Cleaning the Air

by Nathaniel S. H. Brown

Over the last month and a half I have been hearing a number of things regarding the treatment given to one speaker in particular of the Canada on Rails conference, and would really like to offer the community some truth to what you may have or have not yet heard. I had originally hoped those who heard the rumors would be able to see through them, or at least query me to shed some light before making any assumptions, or even wiser, dismiss them as just that, a rumor.

In any event, I am going to attempt to bring some clarity, and filter through some of the confusion one man has generated.


2006-06-05 07:13:34
Problems with this post: it's way too long for a front page full post, it's much better to let your actions speak for you than to get into this kind of "dirt slinging" game, and I find it quite off-topic here.

2006-06-05 08:15:09
Not to mention that most of the people reading this post have no idea who these people are. How does this help programmers learn Ruby?

2006-06-05 09:34:30
I am going to unsubscribe to this feed after this dirt slinging post.
Dave Astels
2006-06-05 09:40:22
While this is not the appropriate forum for this post, I hardly think it's dirt slinging to defend oneself. And if the attack was public, then I have no trouble with a public defense.

I know both of these guys to an extent, Steve moreso than Nathaniel, and I don't have a problem with Nathaniel's defense of himself.

I was a speaker at Canada on Rails, and am pleased with how it went and how I was treated.

2006-06-05 09:56:20
I don't see any problem with him posting this here. What better place to defend yourself than your blog? It was posted in "Opinion" and not "Articles" or "Reviews" or something else, so I don't see any reason to get upset over this post.

Cary on, I enjoy the blog.

2006-06-05 10:52:20
I don't mind Nathaniel posting his defense here. I do wish he'd posted less of it to the front page though. It's way too long to be posted that way.
Francis Hwang
2006-06-05 11:17:29
At the risk of feeding this unseemly fire: Was the first volley in this "attack" in fact public? Is there some juicy blog post by Steven Baker somewhere that I've been missing out on? Links would be useful here. Enquiring Rubyist minds want to know.

I don't know if this topic is or isn't appropriate here, but I will say that if the author is feeling to be the subject of unfair rumors, it's a bit odd for him to automatically assume that it's all due to an extensive whispering campaign orchestrated by a fellow Rubyist. Rubyists make poor conspirators. We're too opinionated to coordinate our character assassinations, and besides, if we wanted to spend our time speaking in inscrutable codes, we'd just go back to using Java or PHP.

2006-06-05 14:11:09
I wouldn't consider exploiting members of a community for personal gain, 'supporting open source' in any way. You're 'investing' and 'leveraging' open source for profit.

This post could've three or four paragraphs long if you had left the melodramatic crap out of it.

2006-06-05 14:53:52
Francis: The publicity which stirred this is based on what I have Steven saying on IRC, from other people telling me what was said to them. If the words hadn't infected the people they did, it wouldn't have bothered me in the least.

Dan: From what I understand, it seems your idea of making a living is based on exploitation. Mine on the other hand is based on choice. I choose to promote Open Source technology because I believe that one day we won't be living in a world of money, but until that day I need to make a living. By me promoting Open Source and making a living off it, I create for myself the opportunity to be entirely focused on spending my energy to make a living on something I beleive in.

What topic of events I choose to organize is where I show my support. Whether it is Open Source or not. I decide where I want to encourage the growth of. The 300 some odd people that showed up for Canada on Rails simply wouldn't have heard what they did or met the people they had if I didn't put on the event.

Each one of the speakers that have ever spoken at any event such as Canada on Rails, get extensive publicity from the event. Clearly nobody was exploiting anyone. And in the case of Canada on Rails, each of the speakers were even compensated for their time with a free trip to Vancouver, and the chance to promote and network themselves however they pleased.

2006-06-05 15:32:57
Making a post about this on this particular website is not only in bad taste, it's also going to piss off many people.

After what I went through to get a refund for my ticket 29 days in advance (due to health complications that I made clear to you), I call BS on you not being in it for the money.

I'm curious as to why you didn't approach Steve about this. You know Steve's contact information and as a backup, you know his manager personally. If you wanted to get this settled in a respectful manner, you had more than enough means to do so.

2006-06-05 16:09:07
There's a difference between exploitation, and making a living.

