Monday, September 25, 2006

Communities, Ghettos, Walls, and Bridges

The recent creation and announcement of the Yahoo Developers Network for Ruby has been generating a bit of discussion. I think it's another good thing for the Ruby community — to a degree.

Unfortunately (there's always an unfortunately, isn't there?), I think there's a stumbling block in the way. Along with the web page featuring a small, but useful, collection of tutorials and links, Yahoo has created the ydn-ruby mailing list. This is where they went wrong.

Branding is important to corporations and to large projects, but in this case, Yahoo's desire to brand their Ruby efforts, they've created a division in the community. It might not be extremely visible yet, but it's there, and it will likely grow. Today, there was a message about Sun's recent JRuby move. In addition to being wrong about when Sun hired Charles and Thomas, it was a message sent to the wrong place. Other information will be duplicated on both the ydn-ruby and the ruby-talk lists (and not alway correctly). It won't be long before parallel threads diverge, and the aggregate amount of information becomes harder to organize and make use of. This might seem like a small thing, but imagine the developer who comes to Ruby through ydn — what reason will he have to go look at ruby-talk and what will he miss out on because he doesn't?

Yahoo is, in effect, building a ghetto for themselves and their users. It's going to be difficult to keep this from being a bad thing, but it's worth the effort. What really needs to happen is a few people with respected voices need to take the time to poing ydn-ruby users at ruby-talk everytime non-ydn specific traffic is posted to the list — break down the walls and get traffic where it really belongs. Of course, getting publicity off of ydn-ruby and onto ruby-talk is important too. Someone should help ensure that major announcements get corssposted to ruby-talk. Maybe someone could start doing a weekly summary (once ydn traffic gets to be big enough to warrant it. There are a lot of opportunities here, they'll all take work, but I don't think there's another way.

A much better approach would have been to piggy back on the existing ruby-talk mailing list. When there is enough ydn specific traffic to warrant it, then think about splitting off to a separate list. By that time, you'll have attracted Rubyists to ydn, and established a relationship between ydn developers and ruby-talk. It's a much better solution all around. It's too late now to do that for ydn, but hopefully the next big company to start a Ruby movement of some sort won't follow in these particular footsteps.


Anonymous said...

I really don't know if this is such a big issue. The YDN is supporting different languages and would you beleive that Yahoo established for each of them an own discussion domain - and people are no longer using other information resources?

Of course there are topics that belong only to ydn, but if people are searching for information they will always have a broader look at these topics. Maybe this is a more general problem of duplicated information in the Internet at all.

If you want to attract developers, than make the mailing list medium more attractive! Care for newbies, give good interfaces, give searchers a chance to find answers using Google and show them how easy it is to subscribe.

Anonymous said...

We can just take shifts posting a daily "The REAL Ruby mailing lists are at ..." reminder.

gnupate said...

How many of the YDN users in the other domains use the regular list too? And how many of the regular list users have migrated their Yahoo specific discussions onto the YDN list. I don't know that it's a big deal, I just think it's counter-productive.

Ha! You go first.