why the lucky stiff

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Unknown (alias why the lucky stiff)
_why at RubyConf
Other names why, _why
Occupation Ruby programmer, author
Known for Why's (poignant) Guide to Ruby, Camping

why the lucky stiff (often known simply as why, _why) was the persona of an anonymous, but prolific writer, cartoonist, musician, artist, and computer programmer notable for his work with the Ruby programming language. Along with Yukihiro Matsumoto and David Heinemeier Hansson, he was seen as a key figure in the Ruby community.

Why the lucky stiff was the keynote speaker at RailsConf in 2006.[1] He also had a speaking session titled "A Starry Afternoon, a Sinking Symphony, and the Polo Champ Who Gave It All Up for No Reason Whatsoever" at the 2005 O'Reilly Open Source Convention held in Portland, Oregon.[2] It explored how to teach programming and make it more appealing to adolescents.

On 19 August 2009, his online presence was drastically truncated; his accounts on Twitter and GitHub were shut down, along with many of his personally maintained sites.[3] His projects have since been collected and centralized on the whymirror GitHub account.[4]




His best known work is Why's (poignant) Guide to Ruby,[5] which "teaches Ruby with stories."[6] Paul Adams of Webmonkey describes its eclectic style as resembling a "collaboration between Stan Lem and Ed Lear".[7] Chapter three was published in The Best Software Writing I: Selected and Introduced by Joel Spolsky.[8]

Try Ruby was an online interactive learning tool that provided a browser-based Ruby shell and an instructor that guided beginners through their first steps in Ruby. Since Why's disappearance, the project has been continued in spirit at tryruby.org

His most recent project, Hackety Hack, is a Ruby- and Shoes- based environment intended to bring the power, freedom, and simplicity of BASIC programming to the current generation, with special intent to be accessible to children.


_why is the author of several libraries and applications, most of them written in or for Ruby.

  • Camping, a microframework inspired by Ruby on Rails and based on Markaby that is less than 4 kilobytes.[9]
  • Park Place, a "nearly complete clone of the Amazon S3 web service."[9]
  • Hobix, a YAML-based weblog application written in Ruby.
  • Hpricot, an HTML parser.
  • Markaby, (markup as Ruby), a DSL to generate valid HTML using Ruby blocks and methods instead of tags.[10]
  • MouseHole, a personal web proxy that can rewrite the web à la Greasemonkey.
  • the RedCloth library, which implements the Textile markup language.
  • the Sandbox, a library for managing several Ruby environments in a single process.
  • Syck, a YAML library for C, Ruby, and several other languages. Syck has been a part of standard Ruby libraries[11] since Ruby version 1.8.0.
  • Shoes, a UI toolkit "for Making Web-like Desktop Apps"[12][13]
  • unHoly A Ruby-bytecode-to-Python-bytecode converter, for running Ruby applications on the Google application engine.
  • potion, a tiny, fast programming language with a JIT compiler, closure support and an object model built around mixins.
  • bloopsaphone, a crossplatform chiptune-like synth, based on PortAudio with a Ruby frontend.


He has illustrated The Ruby Programming Language, authored by David Flanagan and Yukihiro Matsumoto.[14] He also dedicates his illustration every year to RubyKaigi, the biggest Ruby conference in Japan, similar to RubyConf.

In March 2009, he was a speaker at the Art and Code conference at Carnegie Mellon University.

_why also plays in the band The Child Who Was A Keyhole.


  1. "RailsConf Keynote: Why the Lucky Stiff". Scribemedia.org. http://www.scribemedia.org/2006/11/25/why-oh-why/. Retrieved 2009-10-24. 
  2. "O'Reilly Open Source Convention 2005". Conferences.oreillynet.com. 2005-08-04. http://conferences.oreillynet.com/cs/os2005/view/e_sess/6948. Retrieved 2009-10-24. 
  3. ""why the lucky stiff" Vanishes - The H Open Source: News and Features". H-online.com. 2009-08-20. http://www.h-online.com/open/why-the-lucky-stiff-Vanishes--/news/114042. Retrieved 2009-10-24. 
  4. "whymirror.github.com". whymirror.github.com. http://whymirror.github.com. Retrieved 2009-10-24. 
  5. Michael Fitzgerald (2007). Learning Ruby. O'Reilly. ISBN 0596529864. 
  6. Leonard Richardson (2006). Ruby Cookbook. O'Reilly. ISBN 0596523696. 
  7. Paul Adams, ed (2003). "Getting Your Feet Wet With Ruby On Rails". Archived from the original on 2006-12-31. http://web.archive.org/web/20061231080418/http://www.webmonkey.com/05/28/index4a.html. 
  8. "The Best Software Writing I: Selected and Introduced by Joel Spolsky". Apress. 2005. ISBN 978-1590595008. http://www.apress.com/book/view/9781590595008. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Advanced Rails. O'Reilly. 2007. p. 235. ISBN 0596510322. 
  10. "Beginning Ruby: From Novice to Professional. Apress. 2007. p. 443. ISBN 978-1-59059-766-8. 
  11. Standard Library documentation for Syck[dead link]
  12. InfoQ: Ruby Shoes for lightweight GUIs, graphics and animation
  13. O'Reilly Network: Shoes Meets Merb: Driving a GUI App through Web Services in Ruby
  14. David Flanagan, Yukihiro Matsumoto. The Ruby Programming Language. O'Reilly Media. ISBN 978-0596516178. http://oreilly.com/catalog/9780596516178/. 

External links

Personal tools

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