Hooked on a Railing
Reviewing recent history (last three or four years) I acknowledge that David Heinemeier Hansson is a rock star, and not to be confused with David Hasselhoff. While Mr. Hasselhoff’s gifts to the world have included ending communism in Europe,and blessing us with this little musical gem (see video below), Heinemeier Hansson is no more hooked on a Railing, than he is focussed on the future, and helping to shape it in a very D.R.Y. way. (For the uninitiated, David Heinemeier Hansson is the creator of the influential Ruby on Rails framework. D.R.Y. is one of the motto’s of his Agile framework : Don’t repeat yourself).
But the two David’s do share a common influence, inspiring thousands of would be, could’ve been, and other sufferers of a vague inferiority when in the presence, of one of the David’s. Once the malady has been diagnosed, it is far too late to help. When the 40 year old comes home with his shirt unbuttoned down to his beer belly, lifts his sunglasses to peek over the windshield of his GTO convertable, and sighs with satisfaction at a sideways glance into the rearview mirror, everyone knows to keep a solid distance, or to risk being assaulted by more manliness than you can fit in a can. Delivered with that sublime sensitivity only the Hoff could deliver (and right over the Iron Curtain, too!)
Night’s shadow does not draw a deep enough curtain to conceal the irrational exuberance of ambitious projects started on sourceforge, often with great promise, but lacking in that one key element which turns a brainstorm of well groomed linguistic marvels, into revision 1.01. The tabloid bloggers, eager to drop a name, or shout out the programming paradigm particular to patterns and practices in Python, Ruby, or OCaml, rush to lift up each new “framework” which is presented, and decree that it is adorned with those favorable qualities of the day. A sprinkling of buzz phrases in sketchbook of unfinished ideas, a mention of Scaffolding, or Lazy Evaluation, or principles of REST, or Object Relational Mapping, brought out and paraded before the willing, drive an embarrassed sigh, and a few muffled chortles, from gawkers and standers by. It was supposed to mean something at some point in its development, but was utterly lost in the circumstance, schedule and the sense that it lacked that Quality of David (QoD), that some would understand. Each vocal group after Ruby on Rails, Groovy on Grails, ColdFusion on Wheels, Gypsy Lispers on skateboards, thinks they’re bringing the Esperanto of computer languages to the table. But William Shatner never got the memo that he was to be your spokeperson.
2005, David was ordained Hacker of the Year, by Google. That carries more prestige than being knighted by the Queen of England, in some people’s books. And the rock star elite are vaguely aware that they have drawn onlookers, and groupees, and Iwasthere’s, and hopers for the startup which makes billions, and mostly curious people who wonder, what it might be like. Hacker of the Year, not Corporate Evangelist, which is more common than a PHP Programmer these days, the title worn and bruised, the position carrying as much weight as a marketing director, but it beats having to wear a funny hat.
Standing from up in the bleachers, I can see, a plethora of programming languages, frameworks, ontologies, most of them being a halfhearted attempt to imitate what their creators don’t understand. And so there is always so much rubbish, but it is so hard to tell while the game is on and the lights are bright. Once the game has been played, and the locker rooms have cleared, it will be the rubbish that is blown aimlessly over the field of dreams, and the self deluded who have wandered into another romance with their own image. It’s a distraction, an amusement, and a little sad, all at the same time. Occasionally, I feel like I should lean over a railing.
The burst of creativity, regardless of how misguided it is, in some cases, is reminescent of the old days of the late 1990’s. The winners and the successes and the shared glory of all of humankind will be the headlines we remember. Creativity and innovation can be messy, but it’s one of the key reasons why I am in this business.