David Heinemeier Hansson

October 7, 2023

One happy Rails World

Celebrating twenty years of Ruby on Rails with more than 700 happy developers packed into the coolest conference venue possible in Amsterdam was epic. Safe to say, Rails World was a roaring success. Which is deeply satisfying to conclude, because it really wasn't a given outcome when I started working on The Rails Foundation last year.

It's hard to know how new institutions are going to be received. The internet is often a poor guide for what people really think or what they really want. It's like making a new product. Until customers put their credit card in the form, you don't actually know what you've got. So this is that moment for The Rails Foundation. The rubber-hits-the-road moment.

And we couldn't have dreamed of a better launch. Everything came together to produce an absolutely electric vibe at the conference. I don't recall breathing such an air of excitement, of renewal, and of optimism since the very earliest days of Ruby on Rails.

That we managed to coordinate so many set pieces to produce such a crescendo on exactly this first week of October made it appear as though it had all been planned years in advance, not just a few short months since Amanda Perino was hired as the executive director of the foundation in February. But we had Rails 7.1 drop on the first day of the conference, the excellent new Rails documentary being screened between sessions, and I, along with many others, came with a Christmas bag full of new open source presents for all to share.

In fact, so much new stuff got introduced during this conference that we, in the Rails ecosystem, will easily spend the next several months digesting it all. From the announcement and immediate availability of Solid Cache, Strada, Kamal 1.0, as well as the previews for Turbo 8, Solid Queue, and Mission Control, my own keynote have newer been so jam-packed with fun new toys for all to share. Many others brought many more.

But it's clear that all the good vibes came from more than the sparkle of new announcements. It was as much due to the sparkle of real and deep interactions between people who were genuinely excited to see each other. Some because this was their first Rails conference, some because it was the first big Rails conference in Europe since the 2000s, and many because it had simply been too long.

We also managed to assemble the largest gathering of the Rails core team ever in Amsterdam. The ten of us, only missing Guillermo and Ryuta, got to spend some quality time together, sharing meals, discussing the future of Rails, and just recharging those social batteries the way you can only do in person. The core team consists of people whom I've worked with on the most consequential open source project of my career, in several cases for over a decade, but mostly remotely. Having fun together again, in real life, was truly a special treat.


So too was meeting countless people who professed to owe the joy of their programming endeavors to Ruby on Rails. Along with so many who've managed to build successful businesses, small and large, on this framework I started back in 2003. I must have done a hundred selfies with people, and ended up spending the majority of the conference just talking to folks from all ends of the experience spectrum.

You know how they say social media isn't real life? Rails World was the perfect illustration of that. When so much of our online discourse is sadly soaked in salty or sour interactions, we need the sweetness of being together like this to provide an antidote. Coming together around our common goals and shared interests, rather than constantly marinating in our differences, whether they be technical, cultural, or political. This is how you push up a large tent.


So thank you. Really. Thank you to everyone who came up to me to share their Rails story, to take a picture together, who, together with the incredible speaker line-up, made this conference the best possible birthday gift an open source creator and maintainer could ever wish for.

And thank you to Cookpad, Doximity, Fleetio, GitHub, Intercom, Procore, and Shopify for joining with 37signals to bootstrap The Rails Foundation, which made this all possible. And to AppSignal, BigBinary, cedarcode, Planet Argon, and Renuo who've joined since we got started to give us the confidence to know the support wasn't a fluke.

And finally thank you to Amanda Perino. Our executive director of The Rails Foundation who in just a few short months after starting a new job had to make big calls to the tunes of many hundreds of thousands of dollars to organize this incredible event in very little time at all. Impeccable execution!

I can't wait to see even more people from the Rails ecosystem at Rails World 2024 in Toronto next year. We will do it all again ✌️❤️


About David Heinemeier Hansson

Made Basecamp and HEY for the underdogs as co-owner and CTO of 37signals. Created Ruby on Rails. Wrote REWORK, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, and REMOTE. Won at Le Mans as a racing driver. Fought the big tech monopolies as an antitrust advocate. Invested in Danish startups.