Just out of curiosity: if your expenses came to 60k, lets just say everyone paid 200 dollars. That totals out to 60k on its own.

Lets say thirty people attended the Agile workshop. The total would've been $14,850 before paying Steve. That leaves $12,350 profit.

Lets say just as many attended the other workshop so that leaves another $12,350.

That comes to $24,700. Seems like quite a bit more than what you're stating in your post. Sorry, the math just doesn't add up.

Your implied complaint about the lack of materials for the course is pretty petty as well. Everyone that I've talked with and have heard from took quite a bit from the course and were extremely happy with it.

I don't see you mentioning that anywhere? I guess that doesn't fit the spin, though.

I personally won't be attending any of your conferences, and I've pointed quite a few other people to your post as well. They'll make their own decisions.

Good luck in the future!

Dave Astels
2006-06-05 16:27:58
Dan: "Your implied complaint about the lack of materials for the course is pretty petty as well. Everyone that I've talked with and have heard from took quite a bit from the course and were extremely happy with it."

I read through the above said materials. In many places they are inaccurate or just plain wrong. I only trust that those that took the workshop followup and look for additional materials.

Francis Hwang
2006-06-05 20:49:40
So Steven talked smack about you on IRC, and now you're talking smack about him in a blog post. I like where this is heading. Maybe Steven will rent out a billboard next?

Seriously, as somebody who once inspired a FrancisHwangFaq page over on the c2 wiki, I'd say that if other people are determined to say nasty shit about you, you get very little traction by trying to say nasty shit back about that person. All you do is make everything degrade quickly until it resembles some episode of the Real World, or, even worse, Road Rules.

In my experience, what works is to act in such a way that it will become apparent to most observers that their concerns are unfounded. Of course, the hardest part is understanding what those concerns are in the first place. That requires a lot more listening than talking, and most people are pretty bad at that.

2006-06-05 21:14:26
Pinks: The refund within the 30 day window was to ensure that I wasn't on the hook to have to pay for someone elses change of plans. Things come up, and I respect that. I made it as clear to most people, and hopefully to you as well that there was alternative measures to recover the cost of the ticket.

Seeing as the conference was sold out, there were many people looking to buy the ticket, and did. Almost every one of the emails/forum posts I seen indicating that someone needed to sell their ticket due to them not being able to attend, did in fact manage to sell their ticket.

Simply, I made the commitment for catering and seating, and had to stick to it.

Dan: The second workshop I managed to get 7 people to attend. So no, I didn't make $12,350. That one I actually lost over $, due to attempt a new marketing strategy. $500 venue, $700 catering, $1100 marketing, $1500 website design, and a undisclosed amount to the instructor. So, with $3465 being the absolute most I could have made for the workshop, minus any discounts, I lost $335 before even paying the instructor. I am not complaining though, and am glad to host the workshops. I am even considering decreasing the cost so more people can attend. Not sure how else I can prove to you that this isn't just about the money. I am trying to promote and invest in something I believe in.

Francis: Steven and I had been trying to sort this out, and basically he was not interested in straightening anything out. In the post above, you will notice that I was told from friends and associates that I had ripped Steven off. He did not approach me to straighten it out. It was his intent to first discredit me, then ask for payment. This says alot about the kind of character he is. Anyone that was truely intereested in getting paid would have come to me first, and by all rights, if I didn't pay, tell the world. But it didn't happen that way. He told the world I ripped him off, then only when I had to ask him directly after hearing these rumors did he tell me that I "owed him". Seems like he went ass end first if he wanted to be reimbursed if you ask me.

2006-06-06 03:17:10
From the way he acted, it seems that Steven wasn't interested in participating in any future events at all. So be it.

In any case, maybe if people get turned off and stop going to future events, that will give a chance for the rest of us to come along and enjoy a rails conf :-)

2006-06-06 07:23:19
Wow. This does not belong here. I don't think I'll be attending anymore Canada on Rails in the future. Mudslinging from the conference host? Please, be a bit more professional! If I had a customer throw a fit, and blatantly accuse me in public, I'd just suck it up and never sell to the customer again, but I definitely wouldn't defame him in public.
2006-06-06 09:37:50
I think this IS the right place to air out your grievance. You are right to be mad and it sounds like you were defamed. I think the unprofessionalism started WAAAY before this blog and that Nathan has every right to cry fowl and explain his actions. This explanation is a very honest attempt to involve and educate the community on what it takes to put on a conference. When a few primadonnas show up, eat your food, sleep in the hotel you paid for, use your credit card processing services and then proceed to bash you behind your back you better believe you'll be mad. I'd be swinging mad. Thanks for putting on the show Nathan, thanks for giving a sh** about open source and Rails. I hope you have great success with future shows as well.

