Ruby Heroes

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Nominations are currently open for the annual Ruby Hero Awards. This is your chance to say “thank you” to somebody who has helped you out or made the Ruby community a better place in the last year.

These awards are the brainchild of Gregg Pollack from Envy Labs . He launched them in 2008 to recognize all the amazing people in the Ruby community who selflessly give up their time to help others:

 I was amazed how some people spend so much time and effort selflessly helping other people.  We would cover their work on the Rails Envy Podcast on a weekly basis, but I feel like there needed to be something more.

The ways they help are myriad – creating an awesome Ruby Gem, helping people out, organizing events, contributing to and improving documentation or even just being a vocal evangelist for Ruby. There are no prizes, but there is an impressive looking trophy that is presented to the six winners each year at RailsConf. They all go up on stage and receive a great big round of applause from the conference delegates. Gregg’s motivation for organizing the awards is simple:

My hope is that it gives them the motivation to keep doing what they’re doing.

The winners are nominated by the community – all you need to do is write down why your nomination deserves to win. But this isn’t just a straightforward popularity contest – the winners aren’t decided by who gets the most votes. In fact one of the aims of the awards is to try and get people noticed and give some publicity to their work. You might think that the list of past winners reads like a whos who of superstars in the Ruby community, but, believe it or not, many of them were not so well know before winning the award. With this in mind, the winners are actually chosen by the previous year’s Heroes.

Speaking of which, last year’s heroes were Darcy Laycock, Jonas Nicklas, Loren Segal, Michael Hartl, Ryan Bigg and Steve Klabnik.

Darcy won the award for his efforts in the Ruby Summer of Code to bring RVM up to version 1.0. He also helps out with Youth Tree, developing websites with Young people, takes an active role in his local Ruby on Rails user group and is one of the organizers of Rails Rumble. He was pleased to win and felt humbled by the award:

It felt pretty awesome, and I got a pretty awesome Ruby Heroes trophy. I felt a bit out of place (considering how well recognised the other winners were and how awesome their contributions to the ruby community have been)

Jonas won the award for creating such amazing gems as Capbayra and Carrierwave amongst others. He said that the Ruby Hero award totally blew his mind, especially when he saw the names of the previous Heroes. He added that developing open source software can get you down at times, as it feels like your work isn’t always appreciated. But getting the Ruby Hero award helped to motivate him to continue writing awesome gems:

Every once in a while, I get one of those amazing messages, where someone just drops in to say thank you and tell you they appreciate your work. The Ruby Hero award is that times a hundred. It’s motivated me hugely to see that so many people are grateful for the work we do.

Loren won the award for creating YARD, the documentation generation tool that has made creating documentation so much easier for the everybody in the Ruby community (and in many cases got people actually writing documentation!). The award made all his hard work seem worthwhile:

It was pretty great to win the award– certainly validating all the work I put into trying to improve documentation in the community over the last 4 years.

Michael finally got to be a Ruby Hero last year after receiving lots of nominations in previous years. He is the author of Railspace and creates Rails Tutorials that have helped thousands of people learn Rails. He turned down a lucrative book deal so that he could give this material away for free.

It felt great to have my work acknowledged in such a public way, and it was an honor to share the stage with so many awesome people.

Ryan is one of Rails’ biggest contributers and most if it is related to documentation, including a large number of contributions to the Rails Guides. He is also the co-author of Rails 3 In Action and is a big supporter of Rails Camp. He regularly helps people out, testified by his amazing Stack Overlow score of 25970.

Steve won the award for the work that he did to ressurect some of Why‘s orphaned projects including Hackety Hack, the Shoes library. He is also a big contributor to, the Timeless repository, Changelog podcast and Ruby Mendicant University.

As you can see, it’s possible to win a Ruby Hero award for a variety of different things. But what all of the Heroes have in common is the huge amount of time that they put into helping others for free. There is also a large amount of mutual repsect for their fellow Heroes – many of them saying that they felt honoured to be mentioned in the same breath as the other winners.

Winning the award meant a lot to each of last year’s winners. It also leads to more exposure of their work and opportunities to speak at conferences, as Darcy Laycok pointed out:

I had the luck (along with some of the other winners from last year and previous years) to get the chance to speak at a conference in Ukraine about Rails, Ruby (and, in my specific case, using them with deep JavaScript integration).

You can watch the whole of last year’s award ceremony on Youtube. After I watched the video, I was inspired to both try and do more to contribute to the community and also try and say thank you more often when somebody helps me out, either directly or indirectly.

I think that the Ruby Hero awards are a great idea. It serves as a massive metaphoric slap on the back for all those people who give their time up to make the Ruby world a better place. How many times have you used a tutorial on the Internet or used a gem and didn’t have to pay a penny for it? The next time you find something useful, no matter if it’s a big project or small blog post, try to send a quick email or tweet to say so. A sincere thank you  message telling somebody how much they have helped you can often mean so much more than any monetary rewards. Everybody likes to hear nice words every once in a while and it is a real motivator for people to keep doing what they do.  I love it whenever I get a tweet notification from somebody saying they enjoyed one of my blog posts – it’s such a small thing, but it makes my day.

We should all be proud that these awards exist in our community and do as much as we can to support them. I think Darcy Laycock summed it up best when he told me:

As a rubyist it not only made me feel proud about my contributions but also about the community as a whole (and the fact something like the Ruby Hero awards exist).

So if you haven’t already – put a nomination in for somebody who has helped to make the wonderful Ruby community better. Tell us who you have voted for and why in the comments. And next time you find a useful piece of software or blog post … remember to say “Thank You!”

Darren JonesDarren Jones
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Darren loves building web apps and coding in JavaScript, Haskell and Ruby. He is the author of Learn to Code using JavaScript, JavaScript: Novice to Ninja and Jump Start Sinatra.He is also the creator of Nanny State, a tiny alternative to React. He can be found on Twitter @daz4126.

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