In a previous blogpost, I highlighted the fascinating documentaries produced by Honeypot Cult, particularly their high-value offerings under the Originals branding. The latest addition to their collection, which explores the world of Ruby on Rails, even became became a topic in the News 46/23 episode of the programmier.bar podcast
In that episode, I mentioned that while I appreciate the Ruby on Rails documentary as a whole - and most certainly love the fact that this kind of content is produced in the first place - this one in particular stood out for me.
The documentary prominently features David Heinemeier Hansson, co-founder of Basecamp and the creative/technical force behind Ruby on Rails. It’s an indisputable fact that Rails owes much of its success to DHH (as he often nicknames himself). In the documentary, Tobi Lütke (of Shopify fame) makes that point particularly clear.
But here lies the crux of the matter. DHH, in the past, has made statements and decisions that, IMHO, can be perceived as controversial. From implementing policies at Basecamp that curtail discussions on societal and political issues among employees1, to expressing skepticism about the principles of “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion”2, and even making technical decisions like unilaterally removing TypeScript from the Turbo library3, his approach has generated significant debate.
While everyone is entitled to their opinions, especially if they’re at the helm of a company (insert with-great-power-comes-great-responsebility meme here…), the documentary’s focus on Ruby on Rails, inexorably linked with DHH, opens a Pandora’s box. Honeypot, in showcasing the Ruby on Rails story, missed an opportunity to provide its audience with a more nuanced understanding of the person behind the framework.
Let me be clear—I’m not attempting to cast a shadow on Ruby on Rails or Honeypot. Nor am I attempting to answer the (age-old) question of whether one can separate the art from the artist (everyone needs to make up their own mind about that). My point merely is that Honeypot could have improved the audience’s experience by offering some context on the individual they chose to highlight in their documentary.
In a world where technology (and thus the individuals behind it) play an increasingly influential role, a more holistic understanding of the personalities shaping these and technologies (in this case frameworks) becomes ever more important. As developers and/or users of these technologies, understanding the context surrounding the creators can lead to a more informed and nuanced perspective.