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A Cup Full Of Why: 32 Why The Lucky Stiff Links

By Peter Cooper / August 20, 2009

whymo.pngSince Why The Lucky Stiff's supposed disappearance yesterday, I've been coming across a lot of interesting links with mirrors of his projects, discussions surrounding his disappearance, and lots of other juicy stuff. I think it's worth keeping track of this stuff so I'm kicking off a compilation post dedicated to Why related links.

If you have any useful resources you want to link to, leave a comment and I'll try and include them here so this post can act as a reference point.

Disappearance and Discussion

Where is _why? A Reddit discussion - An epic discussion (443 comments at time of writing) on Reddit about Why's disappearance. The top moderated comment is a little mean: "Why couldn't DHH disappear instead?" Nevertheless, some interesting points come up, including a bit of detective work that resolves's IP address to the same as that for which asks where Why is (Hampton Catlin has a roundup of this line of inquiry).

Who Is Why The Lucky Stiff? - A site that supposedly reveals Why's true identity as "Jonathan Gillette" due to headers in ruby-talk mailings.. but I'm not buying it. A lot of commentators have blamed this site for Why's disappearance though. It's not known who put this site up.

Hacker News: _why is no more - The Hacker News and discussion of Why's disappearance. Somewhat more mature and well meaning than the Reddit discussion.

Where and _why - A discussion about Why's disappearance on MetaFilter (of which Why was a reader). It eventually turns into a discussion about how C# is or isn't turning into Ruby. There's also a thread from July 2004 when Why's book was featured there.

"why the lucky stiff" Vanishes - Heise Online's coverage of Why's disappearance.

Why's Code and Contributions

A GitHub mirror of Why's projects - A user called "whymirror" has been formed on GitHub and features forks and mirrors of Why's projects, including Shoes, The Poignant Guide, Camping, and Hpricot.

Why's most favorited Twitter messages - collates the "most favorited" tweets for Twitter users, and this is a compilation of Why's top tweets. It includes some classics:

trying to reading dhh’s articles on himself, but his website is so drenched in axe body spray that it has more of a tear gas effect.

when you don't create things, you become defined by your tastes rather than ability. your tastes only narrow & exclude people. so create.

if you program and want any longevity to your work, make a game. all else recycles, but people rewrite architectures to keep games alive.

An HTML mirror of The Poignant Guide - Courtesy of GitHub Pages, the Poignant Guide is back online in all its former glory.

A PDF mirror of The Poignant Guide - We've put up a mirror of a PDF version of Why's famous Poignant Guide.

ART && CODE Symposium: Hackety Hack - A recent(ish) presentation by Why at the ART && CODE Symposium. This is a great way to see him "in the flesh."

The soundtrack to why's (poignant) guide to ruby - has a mirror of the soundtrack to the Poignant Guide as performed by Why's band, The Thirsty Cups. 8 MP3s. I find to be frequently unreliable so if you like these you might want to mirror them yourself.

A screenshot of - was a Web version of irb, the interactive Ruby interpreter. While it's down, might be useful, though it's not really the same thing.

The Shoebox - A repository of Shoes applications. This Web site was not owned by Why, hence it's still up.



Eulogy to _why - JavaScript supremo John Resig dedicates a few words to Why's memory.

So long and thanks for all the hoodwinks - Robby Russell of Planet Argon gives a salute to Why's memory.

Why the Lucky Stiff on Twins and Drawing - A video made to some spoken word by Why. A couple of quirky stories.

The Belljar, the Space, and My Daughter's Organ Instructor - A commemorative video by "Raymond" set to Why's music.

A Commemorative Milk Carton for Why

The "Missing why the lucky stiff" Facebook group - Already up to 9 members..

Twitter search for _why - Thousands of tweets commemorating or mentioning Why.


Why's Still Online.. Sorta

Why hasn't deleted all of his accounts. Others still exist:

His Advogato account - Features a rather intriguing poem as well as 54 blog posts.

The "why the lucky stiff" Wikipedia entry

Why's Reddit account

Why's YouTube account - Features three videos in Why style.

Why's Vimeo account - With only one video - Hello World, the Song.

Photos of Why The Lucky Stiff on Flickr

Added: Supposedly Why was in a band (as his non-psuedonym self) called The Child Who Was A Keyhole and the album art certainly attests to that. So.. perhaps you might want to buy their CD from CDBaby?

Top photo credit: pdcrawley - Licensed as CC 2.0 A-N-SA


  1. Fred says:

    I came to the same conclusion as "Who Is Why The Lucky Stiff? " some times ago when I worked with _why on Hobix ....

