My life as a Rubyist: a 4-week checkpoint

I’m 4 weeks into my Ruby on Rails gig and so far I’m loving it. Ruby on Rails is an awesome platform for developing web applications and it allows you to do things really easily. The Ruby language itself is extremely flexible. It has far fewer restrictions compared to static-typed languages, which enables to do things that you would’ve never thought of doing before. (If you’re curious, watch these screencasts on the Ruby object model and metaprogrammming, it’s some real mind-bending stuff).

The app that I’m working on is 4 years old, yet the codebase is probably the cleanest brownfield app I’ve ever worked on. The team puts a lot of emphasis on writing clean code and doing things right. I’m excited to work in a place where this is valued so much.

I noticed really quickly that there were very few really long methods in the codebase. The more I thought about it, I realized that this is not just because the team is making a concerted effort to write small methods (although that is part of it). You can do a lot in Ruby with not a lot of code, so you don’t need to write as much code. This leads to smaller methods, more readable code, and less code that needs to be written.

TDD is much more valued in the Ruby community. At JRubyConf last weekend, when they asked how many people in the audience practiced TDD, at least half of the people raised their hands. Everyone on my team knows how to do TDD. JRubyConf had three sessions on advanced TDD topics. None of them felt the need to convince people why TDD is good.

There are many more reasons why I like the Ruby on Rails platform (much more on this later). When you can do things using less code, there are countless open source packages that you can take advantage of, and when all of the tools you need to run tests, deploy your app, and migrate your database are already taken care of, you’ve drastically reduced the cost of change and developing applications (and don’t just take my word for it).

I’m not leaving the .NET world forever, but the Ruby on Rails world is more aligned with how I feel software development should be done (particularly when it comes to Agile, TDD, and software craftmanship). This doesn’t mean that .NET is bad by any means. But when it comes to developing web applications, Ruby on Rails has been quite an enjoyable experience.