Are we approaching a tipping point for Ruby on Rails?

May 13th, 2006

For my own company, there is no question. I will use Ruby on Rails. But as Architect for a software company that produces software that semi-conductor companies use to make million dollar decisions, I must be more cautious with my decision making. It is not enough that the technology is ‘insanely great’. I need to know that what is built with Rails will be maintable at least over the next decade.

To recommend Rails as a core architectural component, beyond its technical competence (which I am convinced on) I need to know that:

  1. There will be a growing body of engineers with experience in Rails
  2. There will be a growing body of plug-ins to support things like advanced graphing and sophisticated report generating
  3. There will be a growing body of productivity tools
  4. There will be a growing body of resources (how-to’s, examples, references, best practices) on the web

I have read two articles recently that give me great encouragment. The first is Martin Folwer’s cautious endorsment of Ruby. He is still hedging (in admittedly the same way I did in my Hooked on Rails article), by saying it is worth a “look” versus it giving an outright endorsement to use. And you have to love quotes like:

But overall these experiences, from trusted colleagues mean I’m increasingly positive about using Ruby for serious work where speed, responsiveness, and productivity are important.

The funny thing about that quote, and when you have been in the industry a while you understand it well, is that the quote refers to far fewer projects than you would think. He didn’t say it off the cuff, but as a serious qualifier. Personally, I think that fact of business is what drives DHH’s antagonism towards being mainstream (i.e. a world where speed, responsiveness, and productivity are not important). But getting back to Folwer’s article, it is important for the adoption of Rails in that Fowler is one of the E.F. Hutton’s of the object-oriented world. And he knows he is. He has a reputation to maintain. The fact that he would endorse it, even as cautiously as he did, is a very encouraging sign.

The second article is the widely read critique of Ruby and Rails by Cedric. This article is even more imporant than Fowler’s in that it represents a call to action. It is clear that Cedric wants Rails to be a success. And he very clearly articulates the barrierers it will face on its path towards gaining widespread adoption. And regardless of whether you consider mainstream good or bad, wide spread adoption is highly desirable and important. It was his article, in fact, that convinced a curmudgeon like me to give Rails a look. My take away from that article was that Rails can do the job, but needs maturity in the community.

So, the big question is are we reaching a tipping point? Will the maturation of the community happen? Look at this chart from google trends. It compares searches of J2EE vs. Ruby on Rails (the top line is J2EE)

This chart clearly shows that interest in rails is steadling climbing (vs. the decline in J2EE interest — note, these are NOT enough data points to even suggest a correlation — so at this point best to assume that these are indepedant variables). The operative word is interest. The real question is how many people are actively using rails. This is a harder number to gather. To gain some understanding I checked the trends on J2EE vs. Ruby on Rails vs. Active Record. I picked Active Record because anyone using Rails seriously is likely to do at least one search on active records. That trend chart is:

And for a little further insight, I also compared Active Record to JDOM (and yes, I know that has fallen out of favor). JDOM is the top line in the graph:

My interpretation of all this is that though interest is very high (high enough that it IS past a critical mass), adoption is still low. Will wide spread adoption happen?

I answer yes. I think we are at the early stages of wide spread adoption but only under one condition. That the existing community respond to Cedric’s call to action. Specifically we need:

  1. A development environment with content assist and step level debugging. The existing tools are not yet stable enough to satisfy this criteria
  2. A LOT LESS fanatacism
  3. A LOT more blogging and articles on Ruby on Rails.
  4. A LOT more participation in the Ruby on Rails wiki

In my adoption of Rails, I have found some great resources (like the pragmatic books and the wike), but there is simply not enough glue in the community yet. Fortunately, that problem is easily solved. If you are passionate about Rails adoption, write about it. If you are not allowed to use Rails at work, use it at home, and write about your experiences. Form groups like green ruby did, organize, and help drive the adoption of this ‘insanely great’ technology.

