Where in the World is _why ?


Looking for _why …

Filed under: Uncategorized — sl33p3r @ 1:15 pm

As already reported numerous time, _why has disappeared from the internet (see for example this).

Amongst the several questions that arose, one was related to the guy behind _why. Seems like nobody knows _why‘s real name (or at least nobody disclosed it 😉 ). I’m going to try to summarize the findings of various people (including me) regarding one of the possible real identity of our beloved _why.


I worked with _why on hobix and on French translation of the Poignant Guide. _why has been very gentle and friendly, and during this period I uncovered the blog of his beloved. As I complimented _why on this blog (hosted at hobix.com at this time), he asked me to not disclose it as he does really want to stay unknown from others …

I do agree with _why‘s choice regarding privacy … however, as he disappeared so brutally, I really would be sure that the guy, himself, is OK. This is the very reason I’m participating to this detective work.

What the community found

First of all, disclosure of the most probable identity so far. _why is supposed to be named Jonathan Gillette. Here are the various evidence that led the community to this conclusion:

  • Jonathan Gillette posted to the ruby-talk mailing list using an account named why (Who is Why The Lucky Stiff)
  • Jonathan Gillette posted to the ruby-talk mailing list alternating between the why account and a jonathan account (ruby-talk thread)
  • _why and Jonathan have been working on the same open-source project at the very same moment (javuh commit logs)
  • Jonathan Gillette (with Kylie Gillette) appears in some music stuff (Starving But Happy)
  • Looking at the text file in the above link, we can see that Jonathan is a computer programmer, and his wife Kylie is author of one blog: http://misstrudy.hobix.com. This is the very blog I complimented _why on.
  • They are said to also belong to another music group : “The Child Who Was a Keyhole”.
  • The CD of this formation is very … hummm .. familiar for those who know the art of _why: CD
  • “The Child Who Was a Keyhole” guitar player/singer looks also like _why: The Child Who Was a Keyhole

So all in all, for me, _why is Jonathan Gillette (no, not this one ). Let’s hope we’ll have news from him …

why, my friend, should you read this, please leave us a message, a link or something along these lines, just to say that you are OK.



  1. Also snapd.net’s company and domain ownership.

    Comment by narf — 2009/08/21 @ 2:35 pm

  2. http://twitter.com/cloudeight

    This is the same person as:


    She is a friend of _why’s wife.

    Comment by ecce — 2009/08/21 @ 3:38 pm

  3. http://sharpandkeen.wordpress.com/

    She has a new blog, and knows her old one was shut down.

    Comment by ecce — 2009/08/21 @ 3:39 pm

  4. And here is his wife’s new blog:


    Comment by ecce — 2009/08/21 @ 3:40 pm

  5. http://stylusmagazine.com/review.php?ID=2656

    Here’s a brutal review of _why’s original band’s album.

    Comment by ecce — 2009/08/21 @ 4:33 pm

  6. what kind of person are you ?
    even ahmadinejad, hitler, obama and stalin would respect why’s decision !

    Comment by struggle — 2009/08/21 @ 6:20 pm

  7. Dear struggle,

    Thanks for your nice comment and delicious comparison which seems so balanced and inspired.

    As I’m not sure that your ability to read is the same as other living people, here is an excerpt of what I’ve written above:

    “I do agree with _why’s choice regarding privacy … however, as he disappeared so brutally, I really would be sure that the guy, himself, is OK. This is the very reason I’m participating to this detective work.”

    Comment by sl33p3r — 2009/08/21 @ 6:29 pm

  8. dear sl33p3r,
    couldn’t you just ask the person you call his wife instead of publishing everything you maybe know about this guy ?

    Comment by struggle — 2009/08/21 @ 6:53 pm

  9. sl33p3r did not publish the other contact information. I did.

    Comment by ecce — 2009/08/21 @ 7:10 pm

  10. Dear struggle,

    As said by ecce, I did not have, at thi stime, information on who his wife was …
    Now that I have this information, I probably will ask her, in private, if she really is her wife and whether or not he is OK.

    Comment by sl33p3r — 2009/08/21 @ 7:36 pm

  11. Dear sl33p3r,

    sounds like a good idea ! tell her to persuade him to continue at least potion – it’s such a lovely speedy little language 😉 and keep us up to date on his well being !

    Comment by struggle — 2009/08/21 @ 7:50 pm

  12. I can guarantee that _why is okay. I don’t know why he did what he did, but I know that he isn’t in a closet somewhere contemplating suicide, contrary to what many believe could be a likely explanation for what he is doing. It’s always been fun to listen to people speculate since I ran into him through other means. However the voyeurism and prying into his private life and those of his family and friends is getting quite pathetic. I know he invited some of this cause of the Streisand Effect, but the entire internet is not _why’s keeper, he has people around him that know him a lot better than any of us do from what he has shared of this persona of his.

