Why I’m so glad I didn’t use Rails

I’ve been uncool for some time now. In 2000 when Java was really beginning to kick ass I grabbed a Java book and wrote some code. And I decided I was getting stuff done faster in Perl so I stuck with it. I felt like a dork who was playing with his bigwheels while the other kids had graduated to Ducati’s.

But by and by I discovered that ModPerl kicks Java’s ass as far as performance goes and in fact loosely typed languages do rock. Not only that but anything I need has already been written and posted free in CPAN. And if you code in Java then Sun Microsystems and their friends will try to sell you stuff at every opportunity – it’s like going to the ball game where stadium forces the beer vendors to charge $10 a beer even if they make entry free and you get to play on the field.

2 years ago at Jobster as the Java dev team was discovering the new and cool loosely typed but cleverly OO language called Ruby and it’s Rails framework I went and grabbed a Ruby book and wrote some code. I didn’t like that it didn’t have CPAN and the server model seemed clunky and immature. So I stuck with ModPerl. Again I felt like the kid left in the dust while the others went and played with the big boys.

Turns out the big boys don’t care about you or your business. Here’s a slide from David Hansson, Rails creator:

This is via Rob Conery’s blog which I found via Tony Wright’s blog. And here’s a quote from David:

I’m not in this world to create Rails for you. I’m in this world to create Rails for me and if you happen to like that version of Rails that I’m creating for me, than you are going to have a great time.

Read Rob’s full blog entry for a lot more insight on what is scary about Rails and its community.

In Seattle last year I spent a lot of time networking in the startup community and meeting with many entrepreneurs. When we spoke technology choices every single one of them was planning on using Rails. Eventually it became a silly question and the answer was brushed if in a “duh, like obviously I’m using Rails” fashion.

This year on the Seattle Tech Startup list – about 2 weeks ago – there was a thread with many entrepreneurs complaining bitterly about Rails’ shortcomings.

Startups are risky enough without adding Rails.

Sure I wake up at night and wonder if I’m the guy who insists on using Cobol while everyone has moved on to Pascal.

But then I get out of bed and read the recent posts in the ModPerl archives, I check on the progress of Perl6 and I log onto my servers and check mod_status and how many requests they’re serving without breaking a sweat and I realize that it takes more than a bunch of arrogant eurotrash developers to create an enthusiastic open source community churning out great products.

It takes a lot of love for the product from the community and from its developers. It takes an inspirational leader like Larry Wall or Linus Torvalds and their lieutenants. And it takes time.