Rails *is* (still) a Ghetto


While I know the title is both asking for trouble (because of the now anecdotal original article with a similar title) and flamebaity, please read on – my goal is not to get some great stats but rather to know your opinion about the situation and discuss the possible solutions of the problem.

How it all started…

I would not like to re-iterate what has been said on several blogs, just to summarize: Matt Aimonetti, member of the Rails Activists, gave a presentation at GoGaRuCo which contained sexually explicit images (according to some – I am not here to judge whether that’s true, and it doesn’t matter anyway, as you’ll see in the rest of the post).

I am not really discussing whether it’s appropriate to have images of nude chicks in your presentation at a Ruby conference (I think it’s not, it’s unprofessional etc. – but that would be a matter of a different post Update: Someone summed this up in the article’s reddit thread nicely: If you’re a Rails programmer, or a Ruby programmer, and you don’t decry this sort of thing, you have no business calling yourself a professional. It doesn’t matter how large your website is, how easy it was to write, how much better it is over PHP or ASP.NET or J2EE; by definition, you do not belong to a professional community. That’s all there is to it.
It’s incumbent on every Ruby programmer to either reject this sort of misogynistic sewage, or accept that you’re never going to advance the promotion of Rails in the public perception because members of the community still think it’s edgy or cool to put pictures of strippers in their public presentations.
And here’s a hint: if your decided reaction is to talk about how unimportant this is, how much it doesn’t matter, or how much it doesn’t offend you personally, you probably don’t understand professionalism at all.
) because sadly, I think there are far bigger problems here than that – shedding light on them is the real purpose of the article, not talking about pr0n at GoGaRuCo again.

Would You Walk Into a Hindu Temple with Your Shoes on?

hindu_temple.pngI have been living in India for 2 months last summer, working on a Rails startup. Maybe I am odd or something, but I knew that I had to remove my shoes when entering a Hindu temple, and _no one had to convince me (what’s more, I didn’t even think about it for a second) wether this is the right thing to do, why is it so, whether I should do otherwise etc_. This is a similar situation – I just don’t do X when speaking at a conference, if I suspect that X makes feel even one person in the room uncomfortable, whether because of his gender, race, nationality, Ruby/Rails skills, penis size or what have you – _regardless whether I think it’s fine for me, my wife, for other members of the community and/or the majority of the room_.

The trick is, how does a *hindu* feel when I enter a temple in footwear (even if that is perfectly acceptable in my country, culture, family, friends) – it’s perfectly irrelevant how do *I* feel in the given situation. Using the previous paragraph, try to apply this to a Ruby/Rails conference.

Shit happens…

Until this point in the story, I see no problem at all, and could even agree with the guys asking “what’s wrong with you, don’t make a fuss out of nothing” – the pictures Matt used are non-problematic in my book, and he had no idea they are problematic in anyone’s book – theoretically it could have worked, but the point is, *it did not*. Some members of the Ruby community got offended, and here our story begins.

…and hits the fan

One of the real problems is that after this has been pointed out, Matt still keeps answering “As mentioned many times earlier, I don’t think my presentation is inappropriate.”. As I mentioned two paragraph above, it doesn’t matter what do you think, unless of course, you don’t care about offending some members of the community. In that case you should not try to apologize at all. However, if you are trying, reciting “I don’t think my presentation is inappropriate” will not put and end to the discussion. It just doesn’t work. Why can’t you just simply apologize, admitting that this was a bad move (because it offended some, not because porn, sexual images or whatever in presentations are bad, per se) and finish the discussion?

Rails is Still a Ghetto

However, in my opinion that’s still not the worst part of the story, or to put it differently, some members of the Rails community still found a way to make things worse, by applauding to all this:


OK, you say, we are all used to DHH’s style, this is just how the guy is. That’s (kind of) cool, but I heard that most of the Rails core team (and obviously Matt himself) has the same opinion – and that’s a much more serious problem, because it means that a Rails activist, backed by DHH and other Rails core members finds all this OK, despite of the fact that numerous people in the community voiced their opinion otherwise.

