If you’ve had your hand in Ruby or Rails, you’ve probably heard of Why the Lucky Stiff (aka, _why), an online persona of a programmer who was one of the more influential Rubyists next to Yukihiro Matsumoto (creator of Ruby, aka, Matz) and David Heinemeier Hansson (creator of Rails, aka, DHH). As of this afternoon, _why’s online presence is no more. All of his sites (whytheluckystiff.net, poignantguide.net, hackety.org, shoooes.net, hacketyhack.net, tryruby.hobix.net, and others ) and accounts on Twitter and Github are gone — including all of the code, applications, and art he created over the years. This has caused the Ruby community and others to go crazy over his disappearance.
_why is the creator of some of the most widely used Ruby tools and resources like, The Poignant Guide to Ruby, Hpricot, Markaby, RedCloth, Shoes, Camping, and Try Ruby. He’s a man who lived in the Ruby community known only under the persona he created — he’s never disclosed his real name.
I’ve only been in the Ruby community since 2006, but I’ve been a consumer of _why’s work from the time I started. I found his Poignant Guide to Ruby a great introduction to the language — a fresh, artistic, and eccentric approach to teaching people how to program in Ruby. _why was passionate about teaching Ruby to others through his work.
No one really knows yet why he dropped off. Initially, a few thought his accounts were hacked and sites deleted, but now the general consensus is that he did this deliberately. No one seems to really know why, but Hacker News user fizx quoted a recent tweet before _why deleted his account:
Programming is a rather thankless. u see your works become replaced by superior ones in a year. unable to run at all in a few more.
For any artist who takes pride in his work, seeing his work replaced is pretty discouraging. Regardless of the reason, he will be missed. The body of work he created for the Ruby community is impressive. John Resig (creator of jQuery) wrote a great post about _why today that is worth reading.