Webreakstuff blog

Zed Shaw ignites the Rails community

Wow, is this the start of a good year, or what? Zed Shaw threw down the gauntlet on New Years Eve by posting a huge rant about Rails and some of the consulting companies who work with the framework. Personally, I loved it. I loved it because a lot of it is actually true. You may know we work almost exclusively with rails on our development projects, so Zed was talking (screaming, rather) quite close to our hearts. Here’s some of the things he talks about and that I agree with:

1) Some people (he generalizes a bit further) working with rails are morons. That would be true for just about any other language, but you know how it gets – people working with new stuff consider themselves special (a snowflake, I’d add to paraphrase DHH) and act as pricks. It’s human nature and it just happens. Luckily there’s some stellar people working with (and on) the framework too.

2) Great talent is usually not appreciated – although it’s a real pain to hire good rails developers. Some clients don’t fully appreciate the value of working with someone who does the work, does it right and actually knows the space he’s working on. But just as there’s bad clients (people who are looking for the quick turnaround and the quick buck), there’s some lousy programmers.

3) I giggled when he mentioned that Basecamp had to be restarted 400 times a day (once every 4 minutes), particularly because the framework’s performance was often backed by rails community. Being totally honest, we never actually had an application that had to be restarted at any given interval, but hey, if it is true what he says about BC, it would be ironic to say the least.

I’ll add a couple of points about things that piss me off about the Rails ecosystem (not necessarily the framework itself): Hosting providers, conferences, the books.

1) Hosting providers: rails is the “new” kid on the blog, so every hosting provider who wants to be hip has to support it – problem is most of them suck badly. We worked with a few companies to know the scenery, and to be honest, the only one we’ve dealt with that has people who knew their way around the framework is EngineYard (interestingly, Zed also praises Ezra in his post).

2) The conferences: well, I didn’t post much after Railsconf 2007, but the gist of it is: the conference was really poor. Between consultancies selling their own services and speakers who knew little about what they were talking about, I’d say the entrance money was definitely not worth what we got out of it.

3) The books: clients and friends who are interested in the framework sometimes ask about our recommendations for books – and time and time again I said there’s really none I’d recommend. In fact, if there’s a book I recommend for people willing to get into Ruby and Rails I’d start with the Ruby Way and ignore all the rails books. Current offerings from publishers are poor examples of programming language-focused writing.

Is it all bad?

Hell no. In fact, the good things compensate the bad. The framework does excel in quite a lot of areas; there is amazing talent working with and on Rails and there are good resources if you want to join the fun yourself. Rails is a great framework, we’ve had tons of success with our implementations (and others have too), and we’re happy. Some things, though, are not as good as some people claim they are – i.e. people selling you “enterprise knowledge” with no experience, or major consultancies who hire (or train) the wrong people to work with the framework.

Interestingly, Mike at Techcrunch picked up on this story as well. Disclosure: Techcrunch is a client for which we build rails-based solutions (like the Crunchies and the Presidential primaries). But no, we don’t restart anything every 4 minutes ;-)

  1. Nate says: January 2, 20084:24 am

    “once every 4 months” = “once every 4 minutes”

  2. Fred Oliveira says: January 2, 20088:59 am

    Thanks for the notice, Nate :-) Fixed

  3. [...] of course other bloggers picked up the topics and expanded with their frustrations and validation of original Zed’s [...]

  4. Gustavo Felisberto says: January 3, 20081:02 pm

    My very small tests with Rails show that it is not the fastest thing on earth. But it is a simple platform, and it is easy to do balancing and HA that scales almost in a linear fashion.

    I must say that I like the Agile Web Development with Rails, 2nd Edition (ISBN 0977616630). It gives a good overview of the framework while giving the user some pointers of software developing.

    I guess the thing with Rails is the same with any other framework, 95% of the time the error is human error and not with the system.

  5. Kurt Rephner says: January 6, 20081:02 am

    Maybe you should try getting some accuracy on numbers before commenting on rants.

    Do you have the amount of users BaseCamp has ? Or would you have a tiny fraction of them…

    The problems Twitter has/had, would it be because of that too ? (and the way data gets updated)

    There are good and bad on everything, so vapor-comments like yours add nothing to this (yah, mine included).

    Zed is a fairlygood programmer and a very smart guy. The thing is, commenting on rants like those, he sees you guys like THE morons.

    Final words:
    - don’t laugh on Basecamp restarts…
    - yah, Techcrunch sucks

  6. Fred Oliveira says: January 6, 20082:28 am

    I love me a good troll. If you had read my post carefully you would have seen that I know how fast rails is and how it scales (or we wouldn’t be using the framework). I was merely commenting on Zed’s point about rails when it began and basecamp 3 years ago.

    I laugh at restarting once every 4 minutes because it’s absolutely ridiculous if true. I haven’t been writing for techcrunch for a while, so direct your criticism of the blog to its editor and current writers. And seriously, an anonymous guy calling someone a moron because he has an opinion is hilarious – don’t hide yourself the next time, bud.

  7. Alan Johnson says: January 18, 20089:29 pm

    Kind of agree.

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