Update: This article generated some heat. I've published another post with some of my thoughts about the subject later.
RubyConf Brazil 2012 has just finished but the US Rubyconf 2012 will begin on November 1-3, 2012, at Denver, Colorado. While I was finishing my post about the event, I came across this trailer for Why's Documentary, to be released during the US Rubyconf, if I understood correctly.
Now, if you're new to the Ruby ecosystem, you may have not heard about this character named "Why, The Lucky Stiff". I think 2 of the best articles about him were written by a fellow Brazilian Rubyist, Diogo Terror to Smashing Magazine in 2010, titled _Why: A Tale Of A Post-Modern Genius and Annie Lowrey for Slate Where’s _why?.
He inspired an entire first generation of Rubyist around the turn of the century. He wasn't just a programmer, he was a craftsman, literally. The only one I accept calling himself an "artist" within our programming world. His most famous work is the book Why's Poignant Guide to Ruby used by many famous Rubyists you know when they first found about Ruby.
Then in August 19, 2009 he vanished.
Some say that great men are recognized only after their passing ("You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself becoming the villain"). Maybe his last stroke of genius was to commit "virtual suicide", by erasing every digital trace of his existence - he actually deleted all his work, his projects, his source codes that were available online. Thanks to technologies such as Git (by the way, this was a great showcase of the recovering capabilities of distributed versioning systems) almost all of the deleted material was recovered and you can find them in places such as here. But the fact that he disappeared and his whereabouts are still unknown kept the myth going and 3 years later he is still remembered.
In 2007 I was conducting a series of interviews with several famous Rubyists of our community. And of course, I did send an email to Why himself. And he responded in a very unexpected way. I think it's time to disclose the unabridged content of the email so you understand his exotic personality.
Date: Thu, 19 Apr 2007 17:38:59 -0500
From: why the lucky stiff <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: SPAM: Re: Invitation for an Interview for Brazilian Blog
On Wed, Apr 18, 2007 at 10:28:25AM -0300, Fabio Akita wrote:
> First of all let me introduce myself, my name is Fabio Akita, I've written
> the first brazilian Rails book called "Repensando a Web com Rails". I have a
> very well known blog in Brazil called "Akita on Rails":
It is great to meet you, Fabio. I love accomplished Brazilians and
try to fill my life with any kind of Brazilian I can find. I also
try to drink milk from a bag as often as I can.
Do you like apricots? I like mediterranean apricots only. But I am
willing to entertain new forms of apricot, as they become available.
> I adore your work! I love creative stuff and you're an artist.
I appreciate your remarks, but I have a hard time believing that
anyone would like my art. I will definitely die without recognition
and few will ever see the work I do. But I like it that way a lot!!
One of the worst things a person can get in life is recognition.
But a scalp rash is very, very bad as well. I have had some serious
scalp rashes and I also have thrown up blood quite a few times along
> So here goes the invitation: would you be available for an interview to my
> blog? We could do the usual way via Skype or Gtalk where I can record the
> chat. Nothing formal or fancy, just a conversation between two tech geeks
> that anyone could enjoy.
I'm afraid I am currently in hiding, my friend Fabio. As you may
know, I am operating as a freelance professor right now. I am
unaccredited, unlicensed with an ill-advised curriculum. There are
no international laws protecting freelance professors from
imprisonment and deportation, so am I forced into hiding.
Fortunately, I have found a rather remarkable hiding place which is
quite safe and has very colorful wallpaper and animal pelts.
I also cannot do interviews unless they are submitted in
handwriting. I also cannot respond to interviews in anything but
handwriting. There are several reasons for this rule, but the
foremost reason is that I like making people do unnecessary and
frivolous things. And forcing interviews to be handwritten is way
too unnecessary and frivolous for me to pass up, oh Fabio can't you
Anyway, it is a pleasure to know you. I hope a free cart of food
and cheese and DVDs and satin robes and super-long sofas comes
crashing into your house today!! It will all be free and courtesy
of a steep incline somewhere at a higher elevation.
Unfortunately I didn't pursue this enough, I was actually planning on sending the interview questions to him, handwritten. :-) In retrospect, I wish I had, it would've been fun.
And that was Why, an icon for the Ruby community, an original character that can't be copied or replaced and we are very lucky for having here. Explore his material, learn his style, transmit his message of education, entertainment, friendliness, mastery and craftsmanship.