Oh Woe are We: Desecrating Rails for a Brighter Tomorrow

Rails programmer, how long do you think these glory days will last?

I first started thinking about this while attending Railsconf and talking to programmers who were creating Rails projects within gorillas such as AOL, LinkedIn, Monster, and of course Yellowpages (my apologies to AOL, LinkedIn, and Monster if any of those projects were supposed to be secret). After watching DHH’s keynote, it sunk in further. Now I hear that EngineYard just got $15m more funding, and the picture is crystal clear: the hobgoblins from years’ past that have kept Rails away from corporate use are melting away faster than polar ice cap.

This is a bad thing for those that like the competitive advantage Rails affords. With the advantage of RoR (and two tablespoons of Firebug), right now is one of those rare times in which a motivated programmer or two can compete technologically with legacy web companies that have payrolls 100x greater.

If Bonanzle could dig up an ounce of business savvy (still TBD) to go with our technology, I like to think we could be one of the seminal examples of this. Look down the list of our technological advantages vs the gorillas (real time offer making, integration with all major IM clients, image cropper, price guessers, pretty urls, 0-page-load item creation, real time messaging built into site, item importers for eBay/Craigslist, etc. etc.), and it’s clear that we’re living in an age where the possibilities for the underdog are as rife as ever.

But how long will that be the case? With a test-driven development environment like Rails, where metaprogramming and a solid MVC architecture can cut 125,000 lines of code to 20,000 lines (like Yellowpages did in moving to Rails), suddenly gorillas are nimbler, and order is restored to the world. Eventually, the gorillas might just figure this out. The horror.

In light of these facts, I have taken to pumping up the FUD on Rails whenever possible. I like my unfair Rails advantage, and would miss it if it were gone. In the interests of helping the reader perpetuate Rails FUD amongst their own social circle, I have created the following collection of sound bites to help you desecrate Rails:

  1. Rails Doesn’t Scale. C’mon, you know it’s true. I even preached this one myself. Tell them that “Ruby is the slowest programming language” ever. I mean, it’s slower than an excellent language like Python by a factor of 3x. It’s slower than C by about 70x! I can only imagine how much slower it is than x80 assembly. Visualize how screaming fast your assembly-driven site could be. If your listener happens to mention cloud computing, I recommend you retort with the thousands of dollars they’d have to spend on a server cloud for a heavily trafficked site. If they point out that those costs are a fraction of the development costs they’d incur otherwise, move on to point number two.
  2. No Big Sites Use Rails. Yes… yes… yes! In Rails’ history, excluding a couple one shot wonders like YellowPages and Twitter (don’t forget: Twitter is rumored to be leaving Rails), no “big” web site is running on Rails. Point out that both Facebook and Flickr run on PHP. Or better still, perhaps your listener would like to literally be the next MySpace and build on .NET? Hopefully they do not retort that almost none of the biggest sites were built when Rails existed, or that most new sites are built on RoR, or that any kind of bad Rails juju they encountered could be monkey patched since it’s all open source. It should suffice to say that if no big site has been built on Rails by now, no big site ever will be. Still not dissuaded?
  3. Google uses Python. Yes, they also use Ruby. But they use Python more. This one ought to work well when convincing a take-over-the-world CEO.
  4. Other Languages have More Libraries. This works sort of like number two… point out how many libraries PHP already has. Or .Net. Or Java, or C++. You can manipulate the hell out of an image with any of these choices. Or if you decided at the last minute that you wanted to make your web site into a PS3 game, you’d be glad you chose C++ and its PS3 libraries. Only the savviest enterprise-y tech guy will be able to discern between quantity and quality: think how many underdeveloped, crap libraries they’ve become accustomed to while dealing with Java.
  5. Open Source Software is Unsupported Software or Ruby on Rails Doesn’t Deploy on Windows or URLs Don’t Matter. Alright, if they still weren’t convinced after four points that terrific, you’re going to need to fire some scattershot. These arguments should close the case for the last few Windows types, and for others, hopefully they tilt in favor of Anything But RoR. But for the last few hard-to-budge listeners, you’ll need to pull out your ace in the hole…
  6. The Creator is an Ass. Have you ever listened to DHH talk? What an elitist snob. Thinks he is God’s gift to programming. The way he repeatedly cut off this nice Python fellow was disrespectful. Any framework created by this guy must be an elitist, disrespectful framework to use.

And that should about do it… double bonus points for anyone who can convince eBay to give ASP .NET a whirl!

(Note to busy/dense readers: #1-6 employ heavy use of irony)

9 Replies to “Oh Woe are We: Desecrating Rails for a Brighter Tomorrow”

  1. Funny how RoR developers talk about how great it is. It seems the RoR developer need to always be convincing themselves how great it is, so they do not feel they have wasted part of their life. It was funny watching to wizard developers at my last job try to build a simple app. They walked away and laughed.
    Waste of time they said.
    I like my c based languages.
    There are many different ways to build a wheel.

  2. Ha! My words, I am scared too.

    but… I think you miss some points:

    #7 The Ruby / RoR Community is far to enthusiastic €¦
    €¦Programming CAN’T be fun €¦
    “Having fun” … and enthusiams… can’t be real…

    #8 bits and bytes are always trouble! Nothing can be easy… They lie… everybody lies!!!

    #9 Inventing the wheel again and again… is cool. (C / Assembler… dig deep -> find total control)
    Frameworks, … “make things reusable”,… is for lazy people => Dry / MVC / Conventions is only for bad progammers and lazy people: WE like our XML sit-ups, so I have some more hours I get paid for configuration instead every time being soo productive…

    #10 Conventions are hard to learn and everybody could read my code. I don’t want that… Knowbody should have the slightest idea, how my code works,… so that eeeevery client is stuck with me and is at the mercy of me.

    greetings to all of you control-maniacs

    class Rafael :rails_gotchas

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