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The path to Ruby enlightenment - Part I »

FERDY CHRISTANT - JAN 3, 2007 (06:08:38 PM)

One of the promises I made to myself in this new year is to learn Ruby and Ruby on Rails. I am lured into this language and framework by its claim of drastic productivity increasement for web development. On top of that, it is hyped a lot. Consider me curious.

During the last days, I took some beginner steps that gave me a basic understanding of what it is all about. If you share my curiousity, the following may help you get started:

Much of the hype is about Ruby on Rails, which is a framework that runs on top of Ruby, the programming language. With this in mind, it makes sense to first learn about the Ruby language. I took a brief look at it by going throught the Ruby in 20 minutes tutorial. Quite a modern, flexible language it seems. However, most concepts appear similar to other modern languages, with slight syntax differences.

It was only later that I discovered that the Ruby language offers the flexbility to make a framework like Ruby on Rails succeed. I took a deep dive into three excellent O'Reilly articles to get started with my Rails education:

That's more like it! It takes some time to wade through the articles, but it's worth it. I can now see why Ruby on Rails is so super productive. It has a philosophy of automation over configuration, a philosophy of standardization over too much choices, a philosophy of focusing on what it's all about: features. This approach feels so natural and obvious, that I wonder why other platforms don't have this. I'm starting to get it.

On to some more inspiration. I watched all three screencasts on the Ruby on Rails site. The first one explains how to create a weblog application in 15 minutes. The guy talks awfully fast, and the presentation is obviously well prepared, but still...I'm blown away.

The second one is about creating a small search interface on top of Flickr in 5 minutes, including Ajax calls and some nice javascript visual effects. Wow, I want to be able to do what he does.

The third one extensively demonstrates how easy it is to work with database schema and data migration in Rails. It is a bit deep for now, but, it is obvious that somebody put a lot of thought into this.

I'm convinced. I need to learn this. I'm greatly inspired by the above resources, but also realize that only proper study and practice will lead to these productivity improvements. With this in mind, I will set myself a target to develop a Ruby on Rails application this year. Most likely, it will be published on, so that others can benefit from it.

I collected some other resources that look valuable, but I have not checked them out yet:

We live in exciting times.

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