I had a great time on the West coast recently with stops in Santa Barbara and Palo Alto. What always surprises me at events like these is the huge number of people I meet that are doing cool things with Rails that I've never heard of. The kind of people who are just really happy to be using Rails and happy to build businesses with it.
Most of them are not heavily involved with the community in the sense of always being in front of it. They're not the ones constantly commenting on the blogs. They're just enjoying working with the tools. That's a really refreshing sentiment.
It's easy for people to think that the interaction they witness on the web is a complete reflection of the world in general. Often it's quite the contrary. Which is why I so enjoy getting out of the web world and meeting people in the flesh. Hearing their stories, discussing their concerns, and sharing passions.
You can easily end up burning out on web participation because the loud minority twists your perception of what matters and who cares. But there's nothing like meeting people who tell you that working with Rails or listening to a talk or reading something you wrote either touched them, changed them, or made them move in a new direction. That's a big pay-off for getting involved with public sharing.
So thank you so very much to everyone who came up to me at any of the events out in California. It makes it all worth it to hear your stories. Keep on rocking with whatever it is that you're doing. Keep the passion and the optimism alive.