The Problematic Rails Attitude

Martin Fowler, on the problem with core Rails community members' attitude towards making offensive presentations (original emphasis):

The reaction of the rails leadership thus far is to deny the offense. I'll say now that I don't believe they are sexist. I believe that they didn't think the talk would give this much offense - and even that they don't think the talk should give offense.

I haven't been using Rails often enough to watch closely the community's movements or to participate actively therein. I do have some first-hand experience with that kind of denial, though. A while ago, Rails contributor Michael Koziarski made a hubristic change on the country_select menu helper that was almost universally used in every Rails-powered e-commerce site. My country, Taiwan, was changed to "Taiwan, Province of China" on the grounds that it conformed to the ISO country names. Many Taiwanese Rails developers felt offended and posted their protested, but Mr. Koziarski's first reaction was to blame the developers on Twitter, then decided to remove the helper from Rails altogether, making the helper a plug-in while keeping his hubristic change intact in it, saying it's up to developers to pick whatever country list helper they like.

There is a pattern here. Fowler goes on:

So where does this go? I won't attempt to predict the future, but there is a scenario where this little presentation may be seen as a defining event in the rails story. This doesn't mean that people will suddenly leave in droves, but it does begin with a few departures, such as Mike Gunderloy's. The community continues with more alienating events, encouraged by the fact that those who are more sensitive are no longer around to object. This encourages more departures as people don't want to be associated with such a community. Thus develops a positive feedback loop making the rails world increasingly brash and unwelcoming for many of us.

For me the country_select incidence was the defining moment at which I decided not to take any more interest in the framework other than when practicality requires. Fowler and others make a point there that technical merit isn't the sole factor a software project stands. Since software project is about people, the problematic Rails attitude is probably driving out more potential contributions in the long run than the innovations it has achieved (and since then many other frameworks have caught up or at least closed in).