A couple of months back, I finished my first major project with Ruby but sans Rails. What’s the verdict—is Rails a good framework or a bad one?
A couple of months back, I finished my first major project with Ruby but _off _Rails. You probably don’t know that, but I’m one of these people who first tries to master a framework and only then looks at the documentation. This is the approach taught by “the Rails way.” When I started my adventure with Rails, I believed it to be a perfect framework, God’s gift to developers. A couple of months later, I saw big, old RoR projects… and I wanted nothing more than to run away from Ruby as far away as possible.
But wait a minute—why would I run away from Ruby if I hated Rails? Well, because for me it was all the same. Around that time, a colleague “invited” me to participate in their project which used a library I hadn't heard of before—Ruby Object Mapper. It was a breakthrough moment for me, because it allowed me to see how Ruby can be used off Rails. I started taking a greater interest in writing applications that were better, more aware, and used a range of other libraries. Then, I decided to write an account of these adventures and draw some conclusions that wouldn't be invalidated by the passage of time.
Rails Isn't Bad; It’s Just That Developers Use It Wrong
Ruby on Rails is a framework like any other. Simple to use and with a huge community to boot. It’s a perfect tool, especially in the api_only “version.” It has specific purposes in applications with uncomplicated domains, in prototypes and blogs, sometimes in bigger projects too. In the latter case, we often have to deal with the issue of adapting architecture to the real complexity of the domain. But why do so many developers use popular as a substitute of universal? Why was RoR treated like a “unicorn” framework? In my personal opinion, Rails gained notoriety because it was misused in the wrong places.
If something supposedly fits everything, there is a considerable possibility that it doesn’t actually fit anything. Each case needs to be analyzed separately, and in edge cases, one should consider switching to a different technology stack.
Compare it, for a second, to what contemporary medical practice looks like—although in theory primary care physicians are equipped to diagnose the overwhelming majority of diseases they come across, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they design the course of the treatment. So don’t try that approach in software development, it doesn’t work here either.
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David Heinemeier Hansson is the creator of Ruby on Rails, co-founder & CTO of Basecamp, best-selling author, Le Mans class-winning race car driver, family man, frequent podcast guest, and inspirational conference speaker.
The most satisfying thing beyond building something is to make it available to the world. Heroku is great for beginners because it’s a free and “simple” push-to-deploy system.
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