Hacker anathema: all about Zed

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Read Rails Is a Ghetto. You’ll love it. It’s Guilty Pleasure of the Year for web devs.

This is the kind of post that gets latched onto for many reasons. Some are cheering, “Yeah, fuck yeah! Tell those motherfuckers off! Down with Rails! Ruby is the sux0r!” Some pass it around with, “Whoah! Check out this guy harshing on Rails.” And there’s still, “I always knew that dipshit was a rat. When he left, Rails lost its major defect. Good riddance.”

No one likes the f-word more than I [well, except for Matt Trout but my hair is longer; take that, subspace]; and I didn’t invent the ad hominem but I get a free license for consistently promoting it. When you write an ostensibly professional essay—in this case implicitly so because it’s entirely concerned with paid software development—the f-word doesn’t really belong. Zed clearly identifies it as a rant. In Internet parlance the term rant has steadily been losing its foaming-at-the-mouth, put-a-bullet-in-that-mongrel connotations. It’s being replaced with self-righteousness. It’s also the kind of bullshit qualifier that lets people do things they know to be wrong. “This is a rant, okay? So I don’t have to be held to any standard. No tag backs.”

Let’s start with what he basically started with–

Remember that I’ve studied enough martial arts to be deadly even though I’m old, and I don’t give a fuck if I kick your mother fucking ass or you kick mine.

There are few studios, dojos, or dojangs where that sentence would get you anything but asked not to return to study. Maybe for a week, maybe forever. I’d like to call it profoundly moronic, but as you know, regarding online life, it’s entirely trite. Nothing screams loser—or 15 year-old, or wife beater, or gonna bring a gun to work someday, or…—like opening an essay with the threat of physical violence.1

Zed progresses to discuss what every SDE with half a kilo of gray matter already knows: the tech world is full of half-assed pseudo-hackers who can get away with selling awful services and worse code because the CEOs who hire the managers think MBA is short for Must Be Awesome!

Zed does hit many high, clear notes.

Where I work the company is willing to blow huge amounts of money on a consulting firm or hardware, but ends up firing people when times get tight. It’s a universal mass hysteria that paying $100 – $200 per hour for a group of consultants is preferable to simply hiring good employees. At the rates companies pay these consultants they could hire 4 full time employees.

Stuff like this makes me want to cheer because I saw Amazon do the same thing and it hurt like hell. So, he gets an olé or two out of me. The rest, innards of Rails kind of stuff, is interesting from a nerd-view, which I take. Several Perl hackers I really respect more or less left Perl for Ruby. I considered following.

Whatever you think, or don’t,2 about this site, I wrote the code, and in 2007 it served well over 2 million human session pages plus, and this is just a guess from past ratios, another 10-15 million or more pages to robots. A few bugs now and then but it just served a 50,000 page day a couple weeks ago with barely a groan. It’s written in Perl and run on a budget host. It’s the third version of the site software. The first two were custom and a lot like Blosxom before (the first, just barely) there was a Blosxom. The last was in Catalyst. Ain’t never going back.

I didn’t start rewriting it in Perl and Catalyst. I started with Ruby and Rails. Why? Almost an even split between these: the hackers I admire who love Ruby; the hype behind Rails was enormous; I like learning brand new stuff.

A few downloads and installation builds later I was following the QuickTime movie tutorial for starting a new Rails application. And failing. It wouldn’t work right. I had Ruby in correctly. I had all the code. My plain old Ruby test scripts were running. I started over repeatedly to make sure I was following the demo correctly. All of the sudden I started to remember things like the fact that Perl is much faster than Ruby and it has native utf-8 and Ruby doesn’t. Perl has the CPAN and while Ruby has gems, I can think of a dozen little packages, at least two I wrote, gems doesn’t cover and I don’t have time to learn to rewrite.

I didn’t want an app out of the box doing autocompletes with a huge JS library, I just wanted to see “Hello World!” feel some satisfaction and dig in. I wanted to have fun. Which is what Perl hacking almost always is. I found Catalyst after some searching. It was brand new. I had it completely installed in 2 minutes3 and I was running a demo application 30 seconds later.

