Ruby: The excitement mounts

It was with great excitement that I went to the Post Office yesterday to fetch my two Ruby books that I ordered from Amazon: Programming Ruby and Agile Web Development with Rails. Since starting to delve into Ruby a short while ago, I have fallen head over heels for this once obscure programming language, and the web framework that everyone has been talking about for so long.

It didn’t happen overnight. It must have been two years ago when I first heard about Rails. At that time I wasn’t really interested in what to me was some very inconspicuous web framework, although it is clear that I failed to see all the hype surrounding it then. Gradually though, intensive studies (and perhaps a little of the hype) have finally drilled a hole through my thick skull. I think what slowly brough me round to Ruby and Rails in particular was looking at PHP frameworks like Symfony, and finding so many Rails spinoffs. Everything pointed back to Rails, and I’m glad to say that I ventured onto this path due to serious investigation, and not (just) hype.

I have long pondered the notion, which I picked up several years ago, that scripting languages are highly underrated in the enterprise; an idea that was brought to my attention by some article I read on the internet, but will probably never come across again, although I can’t help but think that it was with reference in particular to Python. This couldn’t be more true in the area of web development.

There was a time when I was highly interested in Java for web development. I poured hours into researching the J2EE specification and several other technologies like Struts, Shale, Spring and Hibernate. I printed out all the accompanying documentation, most of which I have yet to read. Of course, one aspec that always bothered me was that J2EE hosting is much more expensive, and I have a distinct impression that Java-powered websites are slower.

Having come across Rails, I find that I’m looking at myself back then as a completely different person. It’s a far cry from that way of developing web apps, hooking up very complex pieces of software with endless XML configuration files. Not to mention the fact that there is always the compilation aspect; one reason for me why scripting languages are clearly better suited to web development.

I was amused the other day to read again a blog from 2005, entitled “Move over Ruby on Rails, Java can be concise too!“. It was interesting reading the comments, but even more so to read the response blog: “Bla-bla List: Cloning a Rails app in RIFE“. I think it just affirmed my desire to want to immerse myself in Rails rather seriously.

(Having said all that, if someone paid me to develop a web app in Java, I would do it with the same vigour and enjoyment as anything else – for me it’s all about the learning experience, and I have the most fun when I can be productive with any technology).

As a footnote, the other day I also found something quite interesting. While reading up again (for probably the fourth time in as many years) on Smalltalk, I came across the Seaside web framework. I found it very intriguing, and I believe that once I overcome my fear and dislike of a Smalltalk environment like Squeak, I can definitely see myself going down that avenue of discovery.

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