This is not about being a closed-minded prude, shouting for police and suing everyone using sexually explicit images in a presentation. This is not even about women, as I have seen both males and females on either side of the fence. This is about mutual respect – I don’t agree with you, but respect your feelings. Or not, as demonstrated in this case.

So Rails continues to be the most socially unacceptable framework – associated with arrogance, elitism and whatnot in the past – now add pr0n images in presentations. Thankfully RailsConf is held in Las Vegas, and that should calm down all the people who associate Rails with all this crap :-). The real problem is that people associate you with the tools you are using – think Cobol, PHP, Java… or Rails. By being part of the Rails community people associate me with Railsy stereotypes automatically, which aren’t nice at all right now.

I hear you, dear creme-de-la-creme Rails (core) member, I know you don’t give a shit, and you think this is all prude babbling – because your hourly rate is more than some of us earn in a day, and you’ll be sought after even if Rails will have a much worse image than it has now. But 99.9% of us are not in the ‘circle of trust’ and would be happier if Rails would not be constantly associated with a ghetto.


In case you are wondering what does the acronym stand for, it’s “Matz is Nice And So We Used to Be Nice”. Unfortunately, the stuff I don’t like about the Rails community is sneaking into Ruby too, it seems, as the above case demonstrates. Besides this, the count of aggressive comments and reactions on various blog posts is really disturbing to me. Please (at least Rubyists) try to avoid being contaminated by all this shit and stop thinking you are cool because you can swear on a forum (always in anonymity). You don’t have to be a douchebag just because you are a Rubyist / Rails coder, as surprising as this might sound to some.


I think “incidents” like this and getting more and more antisocial members are inevitable by-products of growth in a community. The questions is, whether, and if, how, do we stop them. The problem is that it seems to me the Rails “top management” doesn’t want to stop them (what’s more, even encourages them) in the first place (please prove me otherwise – maybe I don’t see the full story – I’ll be the happiest to admit that I am talking bullshit).

I have to admit I have no clue what would be the right move – burying our heads in the sand and pretending everything is fine is not. Please leave a comment if you have an idea or anything to add.

107 thoughts on “Rails *is* (still) a Ghetto

  1. I am a professional developer who is learning Ruby. I don’t decry this. And my not decrying this makes me no less professional.

    The very idea of “guilt by association” is one I reject utterly. I am responsible for MY actions and not those of a man I’ve never met or dealt with.

    So someone associates being X (a Ruby programmer) with being a jerk / douchebag / whatever. Welcome to reality. Stereotypes abound and you don’t need to do or say anything to cause someone offense. Some people take offense by your very existence.

    As for the core community, if Matt Almonetti doesn’t want to apologize, then I see no reason to bleat about it on the net. Remember: it says more about him than it says about RoR.

  2. i didn’t find the slides offensive; it’s matteti’s approach to criticism that annoys me – it’s childish.

  3. @Max: I’m offended that you’re offended. What century did you say you were from again?

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  5. Wow,

    What a storm in a teacup. If this sort of slide were used during a marketing seminar, nobody would have blinked. Sex is used to sell stuff, thats the reality we live in. Its degrading to both men and women, and it sucks, but apparently it works a treat. Probably because in most markets the teenagers actually matter.

    It is, in my opinion, a real shame that a relatively immature approach was used to market rails, as I think it needs to be taken seriously by mainstream, enterprise, conservative types, in order to cross that nasty chasm in the adoption curve. Obviously its debatable whether or not rails has reached mainstream adoption yet – I don’t think its even close – but thats another flame war I guess.

    Offensive? Pfft, in this day and age it takes a reality TV show to offend me.

  6. This presentation makes Matt come off like an asshole. The response from many in the Ruby world has sounded adolescently defensive.

    I’m sure Matt’s a decent guy. I didn’t know anything about him until this came up. I dug through some of his code – he’s also a pretty wicked developer.

    That really doesn’t matter though, does it? As they say in the ad business, the message is the message. Am I offended by the “naughtiness” of this presentation? Hardly. Am I offended by the porn industry? Absolutely. It has nothing with puritan values. It is a disgusting and degrading venture. This is the reality: http://www.humantrafficking.org/

    What is the big story to come out of the GG RailsConf? New ventures? Better scaling? REST kicking SOAP’s ass? Or a naively offensive slide deck from an otherwise brilliant developer. This really could have been so much better.