Not to bag on Rails. I’m not. I’ve never written a stick with it and its hype is still strong; though so is Java’s but that’s another horse of color. Just to put Catalyst out there. It is a lovely framework and I’m grateful I found it which led to being paid really quite a lot of money to hack with it today. But still… I’m curious about Ruby and Rails. So…

…back to the rant. We learn that Zed wrote some nice software and tried to stop some dicks from foisting some obviously bad software on others. Great. We learn that he was barred from employment via the bureaucratic machinations of the tech world. Mmmmm. Yeah, maybe.

The problem with this style—in spite of some obviously adroit points and insider info—is what comes across strongest is the wounds, not the injustice. You can admire someone who takes it like a man, as it were. Someone who starts swinging and squealing like an ADHD kid at a piñata, expecting it will burst open with the sweet candies of revenge, just ends up looking kinda sorry and finding out revenge gives you a bad stomach. It isn’t that it’s wrong to get even. Getting even is great. It’s wrong because pursuing it cripples you inside in ways that become more and more visible and harder to escape the deeper you get.

You want to root for him. You can’t. You want to seek him out for a beer and maybe discuss a coding project. You can’t. You can’t because you might say or do something wrong someday and end up immortalized online as a “pilsner fresh fat fuck who eats donut hamburgers and only gets exercise when he plays World of Warcraft on a DDR pad.” And while that might be an apt description of so-and-so, most of us don’t know Zed from Adam and I’d wager that fewer of us have any desire to get to now.4

1 Reciprocal or otherwise. It’s not even good comic opera anymore. “Ashida Kim” wrecked it for everyone.

2 I make no assumptions.

3 Caveat: that was then. Catalyst through various convolutions has been at times nearly impossible to install and lately pretty easy again.

Fabienne: Whose rant is this?
Butch: It’s a screed, baby.
Fabienne: Whose screed is this?
Butch: It’s Zed’s.
Fabienne: Who’s Zed?
Butch: Zed’s dead, baby. Zed’s dead.

4 comments · Commenting is closed
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Re: Hacker anathema: all about Zed

Hey I was just telling Riley the other day that this guy in some ways reminds me of a young Mr. Pond back in the day. When is perl 6 coming out...maybe I might just switch back.


By Ransom on 6 January 2008 · 20:17

A is A

Re^2: Hacker anathema: all about Zed

Yep. Learning to write politely to customers who were either rude, wrong, or stupid was one of the best things I ever learned. Slowly came back around to how I, sometimes, do things in other venues. In professional life, always. On here and other sites… mmmmm, well, sometimes is better than never. Maybe. Sometimes never seems better.

Wish you were still in town.

By A is A on 6 January 2008 · 20:58

chris holmes

Re: Hacker anathema: all about Zed

That's master R, i take it, remembering an AP of yore.
i still bore on about the day he sent you that screeching "Hey, i'm surfing porn" trickeroo that boomed out to all the phone reps trying to do a serious job. but i'm not here to ramble on about that but to say, 'good reply to that somewhat twittish baldie with his rant. and is he deliberately playing a left-handed guitar right handed to make it less easy? i didnt get that.
nor did i get his wince-making reference to his martial arts skills. from my limited experience w is that field, the moment someone refers to themselves admiringly in that fashion is the moment i dismiss them and any claim to understanding a jot about whatever theyre blathering on about.

wordwrap: is it just me? is there something i can click my end? damn'd distracting not being able to see what's happening at the end of the line.

and i *have* put my email in. below my name as asked. ok, i'll also do it opposite. thats better.

oh, i see - it's all mal-aligned with the website field.


By chris holmes on 7 January 2008 · 04:14


Re: Hacker anathema: all about Zed

Well, reading that exorcised some of my own little demons.

Nice take on professionalism, there, Ashley. I hope Zed finds his way to a place without ice picks poking at him from every quarter.

By Vagrant on 7 January 2008 · 18:34