To the 300 software developers packed into a Vancouver conference room, David Heinemeier Hansson was more than a programmer. He was a visionary, the creator of Ruby on Rails, a software template that powered an increasing number of hot Internet applications. He was a philosopher-king whose minimalist ethos suggested a new way of thinking about business and software. And he was a celebrity, with boyish good looks, precocious self-possession, and fans who invoked his name so frequently they used his initials as shorthand: DHH. As Hansson took the stage at the British Columbia Institute of Technology for this, the first Ruby on Rails conference, the room was filled with the kind of giddy excitement that greets the opening chords of a Hannah Montana concert.
The program billed Hansson's keynote as a collection of "beloved rants" and "favorite tales from the land of righteous indignation," and he didn't disappoint. He began by congratulating the nascent Ruby on Rails community (and, by extension, himself), citing a litany of impressive achievements: 500,000 downloads of the code, 16 how-to books, mentions in Wired and other publications, and several industry awards — including, for Hansson, the prestigious Hacker of the Year title, bestowed by Google and O'Reilly Media.
But not everyone was convinced of Rails' revolutionary potential. Critics had been saying that Rails wasn't versatile enough, that it couldn't handle large amounts of traffic, and that Hansson himself was arrogant. "Arrogant is usually something you hurl at somebody as an insult," Hansson said. "But when I actually looked it up — having an aggravated sense of one's own importance or abilities' — I thought, sure."
Then he clicked over to the next slide, white letters against a dark background that spelled out his response to the naysayers: fuck you. The crowd erupted into laughter and applause.