    Comment by _withheld — 2009/08/21 @ 11:50 pm

  13. Hi _withheld,

    I do agree with you regarding the fact that his family and friends will take care a lot better than us … However, _why was more than appreciated and people were anxious of what could have happen to him … Just saying “Goodbye” is sometime sufficient.

    Comment by sl33p3r — 2009/08/22 @ 12:58 am

  14. Then say goodbye without the voyeuristic prying into a man whose valued his privacy for whatever his reasons were. If you must dig, dig and keep things to yourself. If things like this keep up than he’s less likely to come back.

    Comment by _withheld — 2009/08/22 @ 10:54 am

  15. I think the person behind “_why” alter-ego has/had mental problems. Probably some kind of dissociative personality disorder. It could develop because of psychological trauma in childhood (likely divorce of the parents in this case). It looks like his real personality is shy, not very eager to communicate or be active on the internet(e.g. on that open-source project _why’s commits are massive, still in copyrights there is other, real person, which wasn’t very active on the project). So the _why alter-ego eventually took over all of his online activity.

    I imagine the reason behind _why’s disappearance is part of an effort to treat the real person’s mental illness. It could be personal decision or suggested by psychiatrist to help him get rid of this alter-ego.

    It’s unfortunate, but if that is indeed the case then for the real person’s health and well-being _why must go. And attempts to find out who the real person is and link it to _why are not helping the guy at all.

    It’s sad, but it is best to forget there was _why. Even if the guy recovers it’s unlikely that he will return and continue doing what he was doing. Because that’s just not a part of his real personality.

    Comment by alx — 2009/08/23 @ 4:50 am

  16. More than likely, _why works for a university (freelance prof is probably somewhat close to his actual profession) and he wanted to protect his intellectual property from being taken away from the community by his university. I’m sure that after Art & Code, his employer began putting pieces together.

    It’s not a conspiracy, and I doubt he’s manically depressed. He knew everything he worked on has been forked, mirrored, and has received good fame.

    Please, leave Jonathon alone. I’m sure that we’ll see more from him, whether we know it to be him or not.

    Comment by Tuna — 2009/08/24 @ 6:10 am

  17. @al: I don’t buy the ‘psychological’ path .. I’m just thinking _why just wanted to choose when and where he can exist, disappear and start a new ‘electronic’ life.

    @tuna: agree with you. Let’s leave him in peace.

    To all: I did not want to hurt anybody. I was just, as already said, sad to see him disappear and was willing to be sure he was OK. I’m now kinda 99% sure of this.

    _why, enjoy your new life ! 😉

    Comment by sl33p3r — 2009/08/24 @ 8:10 am

  18. sl33p3r,

    Why are you 99% sure he’s okay? Do you have some new information, or have you just convinced yourself that all’s well?

    Comment by david — 2009/08/25 @ 1:31 am

  19. Hi David,

    I would say a mix of both … We have several evidences (i.e. people saying they know him personnaly and he is okay, his wife posting things like “Just eating a chickpea burger with _why. Did you hear that??? A CHICKPEA BURGER. Put THAT on Wikipedia!” on her twitter account, plus the fact that I think someone (like his wife or close real life friends) would have say he’s not OK due to the big noise around his disappearance.

    Comment by sl33p3r — 2009/08/25 @ 8:10 am

  20. Best of luck to _why. I enjoyed some of the things he produced and thought he was an interesting person who contributed much to the Ruby community. It looks like he is a fantastically creative person who has worked on many interesting projects.

    On the other hand, it is natural to expect that once you publish something it becomes something bigger than yourself. I believe that _why is somewhat arrogant to simply delete everything. This isn’t malice on my part, but simply, if people rely on you for something, it is respectful to others to realise this and reconcile things through communication. It wouldn’t have been complicated to pass his projects on to other members of the community, for example.

    When you make something public, you are accepting a certain burden which if you can’t carry properly, you are going to let down others who are relying on you. It is the nature of the world we live in, I believe.

    Best of luck to _why and I hope that things work out for him, in whatever endeavour he chooses.

    Comment by Samuel — 2009/08/25 @ 5:19 pm

  21. Why are you feeding the _why frenzy and voyeurism?

    Why don’t you just delete this? Isn’t that more likely what _why would have wanted?

    Digging may feel fun, but it looks more like paparazzi attention whoring. To excuse a phrase. 😛
    I don’t even know the guy, and that’s what it looks like.

    Comment by SG — 2009/09/11 @ 8:22 am

  22. Please, leave me alone. I’m OK.

    Comment by _why — 2009/12/01 @ 6:21 pm

  23. Can’t you see _why needs his anonymity? It’s all part of his false, pretentious “artist” persona. Reasonable people might call it psychotic, but this is ART! Anything is allowed! What a genius! *clap clap clap*

    Comment by Andres Kievsky — 2010/01/16 @ 3:17 pm

  24. is there a good free french translation tool on the internet ?”.’

    Comment by High Pressure Cleaner : — 2010/10/28 @ 6:41 pm

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