Tom Insam

Learning Ruby using Rails

Recently I got dropped in the deep end and had to learn both Ruby and Rails very quickly. I didn't think this would be a problem - everyone raves about how easy Rails is to pick up, right? - and it wasn't. The problem is actually arriving now, as I start trying to use Ruby for things other than Rails applications. And I can't, because I've learned all sorts of nice Ruby tricks that looked like they were core language features but actually turn out to be added to the built-in Ruby objects by Rails.

For instance, I really like the 3.days convention for turning numbers into time intervals. That's added by this extension. In fact, in digging for this, I found out just how many things Rails adds to core Ruby. I'm scared.

I'm torn. I'd like to consider messing with the built in objects confusing and dangerous. And I've been bitten by this before. I've also had problems where one module's patching to a Ruby builtin interferes with another module's patching of the same object. Lovely.

At the same time, though, I love it. I love both the huge convenience and readability of being able to write + 3.days, and the fact that the language lets me do this. All languages should be this consistent - none of this 'some types are special' crap.

There are trade-offs. I love Python, but I hate that map is a global function and not a method on arrays, and I hate that certain types are special and immutable. But I'm sure there are scary speed benefits from doing things this way.

I wonder if part of the reason that Ruby has this 'just for Rails' reputation is because, having learned Ruby for Rails, you can't use that Ruby for anything else without unlearning a stack of habits?