Last night I attended the inaugural meeting of the Boulder-Denver Ruby User’s Group. “Meeting” was a term used in the loose sense–it was more a gaggle of Ruby enthusiasts sitting around tables with beer, chatting about Ruby and other geek stuff. The meeting was held at a brewery, so it was impossible to hear people more than a couple feet away, but as the group shifted around I probably talked with half a dozen others.

I joked at one point, “is this the Ruby User’s Group, or the Disgruntled Java User’s Group?” Indeed, there were many Java or ex-Java programmers there who were wooed by Ruby’s combo of power and ease of use. John DiVirgilio, architect at local startup Collective Intellect, commented on the productivity difference between his prior Java work and his current Ruby work. I paraphrase: “With Java there’s so many configuration files and setup code you need to write just to get pieces talking to each other. With Ruby, 8 out of 10 lines of code I write are actually moving my application along, contributing to the core competency of my company.”

Ironically, I was invited to the group by Scott Davis, an active Java developer who doesn’t use Ruby (yet). There were plenty of other common bonds, though, e.g. the Bond of the PowerBook. Everyone there either owned one or wanted one. I said to Scott, “of course all the Ruby geeks are Mac geeks, too – we’re the smart ones.” And of course any gaggle of programmers can find common ground in text editors, which we did. (Emacs, TextMate, Jedit, and Intelli-J all came up.)

Most people that I talked to got into Ruby before Rails came along, making them Ruby fans before it was the cool thing to do. Also, most were using Ruby in applications outside of Rails. The group illustrated that while Rails may be the greatest thing since sliced bread, it’s certainly not the only thing Ruby is good at.

All in all, a fun evening, and a great bunch of folks. You’ll see me at the next one.