Home > Articles > Web Development

Foreword to The Rails 4 Way

  • Print
  • + Share This
Steve Klabnik shares his thoughts on the newest edition of The Rails Way book. Forewords by David Heinemeier Hansson and Yehuda Katz from earlier editions are also included.
From the book

Foreword

by Steve Klabnik

A long time ago, I was an intern at a technology company. We had “deploy week,” meaning that after deploying, we took an entire week to fight fires. Moving our code to the production environment would inevitably cause unexpected changes. One day, I read a blog post titled “Unit Testing with Ruby on Rails,” and my life was forever changed. I excitedly went and told my team that we could write code to check whether our code worked before deploying, but they weren’t particularly interested. A few months later, when a friend asked me to be the CTO of his startup, I said, “Only if I can do it in Ruby on Rails.”

My story was fairly typical for that period. I didn’t know anything about Ruby, but I had to write my application in Rails. I figured out enough Ruby to fake it and cobbled together an application in record time. There was just one problem: I didn’t really understand how it actually worked. This is the deal everyone makes with Rails at the start. You can’t think about the details too much because you’re flying to the sky like a rocket.

This book, however, isn’t about that. When I read The Rails Way for the first time, I felt like I truly understood Rails for the first time. All those details I didn’t fully understand were now able to be grokked. Every time someone said, “Rails is magic,” I would smile to myself. If Rails was magic, I had peered behind the curtain. One day, I decided that I should write some documentation to help dispel those kinds of comments. One commit became two; two became twenty. Eventually, I was a large contributor in my own right. Such a long way for someone who had just a few short years earlier never heard of a unit test!

As Rails has changed, so has The Rails Way. In fact, one criticism you could make of this book is that it’s not actually “the Rails way”; after all, it teaches you HAML instead of ERb! I think that this criticism misses the mark. After all, it’s not 2005 anymore. To see what I mean, go read the two forewords from the previous edition. They appear right after this one ... I’ll wait.

Done? David’s foreword was quite accurate for both Rails 2 and The Rails Way. At that time, Rails was very much “not as a blank slate equally tolerant of every kind of expression.” Rails was built for what I call the “Omakase Stack”: you have no choice, you get exactly what Chef David wants to serve you.1

Yehuda’s foreword was also quite accurate—but for Rails 3 and The Rails3 Way. “We brought this philosophy to every area of Rails 3: flexibility without compromise.” With Rails 3, you get the Omakase stack by default, but you are free to swap out components: if you don’t like sushi, you can substitute some sashimi.

There was a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth during the development of Rails 3. Jeremy Ashkenas called it “by far the worst misfortune to ever happen to Rails.” Rails 3 was an investment in the future of Rails, and investments can take a while to pay off. At the release of Rails 3, it seemed like we had waited more than a year for no new features. Rails was a little better but mostly the same. The real benefit was where it couldn’t be seen: in the refactoring work. Rails 1 was “red-green.” Rails 2 was “red-green.” Rails 3 was “refactor.” It took a little while for gem authors to take advantage of this flexibility, but eventually, they did.

And that brings us to Rails 4 and The Rails4 Way. This book still explains quite a bit about how Rails works at a low level but also gives you an alternate vision from the Omakase Stack, based on the experience and talent of Hashrocket. In many ways, The Rails4 Way, Agile Web Development with Rails, and Rails 4 in Action are all “the Rails way.” Contemporary Rails developers get the best of both worlds: They can take advantage of the rapid development of convention over configuration, but if they choose to follow a different convention, they can. And we have many sets of conventions to choose from. It’s no longer “David’s way or the highway,” though David’s way is obviously the default, as it should be.

It has been an amazing few years for Rails, and it has been a pleasure to take a part in its development. I hope that this book will give you the same level of insight and clarity into Rails as it did for me, years ago, while also sparking your imagination for what Rails will undoubtedly become in the future.

Steve Klabnik

 

Foreword to the Previous Edition

by David Heinemeier Hansson

Rails is more than programming framework for creating web applications. It’s also a framework for thinking about web applications. It ships not as a blank slate equally tolerant of every kind of expression. On the contrary, it trades that flexibility for the convenience of “what most people need most of the time to do most things.” It’s a designer straightjacket that sets you free from focusing on the things that just don’t matter and focuses your attention on the stuff that does.

