This is not a writeup about Ruby, exactly. Rather, it is about the coolest programming guide in the history of man.
Wait, wait! I know what you're thinking. But this isn't just for wizened Linux gurus. I've little talent or inclination for programming and I love the Guide like a helpless, gurgling infant. (Like it's an infant, that is. Or maybe like an infant loves another infant. I don't know, infants don't really feel empathy yet.)
Like the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, this is a text about a text. Unlike the Hitchhiker's Guide, though, the Poignant Guide actually exists in all its herein-described glory, not some BBC-run imitation cruelly mocking your hopes and dreams.
Why's (Poignant) Guide to Ruby is about how to program in Ruby, a Japanese language (now I just have to learn to surf) -- or, more accurately, a langauge from Japan with an English lexicon -- but it's also more than that. It's
- a technical document written like a novel (a psychedelic novel with lots of comics in it),
- an attempt to spread Ruby to the programming masses (its lack of English documentation preempted broad use until quite recently), and, more generally,
- an attempt to spread programming to the masses masses. Its author, Why, explains:
The Poignant Guide is rare -- perhaps unique -- among programming texts in that it doesn't seem to be written for people with Asperger's (under a very broad definition of which I count myself). Why is either a genius or a budding schizophrenic, possibly both. His illustrated examples are beatiful, funny, compelling, and absurdly elaborate. Why's waived most the Guide's copyright restrictions -- do anything you want with it, basically, up to and including altering the text and using it for profit -- but I'm sure he'll recoup his time and expenses several-fold selling apple Starmonkeys and T-shirts featuring The Elf And His Pet Ham.
You'd best check it out yourself: http://poignantguide.net/ruby/
Update: Chapter three has been included in The Best Software Writing 1.