The Ruby Mendicant Project

by Gregory Brown

When I wrote the post I'd love to quit my job! (sort of), I was mainly aiming to start a conversation.

Still, enough people took me seriously, and now I can announce that the project is officially under way. I'm in the fund raising stages to collect $8000 so that I can take off 6 months of work to focus on important Ruby open source projects. That sounds even lower than my initial estimate, and the reason for that is because Ruby Central, Inc. decided to back the project! Here's their press release:


Ruby Central is always on the lookout for interesting ways to help and
support the Ruby community, and Greg Brown has provided us with one.

Greg has announced a unique plan for himself. You can see the whole plan at; meanwhile, here's Greg's capsule
summary of the idea:

** Through the donations of community members, I would like to put my
commercial and personal software projects on the back burner for a
prolonged period of time (3-6 months), and focus on working on open
source projects that are of high importance to the majority of
Rubyists. **

Greg has already started to receive donations. And now, Ruby Central
is coming on board to help Greg with matching funds.

Ruby Central will match gross donations to Greg, dollar for dollar, up
to $5000 (five thousand) dollars. That means that if you donate $50 to
Greg's effort, we'll donate $50. We'll stick to the same timeline that Greg
has set for himself (see the above URL).

It's not quite like anything we've done before, but it sounds like a good idea
at the right time, and we're happy to support Greg's unusual and imaginative

Please keep in mind that donations to Greg are not donations to Ruby
Central, and therefore do not fall under our tax-exempt status.

Ruby Central, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, chartered to
support Ruby-related events and initiatives that benefit the Ruby community.

Peter Cooper has also decided to support the project by both donating, and posting a summary on Ruby Inside. He does a good job of covering the whole of the story, including relating to those who feel uncomfortable supporting such an effort. I totally understand people's skepticism, and thats why I encourage people to come talk on the RubyMendicant google group if they have any doubts about the project they want cleared up. The explicit timeline for this project and the fact that I've promised to record public hours will hopefully put some folks minds at ease.

Peter mentions that I talked about working on PDF::Writer or Ruport, but this doesn't really fully explain what I was thinking of doing. With respect to PDF::Writer, I was pondering a from scratch rewrite with a sexy API and less performance problems. With Ruport, I was going to work on 1.9 compatibility for all of its dependencies across ruport-util and acts_as_reportable. Though I haven't checked in with the maintainers of these libraries yet, it's truly a laundry list of general purpose gems I'd be working to update. Here are just a few:

  • RubyDBI

  • Gruff

  • Scruffy

  • PDF::Writer

  • transaction-simple

  • roo

  • rubyzip

Outside of Ruport, there are lots of libraries that I'd like to see working on 1.9, and with enough time, I could work on porting them.

The ideas list will be open for suggestions until April 1st when the donations close, the goal is to focus on things that might be hard to reach from traditional open source work that is done in people's spare time or as part of a commercial project.

Anyway, this is going to be my last mooching attempt on the O'Reilly blog for this project. If you've read through the proposal I've put together and want to support the project, please consider a donation. If you've got questions, please ask them. And perhaps most importantly: If you like this idea, please spread the word. Having Rubyists show that they back this effort is worth more than cash to me, because it gives me confidence that this might actually work.

At the time of writing, with the matching from Ruby Central, Inc., I have enough money for at least two weeks one month of work. That means this project is a 'go' even if no one else donates. Of course, a lot more can be done with 26 weeks than with two.

The next post about this you'll see here from me is going to be a progress report of what I've been working on. Until then, thanks so much to those who have supported and will support this project. I think it'll be a great experiment, and that good things will come from it.


2008-03-11 11:50:51
Wow, that's really great! Congrats man!
Gregory Brown
2008-03-11 11:57:05

Thanks. I'm overwhelmed right now... with a month of work already covered, this is basically a dream come true for me. I can't wait for April 15th to come!


2008-03-11 12:48:01
It really is amazing how far a little bit of money can go, if you can keep the overhead low and work on things that you love. Ideally, those things that you love net some attention and bring in more donations :-).

It's not all that different from the Y-combinator / Tech Stars "investment" model really: the need for big money to get powerful projects/ideas out the door is so Web 1.0 haha.

Best of luck!

Daniel Berger
2008-03-12 09:27:09
I vote for a pure Ruby zlib implementation. Remove the dependency on the third party library. Help the Windows users. :)
Gregory Brown
2008-03-12 09:32:48

I vote for it too, if I wasn't the one to write it. I don't really know anything about Zlib...

I'll add it to the ideas list if I get funding for the full six months though. If enough people supported the idea, that'd be sufficient research time for me to get some real work done on it (I think). Though you'd have to volunteer to help :)

Right now, we're at about 8 weeks of funding already! My confidence in the kinds of projects I take on increases as my available funded time increases. :)

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