I had the pleasure of attending eRubyCon here in Columbus Aug. 15-17. This is the second year for the event organized by Joe O'Brien, and the first year I got to attend. Josh Holmes has put up great reviews of the sessions up on his blog.
Since I don't really want to repeat Josh, what were my takeaways from the event?
First, that I still need to get more involved in Ruby. This is just a cool language that allows you to do so much as a developer. The allure of RSpec aside, it just reads well and makes sense. So, a couple things came to mind as near term goals. First, I need to start with some simple scripts for everyday tasks, and write them in Ruby. Second, I'm going to try to wire up IronRuby to test some of my C# hobby code. Doubt I want to drag that one into the office just yet. Those two items should get the ball rolling for me.
Second, and I think the larger takeaway for me, was that the .Net community was almost totally missing. I noticed this in two areas, there were very few .Net developers in attendance, and most of the topics only recognized that Ruby people were converting from Java. There was a lot of Java venom being tossed around for that reason, but the opposite of love isn't necessarily hate. It's apathy. The .Netters took it on the chin in the apathy department.
What can we in the .Net space do about this? First and foremost, get out there and see what else is going on. There is a lot of software not written on a Microsoft platform, what can you learn from them? I'm not saying learn something top to bottom, but get ideas from others. In the end, language doesn't matter as we're all trying to solve people problems, and the better armed you are to solve those problems, the better off we are as a whole.
Before I lay all this at the feet of the .Net community, those outside the Microsoft environment have a little responsibility here, as well. When Michael Letterle and Josh Holmes were up to give the IronRuby, Silverlight double header the room cleared a good bit. For the same reason the .Net folks should look outside their comfort zone, maybe others should take the chance to look inside the big blue monster to see what's happening.
I'm well aware of time constraints and family and "I'm already learning seven other things!" and a reading list that's growing faster than it's shrinking. But, instead of hitting your fourth Day of .Net in a row, take in a Ruby or Python conference. Or, if you're already at a Ruby conference, stick around and see what IronRuby is bringing to the Microsoft and Ruby communities.
One of my favorite terms of late is Jim Holmes's "Specializing Generalist." Looking inside or outside the Microsoft space, as the case may be, will add to the Generalist side of the equation. And, who knows, may change what you decide to be a Specialist in.