I followed the hype too and I've tried Ruby on Rails.
A digression: I think that there is a big difference between the hype
in real life and in software development. In real life one can be
completely nonconformist and lose nothing (one lives even better!). In
software development, instead, the hype matters because it means more
interested people and this implies more documentation, more code, more
tools, more resources in general. Of course a flawed product remains
flawed even if it's over hyped so one must be careful as usual but the
hype should be considered a plus.
I was saying that I've tried Ruby on Rails on a little project and I
must join to the many that say it rocks. In little time I
created a working application and deployed it. In truth it was a very
simple job: a products' showcase, whole similar to the depot
application described in Agile Web
Development with Rails. Anyway I'm sure I wouldn't be able to do it
in less time using other technologies, although I'm a complete newbie
with Ruby and Rails!
This experience has been enough to make me assert that many of the
Rails spot are indeed true. Among them, my favorites are:
(from the Apple
Rails tutorial). One language should suffice :-) because using
multiple languages makes the learning curve steeper and inter operating
between them often causes unnecessary impediments.
One language: Ruby
(from Agile Web Development with Rails). I know, the theory
blames the change and try approach but the practice teachs me
that it's a great value. Maybe it's also a form of agility, related to the working
software over comprehensive documentation assertion, and we want
to be agile, or not?
Instant feedback: edit the code, hit Refresh, and the change
is in my browser.
In years, as a developer, I've used almost exclusively the Java
language and I like it a lot. Some sustain that Ruby is more powerful
but frankly I haven't played enough with it to form an opinion on this
subject. Instead I can complain about the lack of a powerful IDE
and join Dion Almaer in his request for
I used RadRails that is nice
(and fresh winner
of the Eclipse
Best Developer Tool Award) but is far away from what can be done
with eclipse or IntelliJ IDEA with Java
code. Again I agree with Almaer in his response to
Bruce Eckel: an evolved IDE is
a fundamental tool that can boost your productivity and software
developer is accustomed to features like:
- code navigation between files, classes and method, etc.,
- sophisticated refactoring,
- code completion,
- error highlighting and intention actions
and strongly miss them when aren't available!
I think that a dynamically
typed languages is less inclined to be tamed by an IDE
and this is a structural disadvantage. However Almaer (yes, always him
:-) may be right when writes:
The real winner though? Nice language AND nice tool. And, it's
especially when looking at what JetBrains
and Interact (via Ajaxian)
Moreover, although I agree the most with the article of Bruce Eckel
titled Strong Typing
vs. Strong Testing", in my opinion:
- the compiler still does a good job and saves you from writing
- considering IDE support, statically typed languages aren't so
much less productive than dynamically typed ones.
On the other side, the dynamically typed languages are concise and more
manageable. Ruby, in particular, seems to have some potent
constructions (I'm thinking, for example, to its capabilities in meta-programming)
that should be of great utility but, unfortunately, I don't yet know
However, if it's true that the dear Java
language is becoming old and it's time for a change, maybe I'll prefer
to choose again in the static realm. There, the Scala language (via Waste
of Time) looks very promising but, as Francesco
remembered me, it isn't enough used: if being hyped brings more
resources, on the contrary, being not much known is an big deficiency
Ruby instead is gaining acceptance on a daily base and is a nice
language: it's a pure object oriented language and reminds me Perl,
that I love. Surely it's a strong candidate.
Anyway, I think that the programming language is not the most
important thing to take into consideration and that frameworks matter
more (perhaps the two things are connected: good frameworks are written
with good languages and vice versa ...). Ruby on Rails is a great
framework and I may explain why in my opinion in some cases it is the
optimal choice. I may also try to compare it with other ones belonging
to the Java world, highlighting pros and cons. Instead, as this post is
already too long, I'll preserve these ideas for when I'll have the time
to write another one :-). So,again, I'm going to focus on what, from a
newbie point of view, I believe isn't so good (please Ruby and Rails
people excuse me!).
Rails is a pure MVC framework and this is fine in a developers
driven project, i.e. a project leaded by the developers in which
the designers (if present) are able to work directly on views and check
the results through a running web server.
Unfortunately, in the typical situation we have designers driven
project. I'm talking about those low budget (but high frequency) jobs
in which a designer (or a group of designers) brings to you, developer,
a static web site and asks to add some functionalities. The problems in
this context are that:
- designer and developer work separately, this isn't agile but real,
- designer has the command and is not inclined to change his modus
Using Rails you have to break the original HTML structure to honor its
MVC pattern. On the other side the designer continues to work on the
graphics (he must change that awful color, increase the image width of
2 pixels, move the menu from the right to the left and back and so on)
and want to do it on a natural (non-Rails)
structure. In this way the integration soon becomes a mess.
From this point of view, PHP or Java with JSP (but without taglet) have
a cleaner and more convenient approach. It may be that Rails can solve
this problem with no effort but I don't know how (probably one can
reconfigure the views' locations to resemble the environment the
designer expects to find).
Anyway I searched a little and I haven't found a simple workaround. In
compensation, I discovered Nitro.
Judging from the (terse) documentation and from the demonstration videos this framework
(do we need another one?) is very promising and could solve this
problem without renouncing Ruby and most Rails peculiarities.
Unfortunately, as for Scala, it doesn't
seem very used and consequently there won't be a lot of resources.
We'll see if it gains popularity, good luck Nitro!
2006-May-07 CEST: Nitro has moved and I've updated the links.