  7. C’mon people. this is at most softcore porn – most of it is what you’d see on TV anyway. Yet some of you connect that with the porn industry and, for the love of god, human trafficking? So the first page has a hot chicks ass on it — you’d probably see that on a billboard though. Probably the 2nd most eyebrow raising is the slide on Multiple Partners — but please, that was probably something out of Maxim. The rest of the slides are totally acceptable and totally non-pornographic — unless you go by Biblebelt standards.

    And to the original poster, you keep saying what this posting is NOT about:
    – this is not even about women
    – This is not about being a closed-minded prude

    … and in my words, basically you want to rise above it with your so-called professionalism. Please GET OVER YOURSELF. You are a code monkey like a lot of people. You bleed, fart, belch and will die like the rest of us. Save your professionalism for a job interview — you’re not a lawyer or doctor.

    Just because you show Chill. You rag on about “professionalism”

  8. Jeremy McAnally +1

    Some people have suggested that because the title of the talk includes the word porn, that this is to be expected, people were forewarned. It doesn’t follow that the presentation must then include porn or porn-like images, or images at all. It was a technical talk. Pornography isn’t exclusively about women, but it is about objectification of the people in the , and in this case the images were predominantly of objectified women. This is done in an industry where women and minorities are poorly represented and often marginalized.

    It seems that Mr. Aimonetti is somewhere between regretful and sorry, it doesn’t seem his intention was to offend, he was trying to be edgy. Well sometimes being edgy means you go over the line and in this case he did. But the real issue isn’t his presentation or his response. It’s that there are enough people going out of their way to excuse or worse, support behavior that is questionable. That does reflect on the community.

    If instead, the question was about potentially racially insensitive material, would there really be any debate? Would people seriously be saying I don’t think these using these images of a Minstrel show are really racially insensitive to black people? I don’t think Jerry Lewis’s Chinese butler bit wasn’t offensive to Chinese people (watch Dragon: if this can dampen the spirit of Bruce Lee, then who is immune?). The difference between controversial or confrontational stances on Java or XML or business organization is that they are things that are not inherent to people’s makeup. Race and Gender are. People cannot change that they are born with those characteristics, so making them uncomfortable because of them is out of line. You can change your coding language, your deploy method, your business hierarchy, what ever.

    You cannot change your gender and race. Don’t make people feel uncomfortable about them. Tolerating that or encouraging that does reflect on the community and should be a source of shame.

  9. Professionalism doesn’t really seem like the issue – given some of the responses here grotesque immaturity appears to be.

  10. Can we please all get back to moving forward in a positive way? If you’re looking for something positive to do, go test a gem under Ruby 1.9. Seriously.

  11. All this talk of the “edginess” of the rails community is a laugh. Never seen a very sharp edge in any programming community. This particular example is the equivalent of a dick joke. Far too crass to be worth defending. I’m all for the proverbial middle finger at “the establishment” – as if programming has ever really fit into one – but this is stupid. The loser who made the presentation should be ashamed for his inability to inspire a crowd without trying to be “edgy”.

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  13. oops, i just lost all the respect i have for mr cooper… “artistic movements”?! wow…

  14. As a poor black boy from the ghetto, I’m greatly offended that you called ruby ghetto based on the presentation. Stop generalizing us all as perverts!!!!

  15. oops, i just lost all the respect i have for mr cooper… “artistic movements”?! wow…

    I was saying that some people consider themselves to be in a movement, not that I do. Losing the respect of someone with no reading comprehension is sad, but the lesser of many worse alternatives.

  16. Sure, temple… just the assumptions are wrong. It’s not your temple and that’s you, my dear professional cubicle hamsters who are visitors. Surprise! Take off your shoes – watch pr0n!!11 The Grand Priest approves.

  17. I’m a teetotaling vegetarian hindu and let me put it this way: I’m not offended by meat or booze in a party unless I’m “encouraged” to join them; people coming in with shoes into temples is tolerated only in case of ignorance because we expect people to notice others taking their shoes off…

    So unless the presenters were unaware of people getting offended by sexually explicit pictures in the presentation, it’s just not appropriate. It’s not “being artistic” because it’s not an optional exhibit to people who’re attending solely for observing aesthetics. And lastly it’s not a “new way” to catch onto people — this is not TV entertainment that you need alluring methods to attract people..

