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Welcome to the Ruby Community...now GTFO!

Sep 16, 2012
I’ve been in the Ruby community for about four years and I absolutely love it. I have made so many friends who are always willing to help with any questions I may have. The purpose of this blog post is to discuss a few things I’ve observed, and hopefully you’ll take away something from it.

Observe and report

There are so many different types of people in the Ruby community and the skill level ranges from brand new programmers to seasoned veterans who have programmed in many different languages before Ruby. For the most part, everyone is happy to help one another out without even thinking about it. There are times, however, where people need to step back and look at where the person needing help is coming from.
The greatest display of this is when new programmers (either to Ruby or programming in general) have questions that may have a very obvious answer. We all have to start somewhere and many veteran programmers forget what it’s like to be in the shoes of a newbie. Here are some guidelines for newbies and veterans that may help the community as a whole.

Guidelines for n00bs

Read everything you can get your hands on. Many questions that may arise have been adressed previously. Always make sure to check documentation, blog posts, and even do a little code spelunking. I’m pretty sure it isn’t possible to have too much knowledge.
Learn to search effectively. Google is your friend. I constantly forget how to do certain things in Rails and searching on Google or StackOverflow usually finds exactly what I need.
Know how to ask questions. Aaron“Tenderlove” Patterson has great tips for how he wants to see questions asked. Basically just state what you are trying to do, what results you expected, and what the actual results were. Make sure to give enough information so that people can try and reproduce the what you did. Always err on the side of too much information rather than going back and forth because you didn’t give enough.

Guidelines for veterans

Remember your roots. This is probably the biggest thing to keep in mind when helping people out. We were all new to programming at some point so don’t get upset when people ask questions that may be seem trivial.
Be awesome at answering questions. Make sure to have patience, answer questions politely and completely, and show people where they can go for further information. You want help people get to the point where they can help themselves and then help others.
Learn a new language. The Pragrmatic Programmer recommends learning one new programming language every year. This has multiple benefits but a great one is that it will keep you humble, which goes back to the first guideline.

End of the line

This blog post is meant really as a jumping off point and a way to spark some conversation about this. I hope you take something from it, either as a new Ruby programmer or as someone who’s been around the block. If you have questions/thoughts/criticisms then reach out to me on email or Twitter