Entry Filed under: Ruby


7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. mikesty  |  May 13th, 2006 at 2:13 pm

    2. A LOT LESS fanatacism

  • 2. geoffreychew  |  May 13th, 2006 at 7:15 pm

    I’m really enjoying the posts on Ruby. Keep ’em coming! :-)

  • 3. JohnnySoftware  |  May 30th, 2006 at 6:38 pm

    Thanks for mentioning me, Sonjaya. 😉

    I really worked really hard on that Yahoo Ruby group the second week of May. There are lots of links to websites in there, and some handy facts/snippets of Ruby.

    I put in a lot of links to to what I believe are links to really good Ruby resources. Both links to guy you “over the hump” or unstuck – as well as useful sites to pull up when you want to convince your friends/managers Ruby really is getting traction in The Real World.

    By the way, my poll on – When did you start programming in Ruby? – closes tonight. If anyone wants to participate – just a few hours left!

    I would really love it if someone other than myself contributed to the group. It is fun and easy. I have set it up so you can do that as soon as you join.

    I think Ruby beginners are going to be steeply increasing in number for the next two years or so. I rode the rise of C++ from its early days and ditto with Java. I recognize the signs of the Next Big Language when I see it.

    I really want new Ruby programmers to have some place people can send them too that helps them sort of get oriented, and find the resources they are looking for quickly.

    I also want it to be a place where old hands can offer their expertise in that off-hand, incredibly helpful way that those with long-term experience have.

  • 4. Ruby on Rails Development&hellip  |  December 4th, 2006 at 7:44 am

    Kramer auto Pingback[…] If you have a project of any significance for which you are using or considering using Ruby on Rails, you will have to justify your decision to several brutal audiences. Your customers, investors, those that may acquire your business, your coworkers, managers, team, etc. have a whole boatload of concerns about technologies that are not regarded as mainstream. If you’re not using something widely regarded as safe (J2EE or .Net), you’d better be prepared to dance.Performance and ScalabilityThe top two concerns are usually performance and scalability: “Ruby is slow” or “Interpreted languages are slow” seem to be the most common. Here are some excellent articles on the subject (the overall summary being: Rails provides a great advantage in getting your product to market, there are reasonable and inexpensive ways of addressing any performance bottlenecks, and scalability is not a problem):It’s Boring to Scale With Ruby on RailsScalability Examples: Hardware Requirements at Basecamp and Robot Co-Op (43Things)Outsourcing the Performance-Intensive FunctionsMaking Things FasterLarge Systems Using RailsThere are a lot more than listed here, but these are some of the largest:Amazon Uses Rails on Amazon UnspunBasecamp has over 1 million users43Things has over 700,000 usersOdeo is a Rails AppBlinksale is a Rails AppList of Other Rails DeploymentsPhilosophy Behind RailsMany of the arguments against Rails are rooted in a misunderstanding of philosophy, purpose, and design decisions behind the framework. The following articles provide clarity in this area:Ruby on Rails: An Interview with interview with DHHThe Reg sits down with DHHChoose a Single Layer of ClevernessAre You Afraid?Fear-Driven Technology ChoicesIs Rails Ready for Prime Time?Are We Approaching a Tipping Point for Rails?Will Rails Become Mainstream? Does it Matter If It Does?How to Introduce Ruby on Rails in Your CompanyPaul Graham: Beating the Averages (It’s about Lisp as a strategic advantage. Just read “Rails” where it says “Lisp” and you’ll get the idea).TIOBE Programming Community Index One indicator of the rate of Ruby popularity (as of this writing #12 and moving up fast).Other ArticlesSome of these articles are dated and are not up to date with respect to capabilities of the current version of Rails, but nevertheless provide good material.Enterprise RailsEvaluating RubyRoR in the Enterprise ToolboxRails / J2EE Comparison from IBMRails Bidding: Put Your Money Where Your Mouth IsRails Perspective from the guy at the bankKnow the EnemyGet to know what the other side is saying. There is a lot of writing out there (some rational and well reasoned, some misinformed, and some from people that are almost certainly insane). Search for ‘rails sucks’ or ‘ruby sucks’ and you’ll have hours of entertaining reading. You need to understand what Rails strengths are, what its weaknesses are, and what FUD is out there in order to be able to make (and defend) a wise decision. […]

  • 5. 证明选择 RoR 没有&hellip  |  December 5th, 2006 at 8:00 am

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