To be able to accept that trade, you need to understand not just how to do something in Rails but also why it’s done like that. Only by understanding the why will you be able to consistently work with the framework instead of against it. It doesn’t mean that you’ll always have to agree with a certain choice, but you will need to agree to the overachieving principle of conventions. You have to learn to relax and let go of your attachment to personal idiosyncrasies when the productivity rewards are right.

This book can help you do just that. Not only does it serve as a guide in your exploration of the features in Rails, but it also gives you a window into the mind and soul of Rails. Why we’ve chosen to do things the way we do them and why we frown on certain widespread approaches. It even goes so far as to include the discussions and stories of how we got there—straight from the community participants that helped shape them.

Learning how to do Hello World in Rails has always been easy to do on your own, but getting to know and appreciate the gestalt of Rails, less so. I applaud Obie for trying to help you on this journey. Enjoy it.

David Heinemeier Hansson
creator of Ruby on Rails

 

Foreword to the Previous Edition

by Yehuda Katz

From the beginning, the Rails framework turned web development on its head with the insight that the vast majority of time spent on projects amounted to meaningless sit-ups. Instead of having the time to think through your domain-specific code, you’d spend the first few weeks of a project deciding meaningless details. By making decisions for you, Rails frees you to kick off your project with a bang, getting a working prototype out the door quickly. This makes it possible to build an application with some meat on its bones in a few weekends, making Rails the web framework of choice for people with a great idea and a full-time job.

Rails makes some simple decisions for you, like what to name your controller actions and how to organize your directories. It also gets pretty aggressive and sets development-friendly defaults for the database and caching layer you’ll use, making it easy to change to more production-friendly options once you’re ready to deploy.

By getting so aggressive, Rails makes it easy to put at least a few real users in front of your application within days, enabling you to start gathering the requirements from your users immediately rather than spending months architecting a perfect solution only to learn that your users use the application differently than you expected.

The Rails team built the Rails project itself according to very similar goals. Don’t try to overthink the needs of your users. Get something out there that works and improve it based on actual usage patterns. By all accounts, this strategy has been a smashing success, and with the blessing of the Rails core team, the Rails community leveraged the dynamism of Ruby to fill in the gaps in plugins. Without taking a close look at Rails, you might think that Rails’ rapid prototyping powers are limited to the 15-minute blog demo but that you’d fall off a cliff when writing a real app. This has never been true. In fact, in Rails 2.1, 2.2, and 2.3, the Rails team looked closely at common usage patterns reflected in very popular plugins, adding features that would further reduce the number of sit-ups needed to start real-life applications.

By the release of Rails 2.3, the Rails ecosystem had thousands of plugins, and applications like Twitter started to push the boundaries of the Rails defaults. Increasingly, you might build your next Rails application using a nonrelational database or deploy it inside a Java infrastructure using JRuby. It was time to take the tight integration of the Rails stack to the next level.

Over the course of 20 months, starting in January 2008, we looked at a wide range of plugins, spoke with the architects of some of the most popular Rails applications, and changed the way the Rails internals thought about its defaults.

Rather than starting from scratch, trying to build a generic data layer for Rails, we took on the challenge of making it easy to give any ORM the same tight level of integration with the rest of the framework as Active Record. We accepted no compromises, taking the time to write the tight Active Record integration using the same APIs that we now expose for other ORMs. This covers the obvious, such as making it possible to generate a scaffold using DataMapper or Mongoid. It also covers the less obvious, such as giving alternative ORMs the same ability to include the amount of time spent in the model layer in the controller’s log output.

We brought this philosophy to every area of Rails 3: flexibility without compromise. By looking at the ways that an estimated million developers use Rails, we could hone in on the needs of real developers and plugin authors, significantly improving the overall architecture of Rails based on real user feedback.

Because the Rails 3 internals are such a departure from what’s come before, developers building long-lived applications and plugin developers need a resource that comprehensively covers the philosophy of the new version of the framework. The Rails3 Way is a comprehensive resource that digs into the new features in Rails 3 and perhaps, more important, the rationale behind them.

Yehuda Katz
Rails Core

1. Omakase is a Japanese term used at sushi restaurants to leave the selection to the chef. To learn more about the Omakase stack, read http://words.steveklabnik.com/rails-has-two-default-stacks

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020