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The Rails Activist Team

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When the Rails Activist team was announced earlier this month, it set the Ruby on Rails community abuzz. Their mission statement was clear and concise: "The mission of the Rails activists is to empower and support the worldwide network of Ruby on Rails users. We do this by publicizing Rails, making adoption easier, and enhancing developer support."

But even with this mission defined, questions abounded: Who are the Rails Activists? Why create a core team to facilitate community outreach? What's their role? Who better to answer these wonderings than some of the core team members themselves? Recently, I had a chance to ask Mike Gunderloy and Matt Aimonetti, two of the core team members, some questions about the genesis, purpose and direction of the Rails Activist team. Here's what they had to say.

Can you, in layman's terms, describe what the Activists' role is or will be?:

Gunderloy and Aimonetti: Our original mission statement covers the ground well. [Interviewer's note: see mission statement above] In many cases, our role is to ease friction: make it easier for everyone to know what's going on with Rails, to take the pulse of the Rails community, to publicize and supply resources for promising activism projects. We're actively working to bring people together around a variety of initiatives. In general, if something can be done to improve the ecosystem surrounding the core Rails code, we're interested.

What brought about the decision to appoint the Rails Activist team?:

Gunderloy and Aimonetti: The Rails Activist team came about as a direct result of the merger of Merb into Rails. Each project is learning from the successes of the other, and one of the clear successes of Merb was in evangelism. But the team wouldn't have been possible without the many, many distributed activism efforts that already exist within both the Rails community and the Merb community. Our role is to connect and support, rather than to do all the work ourselves.

Does the need for community liaisons rise as the Merb/Rails merger approaches?:

Gunderloy and Aimonetti: Absolutely! Though, we're looking more at external community liaisons rather than internal ones. The pre-existing Rails and Merb teams are in constant communication already, and now we're starting to work with people from other communities such as JRuby, DataMapper and jQuery as well. Of course, there was already plenty of communication with these communities on the code level; now we're starting to discuss joint activism efforts as well.

Will you guide the creation of docs that will ease code transition with Rails 3?:

Gunderloy and Aimonetti: Documentation will be one of our major efforts moving forward. This will include a multi-pronged strategy ranging from the existing RDoc and Rails Guides through the creation of a Rails Book. As Rails 3 approaches, we expect to devote considerable energy to helping people through the upgrades from either Rails 2.x or Merb 1.x.

What has the response to the Rails Activists been thus far?:

Gunderloy and Aimonetti: The response has been, frankly, overwhelming. We've had a strong outpouring of support and volunteers on our Google group and via email and Twitter. The Rails Uservoice has had hundreds of people come by to provide their opinions on which projects are most wanted by the community.

What are the key points you'd like people to know about?:

Gunderloy and Aimonetti:Rails Activism is really a community effort, not just four guys working with the core team. Activist efforts are a great way to get involved with Rails and give something back - and for many people, they can be a first step in actively contributing to Rails. (1/13/09: Gunderloy adds that the Rails Wiki Google Group is now up and running.)

Can you explain a little about how people can become involved? :

Gunderloy and Aimonetti: The easiest way to get involved right now is to pipe up on the Google group. We'll have a series of announcements of particular projects with calls for action; part of the plan is to spin off and support particular "working groups" with their own mailing lists and project planning to handle individual projects. Six months from now, we expect that there will be a variety of active projects, all providing ways for volunteers to get involved. We need everything from writers and editors and speakers to people who can write code and provide user-to-user support.

The Rails Activist core team members are: Gregg Pollack, Ryan Bates, Matt Aimonetti and Mike Gunderloy. Thanks to Mike Gunderloy and Matt Aimonetti for an insightful look at Rails Activism.

Interview: January 2009

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