With few exceptions, the world of developers (and startups in general), is really known for its scandals. But when Ruby icon Why the Lucky Stiff (also known simply as _why) suddenly took all of his projects offline – including the famous Why’s (poignant) Guide to Ruby – offline in August 2009, there was quite a bit of uproar and anger in the programming community. _why had always guarded his anonymity closely, but nobody expected him to just abandon his projects and disappear into the night.
The story of _why, his Guide to Ruby , and his disappearance were the subject of one of the best longform posts of 2012 and Annie Lawrey’s “Where’s _why?” remains the definitive text on the subject. If you haven’t read it, now would be an excellent time to do so.
A couple of anonymous posts on a Posterous blog after _why’s disappearance identified Jonathan Gillette as the real person behind _why’s persona and Lawrey’s research confirmed this, but the real story behind why he suddenly disappeared at the height of his success remains a mystery.
Maybe this won’t remain a mystery for long, though. While _why’s website went dark after he left, it’s now suddenly back up and running. All the site currently features is this cryptic message:
Public Print Queue SPOOL/DESOLEE 2012-01-06T08:21Z
The folks over at Hacker News have already started to figure out the basics of this puzzle (while the Ruby fans on Reddit have now broken into the chorus of the Pointer Sister’s “I’m so excited“). There were a couple of other messages available on the site earlier on that pointed to a number of images and text files filled with the kind of absurd writing that was always _why’s hallmark.
For now, however, that’s it, but it would be fun to see _why back in action. His Ruby programming guide taught thousands the basics of programming and we could definitely use some of his skill today as we’re trying to get more people to learn to code.