No Ranting, No Railing, Just Grading

Posted by amy on January 15, 2008

A few of our students, people new to ruby and rails, are pretty turned off by the ranting and railing in the rails community that’s been on super-duper heavy display lately, what with the Zed thing and the Dreamhost thing and all. (No links, google Zed Shaw and Dreamhost Rails for your ownselves.)

These students want to know: what’s up with the rails community being so childish, ranty, obscene, profane, and macho? If rails wants to be treated like a grownup framework for grownups, shouldn’t rails act like a grownup? How are we supposed to take rails seriously when the guy in charge of rails thinks people who are offended by swearing are not worth his time? And why should we want to join a community that appears so unwelcoming?

To which I say the following:

First, my job is not to defend rails and all the people associated with it (Right, say students, your job is actually to finish grading our assignments. Could you finish?!? I’m working on it, I swear). If Rails is a ponzi scheme I have not been let in on it; I get no kickbacks from duping students into learning it. I am enthusiastic but not passionate about rails ( I believe, as I’ve said before, that my only true passion may be cheese), and I hope I’ve managed to share some of my enthusiasm with our students, without appearing cultish.

Second, I could point out that the Ruby and Rails communities are not isomorphic. There is a lot going on in Ruby that is not rails. But it’s also true that many people come to Ruby through Rails, so if the rails community is unwelcoming, then fewer people may make it over the hump to discover the Ruby in which Rails is built. That’s too bad, because they’d be missing out on something truly lovely. Still, there are other truly lovely languages out there too. “Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thoughts contend,” except without all the reeducation camps.

Third, it’s possible that Rails will hit a wall due to personality problems. It’s also possible that, being young, Rails will grow out of its personality problems. If you don’t like the personality of the rails community right now, just wait, it’ll probably change. Or jump right in there with your own personality problems, mix it up a little.

Whatever happens, though, I think that Rails has a few good tricks that the rest of the web development community has and will continue to learn from. I think that Rails, like all frameworks, will someday go out of fashion, and then, out of date, and then, eventually, fade into obscurity. And I think more good and interesting and beautiful things will come out of Ruby.

In any case, as I wrote to one of the students who was a bit depressed by the recent rails flame wars:

For me, I know that if it had not been for rails getting popular, I would not have gotten into Ruby, and if I had not gotten into Ruby, it might have been much, much longer before I’d realized that life could get a whole lot better than:

Iterator iter = collection_thingy.getIterator();
while (iter.hasNext()) {
Thingy thingy = (Thingy);

No one can take each away from me.

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    1. Gregory Brown Sat, 26 Jan 2008 10:30:32 UTC

      Hah yes… Thingy Thingy Thingy is certainly a Java Thingy I’m glad I don’t have to deal with when I do the Ruby Thingy.

    2. Robert Oliver Sat, 09 Feb 2008 17:56:55 UTC

      Good post Amy.

      I applaud Dreamhost’s efforts to bring light to the attention that Rails is hard to host and its creators don’t seem to care (Ok, maybe the last bit there I added, but hey).

      When I ask big Rails site developers what they’d do differently, they’d say they’d use Ruby and not Rails.

      Well, Merb is here now – – and I suspect will help significantly in dealing with the poor scalability of Rails.