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December 31, 2008

Retrospective 2008

I've been trying to write this post for several days. The problem is there's just so much to cover; it's overwhelming! To get past my writer's block, I'm going to structure this as "at least one, but not more than a few paragraphs per month". Let's see how it goes...


The year was rung in with a bang due to the stir over Zed's rant calling Rails "a ghetto". I did my fair share of apology on behalf of the Ruby community. As the maelstrom raged, I launched my consultancy company, Hashrocket, right at the start of the year. The initial team was the 4 developers of CityCliq: Desi, Lark, Big Tiger and myself. We start out intending to make money with a mix of products and consulting. Our stylish website (by nGenWorks) attracts a lot of positive attention, but not as much as our revolutionary 3-2-1 Launch concept. We attract our first couple of clients, including a major Fortune 100 company that we end up servicing for 9 months.

Engine Yard gets a 3.5 million Series A from Benchmark Capital which I think is the last article I wrote for InfoQ before going into an unplanned hiatus due to other resposibilities.

Mid-month I finally get fed up with Jroller and setup my own blog on MovableType. Computer World magazine calls me a "rockstar coder" in the same breath as Joel Spolsky and Paul Graham. Mostly cause of the hott pic of me on my homepage, but flattering nonetheless. By the end of the month, my book, The Rails Way, begins hitting bookshelves nationwide in earnest. Sales and reviews are stellar, a huge relief and source of satisfaction after almost two years of hard work.

All blog posts in January 2008


I post an entry on "Super Tuesday" that ends up being the most widely-read thing I've ever written: Ten Reasons I Support Barack Obama for President. I can't help but feel a little smug about the election, although it remains to be seen how he will handle the unprecendented challenges we're facing as a nation. I'm still confident everything is going to be okay. The entry ends up being my only post in February, as I start to feel the crush of responsibility involved in running a thriving business.

Addison-Wesley and I begin discussing the concept of having a Ruby conference. At first we are going to have a conference specifically about testing, eventually the idea morphs into Voices That Matter: Professional Ruby Conference or as Josh Susser christens it, "ObieConf". I have initial conversations with Zach Inglis about coming to work for Hashrocket. (He eventually spends most of the year with us.) We also double in size (with the addition of Corey, Carmelyne, Ben and Sandro) and pick up our next handful of clients, some of which are affected by a massive outage of Amazon S3. I can't remember exactly, but I think it's around this time that Hashrocket figures out that in-house product development needs to be put on indefinite hold pending available capital and opportunities.


The Rails Way is awarded a Jolt Productivity Award at the SD West show. I write about how lots of big companies are using Ruby on Rails, but Hashrocket mostly works with startups such as Event-Seek, who we first met in March. Near the end of the month I travel to Philly for the Emerging Tech conference, where I light up a big, racuous panel discussion with my valiant defense of Rails against Java and Microsoft non-believers. I also travel to SxSW in Austin where I meet Zach, Rein and the incomparable Tim Pope for the first time -- it isn't long before they guest star and then join Hashrocket.


Hashrocket continues to grow as we hire local superstars and longtime buddies Wes and Les. One of my best friends, protege and three-time colleague, Durran Jordan, joins Hashrocket. Big Tiger's brother "Veez" joins the team too. Nepotism is awesome, as long as you have talented and hardworking friends and family!

We are introduced to Pivotal Tracker, which immediately takes hold and changes Hashrocket project management forever.

At this point in the year the stress of the job is already grinding on me. I manage to take a week off to vacation with my kids, flying us to Toronto for some sight-seeing and snowboarding, albeit way too late in the season.


One of my favorite photographs is published in Denver's 5250 Magazine as a two-page spread, scoring me some extra cash and photography cred. Unless I'm mistaken, Hashrocket doesn't grow in May, which is a surprise to everyone. We do, however, pick up our first international customer and even consider the possibility of opening an office in Ireland.

Hashrocket attacks Railsconf 2008 en masse, which costs me a fortune, but is worthwhile in terms of publicity. I'm pleasantly shocked at the attendance numbers for my Sunday morning talk about "the worst Rails code you've ever seen" and even more shocked that me and Rein do a good job delivering the talk despite severe sleep deprivation.I get super excited about MagLev, but then totally drop the ball on getting involved with it. Maybe 2009 will be different...

All blog posts in May 2008


Before I can hardly catch my breath being back from Portland, I fly of to Netherlands and make a bunch of new friends in Amsterdam at the Ruby en Rails conference, where I deliver a repeat of my Railsconf talk.

I make last minute plans for a summer trip around the world with my kids, departing in late June. Great help and advice from the sustainable travel experts at Global Basecamps makes it possible. (Tell them I sent you!) The trip will involve taking three weeks off work, but can Hashrocket survive my absence?

During June I make several wrong-headed personal decisions, which come back to haunt me and wreak emotional havoc a couple of months later. What can I say? Relationships are hard, even after being with someone you love for 7 long and rollercoaster-like years.

All blog posts in June 2008


One of the happiest months of my life, as I shed my worklife and emotional burdens to spend three weeks jetting around the globe with my children. We have a blast touring South Africa, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and San Francisco. Altogether an unforgettable trip and lots of pictures to prove it.

While I'm gone everything at Hashrocket gets switched over to git/github from subversion (and at that point it would take me a few months to catch up to the rest of the team in truly learning git). By the time I get back from the trip, it's beginning to dawn on me that 1) I'm seriously overworked and 2) things tend to go wrong at Hashrocket when I'm away from the office. I can't dwell on it too much, because I'm off to Toronto to awe and entertain the RubyFringe audience with a crazy talk called Do The Hustle.

Back in the office, I get to talking to my caboo.se buddy Courtenay about an acquisition or merger of ENTP with Hashrocket. Seriously. Some excitement (not entirely positive) ensues, particularly over cultural differences. Eventually negotiations fall apart over disagreements about the name of the combined entity. I think Hashrocket is a better brand, but Courtenay doesn't want to give up his 4-letter domain name. Oh, what could have been... :)

Near the end of the month, I write my only blog entry for July, a weighty piece entitled Becoming a Worldly Person, which tells the story of my departure from the Jehovah's Witness religion 10 years ago. Somewhat unexpectedly, I get a ton of heartfelt responses, especially via email.


The summer grinds on and I agree to keynote the South American Rails Summit in Brazil later in the year. My topic: The Hashrocket Way, a term that we use internally to describe our Agile process and unique business practices. Hampton Catlin does a stint as one of our 3-2-1 Launch guest stars, and ruffles  Rocketeer feathers with some of his controversial opinions on testing.

Most of Hashrocket piles into our RV and drives up to Huntsville to attend Jeremy McAnally's Ruby Hoedown conference. Our crazy RV party is memorialized on video by Greg from Rails Envy, featuring obscene ranting by a very drunk Tim Pope and several of us constructing a beer-pong table out of pool noodles and duct-tape.

Trying to be responsible, I cancel my trip to Burning Man so that I can focus on running Hashrocket, much to the dismay and disappointment of my best friend, Nate. (Someday, dude. Someday. I promise.)

I end the month by ecstatically signing Foy Savas to write The Merb Way for Addison-Wesley's pro ruby series. (By the way, we've decided to continue work on the book for release as early as possible this year!)

All blog posts in August 2008


To be continued... soon.

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