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  19. There’s also a valid technical reason for not splicing your presentation with snippets of imagery that may make your audience uncomfortable.

    It distracts from your message.

    There are ways to be pretty damn funny in a presentation without resorting to this kind of high school “hur hur, i said cock, hur hur” humor. Any presentation that makes someone uncomfortable (I’m not talking cognitive dissonance from seeing something that completely challenges your assumptions, I’m talking “what the fuck, did he just say/show that”).

    Shock value has its place. I look for it when I watch the comedy I appreciated.

    But having flipped through that presentation, I’m afraid to say that I’d have grimaced through most of it and gotten turned off the topic, were I there, just because of the tortured lengths the presenter went to in order to get the metaphor to work. Wow me with the technology not the pics from your collection.

    When at a tech conference, I’m there for the tech. Not for how cool you think you are (when you’re really quite lame).

  20. mm, if you find it offensive, why not simple walk out and demonstrate your non-cooperation? If enough people had walked out the presenter would automatically have got the message. If you didn’t walk out, because you felt uncomfortable walking out, well then shame on you. No point coming out of a talk and crying/whining like a baby.

    That said, I think the presentation was not in ‘great’ taste. I would have attended it if it was good technically. If not, I would have walked out.

  21. Settle down, Beavis.

    God, you Americans are true masters of getting offended by anything – be it The N-Word, The F-Bomb, or just some random guy’s random presentation.

    Do you really think it makes sense, and is a worthwhile use of your time, to throw such a colossal hissy fit over that presentation?

    The guy used pictures of women, some even scantily clad. So what? You could just note that you think it’s in bad taste, and move on. But no, you have to go on a crusade against him, and whip up a frenzy among your fellow fanatics..

    Just.. stop.

  22. “I was saying that some people consider themselves to be in a movement, not that I do. Losing the respect of someone with no reading comprehension is sad, but the lesser of many worse alternatives.”

    i’m not sad, are you sad? I did not say you consider yourself to be in an “artistic movement”, did I? but what an outrageous claim… you must have a lot of people who feel that way to back up that statement…

  23. Companies use racy pictures and video in their marketing every day. I do not hear anyone calling them unprofessional.

    Coding is the intersection of art and math, much like music. If you do not look at it as art, then I would predict with reasonable accuracy that you are a mediocre developer at best. I would also not hire you. Nor would any of the hiring managers I know.

    I would not have used the pictures in question in any presentation I did. That said, those of you who speak in absolutes and lump all of Ruby/Rails users into a single category are being quite ridiculous, proving you are reaching to try and combat the inevitable: your favorite language/framework is on its way out. Would it make sense if I concluded all Java developers are unoriginal robots just because I read it on the Internet? Would it be a valid idea if I decided .NET developers are just Microsoft fan boys because some of them I know are? (Neither of these is a jab at these categories of developers as I consider myself to be a .NET and Java developer)

    So please stop trying to predict the outcome of a technology’s future based off of at best disparate situations/information. Some of us in this profession do consider ourselves to be artists. Some of us in this industry use C++, Java, .NET, Ruby/Rails and Python and do not consider them to be in a competition. For those of you who do not want to use (insert your favorite dynamic language and/or framework to bad mouth here), I encourage you to stand your ground. It is giving my company quite a competitive advantage that I would love to sustain for as long as possible.

  24. I just looked at the presentation. I saw more sexually explicit images driving home today.

    I would like to challenge each of you that are ranting about this presentation to focus your energy on the major corporations that fill our streets with crap. However, if I had to guess, you would probably rather become one of these companies employees than call them unprofessional. Which begs the question, what is your real agenda here?

  25. John Says:
    April 28th, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    I just looked at the presentation. I saw more sexually explicit images driving home today.

    Couldn’t agree more
    Which begs the question, what is your real agenda here?
    Just some hits on his blog which he sadly gets.

