Railsmagazine60x60 RailsBridge: Rebooting the Rails Community

by Mike Gunderloy

Issue: Winter Jam

published in December 2009

Mike gunderloy

Mike Gunderloy is a full-time Rails developer and contributor.

He has 30 years of experience in writing computer software across numerous operating systems and languages and is the author or co-author of nearly 50 books and hundreds of articles in print and online magazines.

Mike is the President of RailsBridge, Inc. and a partner at ActionRails, a high-end Rails consultancy that specializes in technical guidance and code review for new and existing Rails projects.

Ruby on Rails developers have long had an image problem in some circles. You don’t have to be involved with Rails for long before you run across descriptions like “ghetto,” “arrogant,” and “sexist.” To some extent, this attitude has been positively encouraged by a few leaders in the Rails community who apparently like to cultivate an outlaw persona.

Earlier this year, a group of us came together on a mailing list to discuss the state of the Rails community and our dissatisfaction with this portrayal of Rails developers. After a few weeks of discussion, RailsBridge http://railsbridge.org was born. It didn’t take us long to come up with some basic principles we agreed on:

The RailsBridge Mission:

To create an inclusive and friendly Ruby on Rails community.

The RailsBridge Guidelines:

  • First, do no harm. Then, help where you can.

  • Bridge the gap from aspiring developer to contributing community member, through mentoring, teaching, and writing.

  • Reach out to individuals and groups who are underrepresented in the community.

  • Collaborate with other groups with similar goals.

From this beginning, RailsBridge has grown to over 400 Rubyists working on a variety of projects. As an all-volunteer organization, RailsBridge has already been able to harness energy in many directions. As of mid-2009, here are our most active initiatives:

Open Workshops

http://wiki.railsbridge.org/projects/railsbridge/wiki/Workshops/ is developing open-source workshop materials and hosting workshops for new and aspiring developers to learn Ruby and Rails. They’ve already given some fabulously successful workshops and brought new people in to Rails.

Rails Mentors

http://www.railsmentors.org/ is promoting “Learn, Use, Teach, Repeat” by matching up volunteer mentors with those who want to learn everything from testing to entrepreneurship. There are dozens of mentors and hundreds of learners involved.

Teaching Kids

http://teachingkids.railsbridge.org/ has put together and taught a Shoes-based course to introduce middle schoolers to Ruby coding. Their materials are open source as well.


http://builders.railsbridge.org/ are matching up volunteers with 501(c)3 tax-exempt organizations to deliver pro-bono Rails consulting.

Rails Tutor

http://railstutor.org/ is developing a complete Rails course for beginners, together with a sample application to help in learning Rails.

Ruby Challenge

http://rubychallenge.com/ is developing a puzzle-based way to improve your Ruby skills.

In addition to these projects, RailsBridge has helped push for childcare at conferences, conducted code reviews for college student projects, and provides support to Rails developers via the #railsbridge channel on Freenode IRC. We’ve also got a long, long list of other projects that we want to tackle in the future; there’s no shortage of ideas for making the Rails world a better place.

But without volunteers, RailsBridge would be nothing. Despite the 400-plus people already involved, there’s always room for more. If you’ve ever felt uneasy about the reputation of Rails developers, or deplored the casual sexism at conferences, or wondered where the next generation of programmers was going to come from - now’s your chance to actually do something about it. Drop by our web site or join the railsbridge Google Group or #railsbridge IRC channel to find out more. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!