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Just For Fun

Wherein I think about how to have more fun and present the results at RubyConf 2009.

This year was my fourth RubyConf. I’ve always come away from RubyConf energized and inspired. But, I’ve yet to follow through on that in a way I found satisfying. I have a feeling I’m not alone in that camp.

This was the first year I’ve given a presentation at RubyConf. At first, I had intended to use this watershed-for-me opportunity to ask whether Ruby was still fun. There’s been a number of “drama moments” since my first RubyConf; I thought it might be worth getting back to my early days of coding with Ruby, when I was exploring and having a great time turning my brain inside out.

As I started researching, it turned out that there are a lot of people having fun with Ruby. Some are doing things like writing games, making music or just tinkering with languages. Others are doing things that only some of us consider fun. Things like hacking on serious virtual machines, garbage collection, and asynchronous IO frameworks.

So, back to my talk. I saw my failure to harness the motivation what I’d seen at previous years at RubyConf as an opportunity to figure out ways to line up some tactics to make sure that after the conference, I was able to create awesome things, contribute them back to the community, and enjoy every minute of it.

Thus, I came up with a sort of “hierarchy of open source developer needs”. At the bottom is enjoyment; there’s little sense doing open source work if you’re not having fun. Once you’re having fun, you probably want to figure out how to find more time for making codes. Once you’re making more codes, you want to figure out how to get people interested in using your stuff. I’ve taken these three needs and identified several tactics that help me when I find myself in a rut or unable to produce. Call them patterns, practices, whatever; for me, they’re just tricks I resort to when the code isn’t flowing like I want to.

The talk I ended up with is equal parts highlighting people in the Ruby community that are having fun and highlight ways to enjoy making things and contributing it back to whatever community you happen to be part of. I hope that I avoided sounding too much like a productivity guru and kept it interesting for the super-technical RubyConf crowd.

If all of this sounds interesting you, grab the slides (which are slightly truncated, no thanks to Keynote) or watch the recording from the conference itself.


I wrote the proposal for this talk right after Why disappeared himself. His way of approaching code is what inspired me to write a talk about getting back to coding for fun. “Just for Fun” starts with a tribute to Why the Lucky Stiff. The sense of fun and playfulness that Why had is important to the Ruby community. I’ve tried to highlight some of his most interesting playful pieces. And in the end, I can’t say “thanks” enough. Why has inspired me a lot and I’m glad I got to meet him, experience him and learn through his works.

Even if you don’t take a look at my presentation, I strongly urge you to give a look at some of Why’s works and let them inspire you. My favorites are Potion and Camping.


Some other things I mentioned in my talk as interesting or fun:

By Adam Keys

Telling a joke. Typing.