Confessions of a Rails Groupie

An open letter from a fanboy to the Rails Community

Dear DHH, Jason Fried, and the rest of Rails Core,

I’ve been meaning to write this for a while. I might not be your biggest fan, or your most vocal supporter. I’m not closing Rails tickets and I’m not submitting bugs. I’m only just learning Ruby, and only beginning to realize the beauty of def self.getting_real.

I am, however, a certified Rails groupie.

It all started in the winter of 2004. I was just getting back into the internet swing and re-learning all the HTML I had wiped out of my mind during college. I started learning some PHP, and found it relatively easy and useful – but I hadn’t dreamed I would ever build a good size LAMP application from the ground-up single-handedly. [Aaron looks for a high-five, realizes he’s alone with his powerbook again, laughs awkwardly, resorts to continue typing] I was browsing the web one snowy Waltham evening and stumbled upon Tada List. I am a list-nut, and the idea of moving my lists out of the pages of scattered-doodle filled notebooks and on to a piece of clean well-organized web-software sounded like a dream. I made the move and was loving it.. I never realized the power of simple well-made web software. I was still living in the past of huge, slow, clunky applications that just made you want to give up. I was dumbfounded. “You mean you can create tools for the web that people actually want to use?”

I was enthralled by the power and possibilities that this held. I needed to know more. Google leading the way, I scoured and absorbed. “So, all of these applications are built with Ruby on Rails . . . What’s Ruby?”

Search. Click. Read. Search. Click.

Ahh, So Ruby is an object-oriented language . . . Ok, I know a
little Java. I can figure this out.

Click. Read. Search. Click.

Why The Lucky Stiff? is insane. Wow, I know programmers are often strange and eccentric – but he’s funny on top of that.

From The Poignant Guide it was decided that I was going to figure out Rails and build something with it. I didn’t know what yet – but this community was so . . . cool. At this point I was already working as a CSS/XHTML consultant in Boston and surrounded by a bunch of PHP/Java/Flash guys. They were all really nice – great guys – but they weren’t cool. The Ruby community seemed like the indie-rock kids of the programming community. They dressed better, they made cooler things, and they weren’t just nerds. I consider myself to be of a decent amount of coolness. I love programming because I love making things and solving problems. Maybe it was just that I felt like I could relate to these guys – and maybe even have a conversation that wasn’t programming related.

I consumed (present-tense as well) everything Ruby/Rails related. I have an entire category in my news-reader dedicated to Ruby blogs including but not only:

and others. At first I didn’t understand any of the Ruby stuff – It was readable, and I wasn’t at all put off by it – but I was just absorbing the exciting feeling that surrounded it all. I could feel something moving, bubbling, in the air. As much as I wanted to be a part of it – then and still, I’m happy being a person on the ridge, watching the story unfold.

I bought the Pickaxe and Agile Development on Rails and dove in. It was fun! It was overwhelming! A lot of times I found myself saying – “Nah, it cant be that simple. I missing a page or something . . . “. I wasn’t. Oh, the joy! The exuberant release that is ruby script/generate.

After about 8 months of poking around and starting without finishing about 10 different little applications, I finally built my first full application over the last two months. I did it all in my free time from working on the large scale PHP application that consumes my life. Im still working out the minutia and testing in the production environment, but its just about ready.

I wanted to share my excitement with you. I want to step out of the crowd of onlookers and become part of this community. I might still not submit bug tickets or be down with core but I promise to be a productive and perhaps cool addition.

Most of all, I wanted to thank you guys for giving me a burst of energy thats sustained itself for over a year already. Im not giving up PHP any time soon, and I don’t think any of your intentions were to make people drop whatever they’re doing, but Im going to be a Rails dude.

And I’m going to love it.


2 Responses to “Confessions of a Rails Groupie”

[…] So if I’m not heads down on RadioTail – what have I been doing? What I want to do! Specifically – code Ruby and Rails full-time. I’ve become the lone developer amongst a crew of amazing designers and thinkers at Intersect, Inc. Working with these folks has led me to produce some really awesome projects and code to back them. I’ve got to say that doing almost nothing but Ruby has been a joy. I’m constantly discovering new ways of doing things, and constantly re-factoring my own process to make it as streamlined and agile as possible. Again – more on this later. I’ve come along way from being just a side-line admirer of what the cool kids were doing. […]

[…] I’ve been such a Rails mooch. Relying on everyone else’s plugins, gems, and helpful blog posts. A while ago I said how I wanted to be a real part of this community. Well its time to stop coding (briefly) and start sharing. It’s time to give back. […]


QuirkeyBlog is Aaron Quint's perspective on the ongoing adventure of Code, Life, Work and the Web.




QuirkeyBlog is proudly powered by WordPress