    Interesting too :
    where Jonathan Gillette post both with the why@riza and then another account ...

  2. m says:

    Peter, from

    And finally.. I have successfully identified the last bits to tie who it is. Many have said it is Jonathan Gillette and I think this is correct. I dug up a Kylie Gillette who is the owner of, Snapdragon Jewelry. A quick whois on that domain:

    Registrant: Layered Technologies TheLuckyStiff Why 1647 Witt Rd. Ste. # 20 Frisco, TX 75034 US +1.9723987998

  3. Christian Romney says:

    I'd be cool if someone close to him could just confirm he's ok. A lot of people respect and admire him and have genuine concern. He doesn't owe anyone an explanation, but it be very decent (as most people find him to be) to let us all know we have no cause for concern.

  4. Marcelo says:

    Wow, in his Wikipedia article he looks SO MUCH like Jack Black!

    Well, so long and thanks for all the code, _why!

  5. Mislav says:

    My Poignant Guide mirror, which you linked, has the soundtrack playable in the browser, available track-by-track from Amazon S3 or downloadable as archive from github downloads. No need to mirror.

  6. Peter Cooper says:

    Mislav: Good work, I didn't notice that :)

  7. Fred says:

    Some years ago (maybe 2 I'm not sure), I just found out the site of his girlfriend/wife and complimented him on this blog ...

    _why was very upset by the fact I could have found some of his real life aspect, and asked me to say nothing about this ... I did not, but within days, the blog was ripped off ...

    I respect him, and if he just want to be off, ok ... but please, I'd also just like to be sure he is ok ...

  8. johan says:


    His flickr account is still intact as well:

    I also found this today (): (dated 14th Aug):

    "And that's that. You're all unsubbed from the Shoes adventurer's list.
    If, at any time, you'd like to rejoin, simply send a message to the
    list and you'll receive list e-mail once again.

    With that, I graciously bow out of your life. Adieu.

    Signed, the Shoes adventurer's list robot."

  9. dimotu says:

    Here are two more of _why's videos (from Oscon 2005)

    Sinking Symphony:
    Foxes Tall and Small on Modules:

    I really hope he is okay.

  10. Jason Garber says:

    Fred, what do you make of this from

    One of my favorite things this summer was movie night with the Gillettes. We decided to give in to our nostalgia and watch some favorite movies from the past. These included some sci-fi classics like The Black Hole, some fantasy classics like Krull and Legend, and of course, some cheesy girl flicks that Kylie and I used to watch in junior high, like Shag. It's funny how after watching a movie again for the first time in at least ten years, I can still remember the lines and still think about times when we would quote them. There are still a lot of movies that we need to watch, though, so I hope we keep doing it. The best thing is that I don't have to go back to school so no homework keeping me from good times.

  11. johan says:


    Seems as if you didn't get my earlier post, take a look at this:

    And also



  12. Jason Garber says:

    Apparently _why hosted a number of websites for friends, carboncopy being for a friend named Katie. So it seems weird that he'd kill those sites along with his.

    Regardless, _why will be missed. If he was despairing his code being replaced by others' work, I'd hate to think I contributed to that with RedCloth. He seemed pretty glad when I took it over, but in the last month or so we talked on the mailing list of doing a rewrite.

  13. Peter Cooper says:

    I doubt your work on RedCloth contributed to this, Jason. He seemed more concerned about things that were different usurping his works not just in technology but in name.

    I don't know about the whole "outing" theory though. I'm wondering more whether some recent straw broke the camel's back. Has anything had some popularity in the last few weeks that was a potential Hackety Hack or Shoes killer? They seem to have been his biggest projects recently and I suspect if something very Hackety Hack like was floating around in the last month, it could have really put him off.

  14. FiZ says:

    I'm not too concerned about the mild-mannered alter-ego of _why, but I am a huge fan of his work and hope him the best. Though, for the sake of the search, I did find one other trace of him online:

  15. Pierre says:

    If you go to you can see he claims not to be _why
    If it's really not him, that dude has to be kinda piss about all these spams hehe
    But on the other hand, if he is, he somehow wants some peace...

  16. Ed Heil says:

    "I don't know about the whole "outing" theory though. I'm wondering more whether some recent straw broke the camel's back. Has anything had some popularity in the last few weeks that was a potential Hackety Hack or Shoes killer? They seem to have been his biggest projects recently and I suspect if something very Hackety Hack like was floating around in the last month, it could have really put him off."

    Geez, I sure as hell hope this recommendation to look into a backup plan in case there are problems with shoes didn't have anything to do with it.

