Lessons from RailsConf
RailsConf2006 was a blast! It was amazing to be around so many great people. The Ruby community, and more specifically the Rails community, is one of the strangest I've ever seen. Everyone is so excited about what they are doing. And for the most part, there's genuine interest in what other people are doing—with a slight competitive edge.
One of my observations from this weekend is that most of people that are well-known, are so because of their focus. They become well known because of their repeated expertise on a single subject: Martin Fowler on software architecture, Stefen Kaes on performance, Mike Clark on automation (and testing, but that's just another form of automation), Dave Thomas on Ruby advocacy, Justin Gehtland on Ajax...the list could go on and on. The point is that very few people can make a reputation for themselves by simply being a generalist.
I've been wrestling a lot lately with what my goals are. Why am I doing what I do? For a long time the goal has been to become one of those well-known experts. But I've realized that being renown can't and shouldn't be a goal, in and of itself. It is the result of a gaol. Being renown is the product of your reputation, and reputation is gained through what you do—determined by your goals.
So, what's my reputation. What am I going to be known for? That's what I've got to figure out.