2006-06-06 09:45:56
This post is childish and embarrassing for O'Reilly. I hope to see it removed.

Your "support" for the open source and Rails communities would be better characterized as exploitation. It's not altruistic. You're attempting (and succeeding) to make money. That's not a bad thing, but call it what it is. You're no more serving the open source community than McDonalds is serving the fast food community.

2006-06-06 13:25:47
John: So if someone does something wrong, you simply sweep it under the rug and let anyone else who that person repeats their conduct with, be completely unaware? I for one do not, and would very much like to know how that person or business conducted themselves.

I am telling the story of what happened. My attempt is not to "defame" him. In fact this very event was the first public event he had ever spoken at. I have conducted myself very professionally with him, I even offered to pay for his claims even after he went around to the core members of the community and lied about what went on. All I asked for was some proof of me promising him what he calimed I did. He said logs existed, and were in storage, but refused to fetch them to prove his claim. He was not interested in validating his claim. He intent was quite literally only interested in "defaming" me amoungst within the community.

My hope is to let some other organizers see how he conducted himself as a delegate, and let those who are in the position to, decide what to make of this. The truth is what it is, people can take from it what they want.

Anonymous: Again, this word "exploitation" has come up, with an undertone of victimizing the speakers. The speakers were very clear on why they were there and what they got out of it. Yes, I made a (very small) profit from the conference, and it is my right to as I run a for-profit business. But nobody was victimized.

2006-06-06 13:44:27
I spent some time looking around Google, other ruby forums, and even Steven's personal website. I couldn't locate anything where he was publicly defaming you.

Could you point to the link so we can see what was said, Nathaniel?

2006-06-06 13:51:03
Sean, I was approached by a few core members of the Ruby/Rails community. I witnessed him on the channel on IRC as well telling others about his side of the story. Publicity comes in different degrees, and although he had not posted a blog post or made a webpage to tell everyone, he still was very openly in dialoge with others.
2006-06-06 14:07:58
I don't think a few core members and an IRC channel can be considered defaming someone publicly.

I did a quick check on this channel, and from the images on the frontpage, it looks like a pretty small channel with a group of select individuals. This is the only page that showed up, and it's Ruby/Rails related so I assume that's it. (

It seems rather unprofessional of you to bring it to the public, and post it on this development blog. Why wasn't this posted on your personal blog rather than this one?

I'm not sure what O'Reilly thinks of this, but I don't think these blogs are supposed to be used for personal vendettas or 'mudslinging' as other people put it.

2006-06-06 15:16:22
Honestly, I don't care at all what happened. It's between the two of you, and no one else needs to know about it. It's unprofessional and disruptive of the community to be attacking people in public over stuff that just doesn't matter to anyone but the people directly involved. A small community is like a family - you don't have to like everyone, but you have to be able to get along.

2006-06-07 11:49:54
I don't know if this the appropriate forum for this post or not. I do know two things: 1. I check out this forum on a regular basis to try and learn about Ruby and Ruby on Rails. Not much of that going on here. 2. I check out this forum to learn what's going on in this "community". I guess I'm doing that. I think I'll be checking out future conferences very very carefully before I spend my hard earned dollars on them. It sounds like I may be getting a lot more than I bargained for... Maybe a bit too much drama.
2006-06-09 04:51:07
I dont think this is extremely interesting to the Ruby Community as a whole.
2006-06-09 07:30:42
For the sweet love of God (or Matz or DHH, pick your deity), move on.

move ... ON!

2006-06-10 09:44:18
"I estimate I made about $10,000 net for 6 months of work" - 6 months of work? Was that 9 to 5 then? To do what? "this isn't just about the money". Course its about the money. I think you shot yourself in the foot.