    I don't think Bowline is a hackety hack or shoes killer though, just an alternative for certain uses of Shoes.

  17. _withheld says:

    This investigative crap is pushing _why further from the public's eye. I'm not sure if he'll be cool or if it will do anything to stem the tide. I know _why, but I know family and friends of his better than I do him. Still most of _why is an enigma to me. When he found out that I was into Ruby and knew of his persona, he explained his rational for wanting to be anonymous, for letting the work be famous for itself. So rather than run and out him I just kept the little secret and enjoyed conversations at the local Ruby users group meetings about his identity. When someone in the past would out him he usually would talk with them and get them to agree to keep his secret and not just publish it around. I don't know if the blog outing made him stop, or what, but it certainly didn't help cause a month later it's still there.

    Anonymity and emails still need a name and we have the persona of _why. To the best of my knowledge _why is doing fine, though it's more the absence of hearing that anything bad has happened to him beyond his withdrawal from the internet. He was just as odd and fun to be around as you get from the _why persona. It could be that my evaluations are completely wrong, take them with a grain of salt, but if you have any respect for _why you won't go digging around. Trade in _why's art, but leave the man's privacy, family and friends be.

  18. Jason Garber says:

    Peter, I don't think I contributed to it either, but one wonders. (My wife says, "don't flatter yourself!") Maybe that plus nokogiri surpassing Hpricot, Bowline threatening Shoes, etc. made him despair the impermanence of his work. That would jive with recent tweets (

    The conspiracy theorist in me wants to find a mystical connection. Try this: 100% of the programmers who gave the Ruby community prominent libraries written in Ragel left it violently. Ragel is the poison! (sample size: 2) Hey, it holds more water than the birthers' and deathers'! (see urban dictionary if you don't follow U.S. politics)

  19. Mike says:

    Very few people in any field these days, and especially technology, can reasonably expect their previous achievements and contributions to still be relevant in that field in even five years. More people are producing more work in almost every field than at any other time in human history, and that churn is very difficult to deal with if you feel like you're in some kind of competition. You should do something because you love doing it, not because you want any of your work to always be the final word in your field. If you want that kind of final say, then you *might* be happier exclusively writing fiction or becoming a painter, and maybe _why decided to quit technology and devote himself to those pursuits.

    If he wants to keep his name private that's his own business. But I do think it was a short-sighted and selfish move to delete resources, without notice, that children, parents, and his colleagues relied on.

  20. Ian Tindale says:

    Is there another language similar to Ruby that is suitable for learners, except that isn't steered through the actions of high-profile personalities of a random clique of celebrity superstars, but rather, has rational, reliable and durable foundations?

    Maybe the young fellow has merely decided to take a holiday. Maybe you'll all get a postcard.

  21. Fred says:

    Hi Gents,

    I've just created a blog and posted an entry regarding the "_why is Jonathan Gillette" path ...:

    According to me _why is Jonathan Gillette.

  22. oriste says:

    I don't care who he is. If he wants to protect his identity we should respect that. I sure hope he is alright and I'm gonna miss him if he decides to stay off the radar (for whatever reasons he might have). Finally I'd like to thank him for the numerous hours of pleasure he has given me.

  23. Jason Garber says:

    I've pulled down his Textile reference and quick reference and moved them over to To fix your broken links, just add in front of

  24. Randy Thompson says:

    is their anywhere where we can still get to shoes or not?

  25. j d says:

    who knows if there aren't two jonathan gillette? and maybe it's neither of them ;)

    i think we should make it clear that we hope nothing happened to him, would be very glad having him back, but accept it and certainly not dig into his personal life (for all we know, that might be the very reason for all this)

  26. David says:

    I'll miss _why. He made lemonade.

  27. Devin says:

    I have learned of new important ground-breaking information that confirms that fact that _why is in fact, Fred Durst. That's right folks, the beloved singer of Limp Bizkit is our mystery coder. Here's Fred after he finished up working on the Poignant Guide:

  28. Geoffrey Grosenbach says:

    As noted by Dr. Nic, _why's RubyForge account is still up:

  29. sabat says:

    What I think is the most disturbing is that his *wife's* site is also gone, and that her blog at hasn't seen a new post since the 18th. It could mean nothing, but it feels ominous.

    If anyone here does know _why -- we really will leave him the hell alone, but dammit, we're not made of wood. Just want to hear that he's OK. Could be through a reliable proxy. Just want to hear that he's OK.

  30. _lulubly says:

    Don't be crazy - Fred Durst is Matz !

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