Monday, 20 June 2011

What the hell is happening with Rails?

A whole slew of controversy has been stirred up with the post: What the hell is happening to rails - which managed to top the hackernews charts for quite a while last week.

It basically gave vent to a lot of concern in the rails community that rails is becoming too difficult to learn, and that may be scaring off newbies.

The new rails has certainly been in a great state of flux - and pushes the whole framework in a new direction. Whether or not you like that direction is one thing - but the fact that it is such a big change makes it difficult to know where to start if you're coming into the community for the first time.

I recently had an eye-opening experience at a hack-day where I suggested rails as a platform-of-choice for us to use... then spent the entire day helping one guy just get a basic rails stack up and running on his laptop, and then I still had to explain how to actually use it.. This isn't as easy a I remember when I first began.

One of the big benefits of original plain-ole-C was that anybody could learn the entirety of the language and keep it in their head all at one time. Contrast that with any of the big enterprise languages, which require a long ramp-up time even just to learn everything that is available in the basic suites. Not that having less is better - but it does make the early-learning stages much quicker... so I can see the point being made here.

In any case - I think the gist of the post/discussion is worry over the potential dilution of the framework. If we want to be all things to all people - it means a lot of work to genericise the platform, and that means big changes.

On one hand, I can see why it's being done. There are good reasons for all of the alternatives to the core-defaults... and being able to support them therefore opens up our audience to a greater market. But I can also see the point that it makes Rails *feel* a lot more bloaty than before... even if it isn't actually degrading performance, and it gives newbies so much more to learn just to get out the starting gates.

In any case - Yehuda Katz has now done a follow-up post explaining just What’s Up With All These Changes in Rails? - and it's worth a read to see why they've made some of their recent decisions.

and I plan to watch the continuing discussion closely...

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