NOTE:This blog had a good run, but is now in retirement.
Please see Practicing Ruby for Gregory's more recent works.

Practicing Ruby Journal: Three months in and still going strong

2011-11-23 22:00, written by Gregory Brown

Three months ago today I relaunched my subscription-based weekly Ruby journal. Over the last 13 weeks I’ve shared my thoughts with over 250 subscribers and wrote close to 150 pages of content. The work I’ve done on Practicing Ruby has better prepared me to teach at Mendicant University and vice-versa. Because this has been so much fun for me, and appears to be trending towards becoming a sustainable business, I will keep doing it!

To celebrate the fact that this second generation of the Practicing Ruby has made it through a full quarter of a year, I’ve decided to publicly release the three articles that my subscribers enjoyed the most. Go ahead and check them out if you want to see for yourself what the journal is like:

While reading these articles might give you a sense of the quality of the content I’ve been producing, that’s only part of the overall picture. Behind the scenes, you’ll find that:

  • Many of the Practicing Ruby article lead to great conversations among folks who are serious about becoming better developers.
  • I am highly available to my readers, doing extra legwork where necessary to make sure their questions are answered and thoughts considered.
  • I am doing the kind of research that I was never able to do when I was spending most of my time doing consulting work, leading me to write about things not because they are easy, but because they are challenging and interesting.
  • All of the back issues are available to new subscribers, because I treat Practicing Ruby more like a subscription to a digital library and less like a newsletter.
  • I am not alone in running this project: Nancy Kotary provides me with awesome copyediting and Mendicant Univerity co-founder Jordan Byron maintains the Rails app that runs this service.

If you look even deeper than this, you’ll find that similar to my work on Mendicant University, the Practicing Ruby journal is an experiment in social responsibility for me. In particular, I’ve committed to do a few things that I think ought to make paying subscribers feel good for supporting this project:

  • I offer the Practicing Ruby service freely for anyone who cannot afford to pay for it for any reason. All it takes is to email and let me know you need a free account. The stories my free subscribers have told me are amazing, but I’ve also given subscriptions to people who have offered no explanation as to why they could not pay the full price of $8/month.
  • I am committed to release all content freely within a reasonable period of time after it has been released to subscribers. Some articles I release immediately, but you can expect every article to become publicly available within a year of its original publication date. Because I write on topics that are not usually ephemeral in nature, the articles will have not lost their value by the time they are released under a free content license.
  • I’ve set up liberal sharing policies for my subscribers, making it easy for them to share articles with their friends if they’d like.
  • The whole point of this service is to allow me to sustain all the free work I do on Mendicant University and open source software while still creating something of value. I’m not looking to get rich off of this service, I just want to be able to maintain my current standard of living and be able to provide for my family. In fact, the articles shared in this blog post are using that system!

My hope is that over the next several months, more and more folks will join Practicing Ruby so that I can make both it and Mendicant University that much better. If I could reach 400-500 subscribers I’d be able to sustain this project indefinitely while still being highly available to my readers. While that seemed a bit like a pie-in-the-sky dream when I first started this service, I’ve made it halfway there in just three months.

If I’ve managed to convince you that the work I’m doing is worthwhile and that you’ll get a whole lot of high quality Ruby learning materials for just $8/month, please go ahead and subscribe to the Practicing Ruby journal now. I can promise you that it’s much more than a paid blog/newsletter, and that you’ll not experience anything quite like it anywhere else. If you’re not sure yet whether it’d be a good fit for you, I’d be happy to answer any questions you have about the service either in the comments on this blog or via email at

I cannot thank the current Practicing Ruby subscribers and supporters from the community enough for giving me the unique opportunity to have an independent lifestyle that is focused on doing some good for the world. It is awesome that I get to spend my days doing what I love while helping others along the way. The Ruby community is really special in that way, and I feel lucky to be a part of it.

If you want to keep up with my projects and announcements, follow me on twitter here

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