I’m getting tired already of the hype about Ruby on Rails and how it is better than any other framework past, present or future.
Sure Rails is a cute piece of software, and Ruby is a gorgeous language (supposing you are into programming languages, that is), but if you take a critical look at Rails, you could just say it’s another MVC framework.. Big deal.. And with some coupling issues between the layers too, which are fortunately being targeted on Rails 3.
Moreover, if you take a look at some of its components they could frankly be better. ActiveRecord, for example, is a wrapper ORM, which is implicitly tying you to the physical database layer, with one class per table, as opposed to a mapper ORM such as DataMapper or Hibernate. And the principle of least surprise is kind of a joke when it comes to some of the ActionView helpers and the parameters you have to pass along.
Still, as we like to say around here “Ruby on Rails mola infinito”, and it’s right now my favourite framework for non trivial web applications.
So.. what makes this framework so special? Is it only the absence of configuration and the sensible defaults? Would we sell ourselves for a couple of parlor tricks like those? Surely not.. specially with so many frameworks providing already sensible defaults. Come on, even in Java you can kind of forget about writing so much XML code if you make proper use of annotations and the like. No, it has to be something else.
Ruby on Rails has something that transcends the framework itself. It has you. The Mighty Developer. The Early Adopter. The Status Quo Challenger. The so-called Community —whatever that means.
Bottom line is, when I get together with people working with Rails, they are always in search of the holy grail of web development —or the nearest tavern, whatever comes first.. you have to love that kind of pragmatism. We like to break our assumptions, to learn new things and forget about the ones we already know.
We embrace Rails *today* but we are willing to embrace any other tool as long as we like it better. Do you remember the months before the Merb-Rails love affair? Half the Rails developers I know were already making eyes at Merb without the slightest hint of shame.
And by challenging the system, we are obliged to keep learning… and to find new ways to build the web. And instead of trying to make a carbon copy of what we did before, we like to start anew, because that’s where the fun is.
Sure you can argue this attitude is not the exclusive property of the Rails community. And I would second you on that based on theory.. but in practice, I have seen
other some other communities lack this need of challenging. Maybe it’s because they have maturity models and certifications and black belts and whatnot…. And maybe having so many constraints is killing creativity; but fact is in some environments trying to take a step forward is seen as something odd, not desirable.
Rails will pass —or not— but as long as we keep alive the spirit of embracing change, we are entitled to be on the fun side of web development.
So, if you ask me, that’s the secret ingredient of Rails. Sure the language and the framework are cool, but the real power of Ruby on Rails is you.. and me.
update: please read the comments, since I was a bit ambiguous in the post and some points needed further explanation :)