    Flanders Says:

    April 28th, 2009 at 8:21 am

    less talk, more code.

    enough said! This discussion is hypocritical anyway

  26. i’m not sad, are you sad?

    In English, you can say something is sad without being sad. For example, I think child poverty is sad, but I am not currently of sad mood.

  27. I feel a lot of misplaced entitlement coming from that article. Open source developers build a framework and give it for free to other people. Other people use the fruits of their work and complain if the developers do non code-related stuff they don’t agree with.

    Besides, some people should watch some porn, just to know the difference between the images of the presentation and the label they give it. This isn’t porn people.

    The main issue I have with it that people go to a presentation that was titled “Perform like a P0rn Star” and afterwards “feel offended” or “uncomfortable”. I just don’t get that. If someone would say this in Europe the first reaction would be: “so why did you go and see it?” It’s not like there isn’t any other couchdb information on the net. There were also multiple other talks at this event at the same time slot.

    I also understand the position of the core team. What if I write a code-framework and distribute it for free? Should I watch my words so I don’t offend people, who might know some people who work with my code? This is just insane. Open source is a gift for everyone, and everybody is free (not) to use it.

  28. @Steve0 : You may be overlooking, that among those “complaining”, there’s quite a lot of people who weren’t just “given” Rails, but who have spent some considerable amount of their time making Rails better, writing documentation for it, helping Rails users with it, advocating it, educating about it, spreading news about it. And they are definitely not complaining about “porn” as much as about encouraging/discouraging impolite behaviour — or what they perceive as such –. As far as I can see.

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  31. I think we could all debate for weeks whether or not Matt’s presentation was appropriate or not. And, in the end we probably wouldn’t convince many people to change their minds. I find this whole situation very sad – instead of this community focusing on Ruby and Ruby on Rails we’re all focused on stupid bullshit that basically exists because some of the leaders of this community are focused on being “cool” and “edgy” rather than being focused on creating a good product and developing a spirit of creativity and cooperation. Some of the “leaders” of this community are just focused on being in the spotlight – “look at me -I’m cool”, “look at me – I can say fuck in a blog post”, “look at me I can show a bare butt in my presentation”, blah, blah, blah. This shouldn’t be about PEOPLE this should be about a programming language and a framework. In the end we’ll all know who the “cool” ones really are. And aren’t.

  32. Yeah… Cause sex never sells… I have never seen a professional, let alone a multinational corporation use sexual innuendo to promote a product successfully! sarcasm

    Misogynist? Yes. Unprofessional? Maybe… But no one cares that it’s all over their TV and print, so why act like it’s the end of the world in this case? Monkey see, monkey do.

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  35. anyway, what does mean “sexually explicit”? I can see nothing sexually explicit there. Even a naked women is NOT sexually explicit, it’s just a naked human being. what I am trying to say is that the problem is YOU not the pics.

  36. Damn this is really bad. I knew it, Rails is a joke and not serious for business. It is just a hippie or teen toy tool as those that sell you that can make a game in 24hrs, ROFL.

  37. pepping up a speech with some nice images.. whats the problem about that?
    people attending to professional sessions like that should be old enough to
    handle a bit of nudity.

  38. This isn’t limited to Rails, or Ruby. It’s the kind of male-centric, mysoginist, borderline autism when it comes to gender issues that we should all be used to seeing all over the technology sector. It’s the stuff of dinosaurs, and thankfully becoming the preserve of the minority. It needs to be, because these kinds of attitudes – both in the presentation and some of the comments – prevent true inclusiveness and will cause huge amounts of harm to any project.

  39. It brings me to the mind of a bunch of teenage boys in school who’ve discovered pr0n magazines for the first time.

    If the slides were of naked males in erotic poses I’m pretty damn sure there would be complaints and calls for an apology.

    The only reason this has degenerated into an argument rather than a full and fair apology is due to the under-representation of the minority who would be most offended by this. This is a horrible display of arrogant adolescent behaviour by a group of people who should know better.

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  44. It is good to read how stylish your community is, we are bored in Typo3/PHP community, maybe we should puke on a conference if it starts to get boring or something 😉 btw. i totally agree with Szinek. If a decision can make ppl happy at 0.0 cost, why not chose it?

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