Ruby and Porn at GoGaRuCo

By Deane Barker on April 29, 2009

Remember that situation where the FatWire exec used Playboy’s Cyber Girls in a presentation at Gilbane? Well, the Ruby guys have got him beat…

At GoGaRuCo (short for “Golden Gate Ruby Conference”), Matt Aimonetti gave a talk entitled “CouchDB + Ruby: Perform Like a Pr0n Star.” And the presentation slides had pictures. Here are the slides — I paged through a few of them, and didn’t see any actual nudity, but it’s close, and there’s a running joke about longevity implied throughout.

This blogger sums it up:

What might have been a short, juvenile, eye-rolling bit of humor continued throughout the talk to become increasingly disturbing. Amidst this normally warm, welcoming community, I spent an uncomfortable half hour wondering if I had somehow found myself in 1975.

The talk started out with a few gags: “size matters” (memory usage, amount of servers, infrastructure), reliability equated to viagra (no downtime, ready for traffic peaks, ready for more data), multiple partners (public interfaces, no discrimination), etc.

It got worse when David Heinemeier Hansson (Mr. Rails himself) tweeted this:

“Do you think porn is an appropriate metaphor to be used in business presentations?” — Absolutely. Especially in jest.

This page has a roll-up of comments from women who were in attendance or saw it after the fact:

Watching the RoR / DHH / pr0n / GoGaRuCo fiasco, shaking my head that some just can’t see why there would be problem.

[…] In any case, this is a good example of how insular the software development environment is. It is a boy’s club, where locker-room behavior is overlooked, and indeed, not even acknowledged.

[…] As a young women in tech, I can tell you I would be extremely uncomfortable in a classroom of thirty young men and me if an instructor used sex as a metaphor for teaching.

The episode has some people interpreting it as a metaphor for the entire Ruby/Rails community:

Ruby (and Rails in particular) loves the rock star image. You see it in job posts, how people talk about their work, and the way Rubyists rant on their blogs. It’s macho, it can be offputting to both genders, and it makes it easy in this kind of situation to say, “what’s your problem? I’m just busy being awesome”. It’s also a significant barrier to adoption for people who aren’t already a part of this culture, and don’t find it appealing.


I made the choice to use Python while browsing blogs about Ruby. In the end it wasn’t about which was the superior language; it was the simple fact that I could not stand the ridiculous posturing and arrogant attitude that seemed prevalent in the Ruby community. So you write code in TextMate on your MacBook Pro in a Starbucks; you aren’t a f*cking rock star.

I felt the same way when we first starting looking at Rails. Everyone was just so smug and looked down on anyone else who had the apparent misfortune of using any other language in the past. Because of this, it took an extra year before I even considered Rails as a platform.

My mantra used to be (and perhaps still is), “I don’t hate Rails, I just hate the people who code in it.”

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  1. Deane,

    Slight correction”this guy” is Sarah Allen so you may want to change the text to possibly “this gal”. I enjoyed her post on the issue in that she doesn’t rally judge the presentation so much as sexist as much as in “bad taste” and unprofessional.

    It’s unfortunate that Ruby on Rails is getting this reputation. I ought to sue just for the sake of keeping my name out of bad press.

  2. There has been quite a bit of discussion in the Rails community, sparked by this incident. I’m hopeful that the discussion is moving beyond a narrow focus on Matt’s talk, and forward to asking what can be done to make the community more welcoming and less dominated by the boys’ club and rockstar mentality. Not everyone involved with Rails welcomes this as being part of the wider impression of the typical Rails developer.

  3. I hate you too Deane.

    But seriously, I see what you’re getting at. I’ve noticed that this past month while I was going through sites in the attempt to teach myself RoR. So many of the people in the RoR environment out there not only have the “holier than thou” attitude but they also see MVC as THE ANSWER.

    Personally, I just see it as another tool. If you need to use RoR to complete a project, use RoR. If you need to use, use In the end you’re just a geek and Joe Blow customer could care less about what you’re using as long as it works.

    Finally, keep in mind, this Matt Aimonetti cat is of course a geek and like all geeks, we’re not known for our social skills.

  4. Thanks for the links, Deane. The female commenters on Sarah’s blog post argued their points in the most intelligent way possible. Too bad “common sense” isn’t enough of a defense against nerds and frat boys.

  5. I can’t see anything wrong with the slides, this blogpost is just an “oh let’s fuck up the ruby community” attempt.

    overall, the discussion is just… stupid…

  6. oh the worst part is the people saying that they don’t use rails because of community or because matt put a woman in the slides, how stupid is that.

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