I’ve really enjoyed participating in the friendly public community chat group on slack, Ruby on Rails Link. Since I joined several years ago, I’ve had the privilege of being able to help out a lot of beginners to rails, ruby, and programming in general. I’ve also learned lots of valuable lessons myself, both technical and non-technical. Due to ongoing active participation over time, I’ve become an admin of the slack team and have learned a lot of lessons through serving as a moderator as well. It’s been quite rewarding to be able to assist folks with their technical troubleshooting, debate the pros and cons of code style decisions productively, exchange career growth pointers, and make some friends along the way.
This group has grown dramatically since I first joined, and it’s remained surprisingly easy to moderate. We haven’t grown much in the way of rules and policies. From early on, we talked about not adding more structure than was necessary, and have gotten incredible mileage from having one main rule: “Be kind.” It was originally “be nice” but was revised based on some discussion about the semantics. Unlike many other “open” slack groups, it was decided to not create topic channels liberally, which has led to a “ghost town” effect in other groups where there are hundreds of topics but only a few with any real activity. Members pop into channels that are of interest, post a question, see no activity for days, and eventually leave. By restricting our topic channels to a select set of essentials, and only expanding the list by popular demand or to address ongoing channel congestion concerns, we have kept a lively flow of engaging discussion going most of the time, and it’s reasonably uncommon for someone to ask for assistance and receive no response.
A community is an organic thing that evolves spontaneously over time, and is not generally subject to direct control, no matter what kind of planning or policies are in place. Without taking any credit, I’ve grown quite proud of how this team of strangers from around the world has managed to expand dramatically and still generally remain so welcoming, friendly, and productively helpful for so many people.
It’s not flawless by any means, but I don’t know of any other place on the web quite like it. If you’re interested in ruby programming at any level, I highly recommend joining and asking a question or two, or try offering some assistance to someone else looking for help.