Most people are curious / and want to get dirt on / the Centaur, I’m famous / I walk around with no shirt on. – Buck 65
Somehow, I’ve managed to make a name for myself over the past few years. It’s a little freaky to casually mention on Twitter that I bought a new office chair, then to see people on an IRC channel on the other side of the world debating the positive and negative aspects of my chair.
I love meeting people at conferences and collaborating on interesting projects. But I get a lot of email and I’m not always able to respond to all of it.
If you’re hoping to write to me or any other microcelebrity, here are some suggestions that improve your chances of getting a response.
General props, compliments, and thumbs up are always appreciated. Every other day I get an email with a thumbs up, which makes my job awesome. It’s one thing to have a boss pat you on the back, and another to get an email from an actual customer or fan who appreciates you. So thank you to all the people who have taken the time to pat me on the back!
For all other email, keep it short and include a specific action item. I received a wonderful email from someone about their history of learning Rails, their plans for the future, and about 6 other long paragraphs. I appreciate that someone took the time to write to me, but a long letter like that takes a while to read and it’s likely that I’ll put it aside and never come back to it.
When friending someone, include a short note about who you are. LinkedIn, Facebook, and other apps give you a spot to add a personal note when you add someone to your network. This puts things in context and helps me figure out if you’re an old college roommate or a friend of my mechanic. For readers of this blog, it could be as simple as the one word “Rubyist.”
This is even more important if your screen name doesn’t match your email address and your real name is even different from the other nickname you go by in the real world. I try to keep these things straight, but sometimes it’s like tracking down a con artist with 17 aliases. (If Jason Crane is reading this, I didn’t mean to call you a con artist!)
And if you are writing a social networking application, give your users a place to do that when they invite friends.
I’m currently putting my full effort into PeepCode. If you’re trying to hire me for a long-term project, you’ll get a stock rejection letter, unfortunately.
However, I love to travel and am interested in the occasional on-site training session. I also love to speak at conferences and love it when a conference is organized well enough to pay for my plane ticket to the event.
If you’ve recently published a book and want me to review it here or interview you on the Rails Podcast, I’d love to receive a copy of your book. My mailing address is in the footer of my blog.
Again, I’m putting my effort into my own publishing company right now, but I sometimes take the time to review other books in process. However, I’d much rather be part of the initial process before you even start the book. It’s awkward to send a critical letter of condemnation after reading a book that was poorly researched and badly implemented. I would much rather talk to you for an hour or two before you write your book to get you going on the right track. I’m saying this mostly for authors of anthologies who are going to cover Rails in a single chapter and want to cover only the basics.
On a completely unrelated note, I want to give a thumbs up to O’Reilly for listening to the community. On the Rails Podcast, several women decried the lack of gender-specific t-shirts being printed and given out at conferences.
Thanks to unflagging internal advocacy by Rob Orsini, O’Reilly have tentatively announced that they will be printing women’s t-shirts for RailsConf in Berlin. I think this will be the first O’Reilly conference to do this.
Also, it pains me every time I go to the excellent DevChix blog and see that there are only a few hundred subscribers. Carmelyne Thompson, Ana Nelson, Desi McAdam, and others are writing some great articles there and you need to subscribe to their RSS feed if you haven’t already.