identity to share his love of Ruby. He suggested that I was, in fact, Brad Pitt. Which may be true. But I like to think that he enjoyed my theory.

One of my life-long pleasures has been making people laugh. Along those lines, a high watermark in that endeavor was when Why posted my zany Star Trek/Ruby sketch to Red Handed. I felt I had arrived; he praised my Picard impersonation!

Life is good.

I’d somewhat forgotten this, but a lack of seriousness, in the “I write weighty code, you should take me seriously” sort of way, is my best guess as to what Why’s schtick is. Lots of people have made a big deal about how unprofessional it is for him to just yank his code off the net, or about how his code was messy, stuff like this. They’re missing the point. I think Why just wanted to have fun, with code, and spread the fun, with code.

To an extent we, the community of developers who care about code and software, have forgotten how to have fun with what we do. Personally, I’m going to get right back on that.

More: Rick Olson sent me a picture from SXSW 2006, and Damon Clinkscales sent along some videos he took of the performance. Thanks, guys!

fn1. Even though SXSW was less than a thousand geeks at this time.

Adam Keys @therealadam