Entering the World of Ruby

My curiousity has been piqued. After numerous comments and everybody saying how neat it was, I figured I'd take a gander. I'll try and touch on what I feel some of the strengths and weaknesses are.

It wasn't clearly evident to me what Ruby was designed for. My initial thoughts were that it was a scripting language designed mostly for web development. I envisioned it being very similar to PHP.

To get started on my little trek, I did a quick search for Ruby on Google. I found what appears to be the offica page but the site is confusing for somebody who is being introduced to the language for the first time.

Clicking on What's Ruby reveals a little of what the language is all about. Nothing on the site ever really tells me why I would ever want to learn Ruby. Put bluntly, it's a site by geeks, for geeks.

On a quick sidenote, the PostGreSQL site suffers the same dilemma of poor site design and just poor marketing of the cause.

After a day of trying stuff out, I think I've come to the conclusion that Ruby is a scripting language that can be used for whatever you want to use it for. Desktop applications, web applications, whatever.

Ruby, however, really seems to be catching on specifically as a web scripting language. And I feel this is entirely due to one specific component: Rails.

The Rails site gets it right where the main Ruby site gets it wrong. It tells you right off the bat what it does and includes links to some important terminology like MVC, which is good to know if you come from a procedural style of development.

Rails by all accounts appears to be a straightforward framework for building web applications. Very little code needs to be written to build a simple web application such as a blog or to-do list. Yet, it's still powerful enough to run a mainstream application such as Basecamp.

Rails could use some extra beginner how-to information on Action Pack and Active Record (the two components of Rails). The video demonstrations, however, are what convinced me to look into things further.

Both the Ruby and Rails sites don't make it evidently clear which links will send you off to external sites and I'm amazed, especially on the main Ruby site, just how many links are external. With such discontinuity, it's difficult to orient yourself and know exactly where you are in your quest to learn the language.

It's hard to say whether Ruby will become as popular a language as PHP, Java, et al. More mainstream applications need to come online to really demonstrate the power of Ruby.

UPDATE: This post is now heavily outdated as both the PostgreSQL and Ruby on Rails sites have seen great redesigns get implemented.

Published November 12, 2004 · Updated September 17, 2005
Categorized as Ruby
Short URL: https://snook.ca/s/277

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3 Comments · RSS feed
baller said on November 13, 2004

Your sidebar was confusing me. Some links are internal and some are external. I found it difficult to orient myself until I noticed that each link desination is shown in my browser status bar.

Hugo said on July 15, 2005

It seems you have an mal formed link (video demonstrations). It's hiding some of the text.

Jonathan Snook said on July 18, 2005

Hugo: thanks, HTML has been fixed.

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