Want to stay on top? Ruby Weekly is a once-weekly e-mail newsletter covering the latest Ruby and Rails news.
     Feed Icon

Editorial: Did the blogosphere kill the Ruby magazines?

By Peter Cooper / March 13, 2007

I'm currently putting together the list of publications that my publisher, Apress, can send and push my book to. Unfortunately Ruby has a rather lacking publishing ecosystem, but I figure I'd try "ruby magazine" in Google none the less.

Rcas
The first relevant result is Ruby Code & Style. This site used to be quite good to read, but about the time that Ruby Inside launched.. it stopped. The last article was published on May 23, 2006. Created by Artima, RC&S had/has an impressive list of names on its advisory board, including DHH, Jamis Buck, James Britt, Hal Fulton, Eric Hodel, matz, and.. too many Ruby heroes to name. What happened?

Moving down, we get the Rubyist Magazine. It's good, but it's in Japanese, and published every two months or so. I can't tell if they have an offline version, but each version online is reasonably deep with several feature articles.

Next is an announcement on the O'Reilly Ruby blog by Pat Eyler about an exciting new Ruby magazine from January 2006 called Red Letter: The Ruby Journal. Sounds good, but the domain is already in parking mode.

And, well.. that's pretty much it. Two dead English language magazines and one thriving Japanese one. Did the blogosphere lead to their demise? Are there any other good magazines? Do any generally available print magazines cover Ruby to any depth? Is this a problem to be fixed, or are we to accept we're in a 'new world' of publishing where blogging matters more? I don't have a solid opinion either way, but can't help to lament the lost off RC&S at least.

Comments

  1. Rob Sanheim says:

    Things move so quickly in Ruby, and moreso in Rails, that it would be very hard for a magazine to keep up. Perhaps something that concentrated on in depth reviews, code reviews, and detailed techniques could work. As long as it didn't try to keep up with news or the day-to-day, I know I would subscribe.

  2. Lyle says:

    There have been some recent discussions about how to revive Ruby Code & Style and hopefully that will get back on track this year, under a new editor. I'm pretty sure that Red Letter was identified as a scam pretty early on, if it's the one I'm remembering.

    Having said that, I am definitely of the opinion that blogs matter more these days than print magazines. Come to think of it, I don't read any computer-related (print) magazines on a regular basis anymore.

  3. Dr Nic says:

    Another contributor to a magazine's demise might be lack of advertisers.

  4. Stephen Waits says:

    The Red Letter folks even started taking money from people. When the magazine never came to fruition, they didn't voluntarily give the money back. I'm speaking about my case, and at least a few others I saw posted at the time. If you emailed them and asked about it, you'd get nothing. Once I was finally forced to threaten a report to PayPal, I suddenly got my refund. Shame.

  5. Todd Werth says:

    It's funny, I was just thinking about that when I was browsing the magazine isle at Borders.

    I think there are two reasons:

    One is Ruby just isn't popular enough yet (yet), so there isn't going to be magazines like there are for Java or .net.

    Two, which I think is more important: more and more of us are getting our information from blogs (as you mention), podcasts, and other forms of amateur (unpaid, not low quality) journalism. There is a large amount of high quality independent information out there. Many people are choosing, and often prefer, it over traditional media such as magazines.

    For me personally, I actually shy away from professional journalism, because I find that is very watered down, especially in the US (not as much in the UK). For example, reviews of products often are either good, great, or really great; it seems that they are either scared to or pressured not to rate any product as poor or worse. And since in the real world, many products are poor, I must conclude that "something is up".

    The other problem with professional journalism is it is very formulaic. It is an old, old profession and the style and process are well established, so everyone basically does things in the same way. Independent journalists or writers don't know enough to know that they aren't doing it "right", and although this can make them painful at times, it is also an engine for innovation. As the indies stumble along, making all the mistakes, sometimes they stumble right into something that is brilliant.

    I do enjoy magazines, however, and they have their place. The portability of a magazine is hard to beat; until electronic paper takes off. And many professional journalists and writers are top notch. So I would like to see at least one well written Ruby magazine, which I would subscribe to instantly. However the bulk of my media consumption will be from "amateur" people, who although they often say it poorly, at least they actually say it.

  6. Jeremy says:

    I, at one time, was going to start an essay based Ruby/Rails publication. Longer, higher quality information written by experts, especially those who don't have highly visible blogs; sort of a way to get good info out into the public while also attracting people to new blogs. I was cautioned by some people (I wont say who, but given the rep of the publication...you can figure it out) that _they_ were starting _the_ Ruby magazine, and that I shouldn't lest I make someone upset in the community (a supporter of Artima (not someone attached to it) also contacted me and told me that their mag would probably become the standard, so why take content from them). It probably wouldn't have been in wide distribution unless someone picked it up (possible, but unlikely) or people went to their local Borders/B&N and ordered it constantly. Even so, I'm still very interested in doing it if people would write for it.

  7. John says:

    I generally read the Rubyist using Google's translation tools. I find about 3/4 of the articles translate well.

  8. James Britt says:

    > I was cautioned by some people (I wont say who, but given the rep of the publication...you can figure it out) that _they_ were starting _the_ Ruby magazine, and that I shouldn't lest I make someone upset in the community (a supporter of Artima (not someone attached to it) also contacted me and told me that their mag would probably become the standard, so why take content from them).

    Wow. First I've heard of that. Interesting.

    > Even so, I'm still very interested in doing it if people would write for it.

    Getting and preparing a steady flow of high-quality material is not easy. It's a job. The goal for RC&S was to publish content a cut above what one typically finds in, say, Linux Journal or on most blogs.

    Thats not meant as knock on those sources, just that there is little reason to publish one more "How To Write a Blog in Rails" article.

    But there is competition for material. There are varying fees being offered by different publishing outlets, and while money is not always the main reason people write, it can be a factor. If you are aiming for prestige, then you have the extra task of ensuring that *only* high-quality material is published. That means finding good reviewers, ensuring that all code samples are correct, and that the content illustrates something reasonably new and technically astute. It can be fun, but there is also a good amount of administrative work in seeing to it that corrections are made, code tested, copy is grammatically correct and properly formated, reviewers actually review, and so on.

    All the best if you decide to give it a shot.

  9. evan says:

    John, Excite Japan's translator at http://www.excite.co.jp/world/english/web/ is much better than Google's.

  10. Pat Eyler says:

    Lyle and the others above are right, the RedLetter thing seems to have been a scam. I feel really badly that I was taken in and publicized it.

    I would still love to see some kind of magazine, or at least a regular column somewhere. I believe that both SysAdmin and Linux Journal have had a number of Ruby articles, which is a good start.

Other Posts to Enjoy

Twitter Mentions