Rails Ninjas We Are Not

Posted by amy on July 09, 2007

The other day I responded to an ad looking for Rails Ninjas. A very nice guy called me up to talk about his startup. He asked me to talk about our rails skills. Would I describe myself or Max as a rails superstar? I said “look, we’ve been using rails since March. We are not rails superstars.”

Why did I respond to an ad asking for Rails superstars when I make no claims to be one? Because there are many ads looking for Rails superstars and there are not enough to go around. There certainly aren’t undiscovered rails superstars around. We’re not talking supermodels here. You don’t take an ordinary Romanian peasant and turn her into a rails superstar overnight with a nice haircut and a manicure . Rails superstars have blogs and open source projects and debates about the importance of symbols on the rails-core mailing list. They have histories.

Me and Max, we don’t yet have a history with Rails. We are not superstars.

And yet, we are not script kiddies. Rails is full of amazing magic. How do instance variables set in the controller end up as instance variables in the view? Who knows? And who cares? Script kiddies don’t care. It’s automagically terrific, and that’s all they need to know.

If you look at the source code, though, you fall down a rabbit hole. You discover that Ruby itself has a method called instance_variable_set (be sure to check out the documentation on that!), that you can call on _any_ ruby class. How utterly transgressive! You can just shove whatever you feel like in anyone’s class at any damn time you please. You can make brand-new methods on the fly, when you need them, by using method_missing to make a new method whenever you call one that doesn’t yet exist. Amazing feats! And not implemented in secret or in C or something that isn’t any fun to look at and that there’s little hope of your ever being able (or particularly wanting) to do similar things yourself. All the magic is just hanging right out there for everyone to see. And it’s all just part of Ruby, a cute little language that’s fun to code.

And you think, yes, I can do this! Someday I too may tackle the continuation koans.

But not just yet.

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    1. [...] am a hack. I know nothing. I claim not to be a script kiddie, and I’ll stand by that claim, but only because those of us who are just competent enough to [...]

    2. [...] am a hack. I know nothing. I claim not to be a script kiddie, and I’ll stand by that claim, but only because those of us who are just competent enough to [...]

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