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Why I still love Ruby

hopsoft profile image Hopsoft ・2 min read

Language and Cognition

Philosophers and linguists have long asked the question, Does the language we speak shape the way we think?

We now have academic research to help answer this fascinating question. The data seems to indicate that language does indeed affect the way we think. It can even impact our ability to perform.

Lera Boroditsky, Ph.D has a wonderful TED talk that introduces linguistic and cognitive studies to the masses.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKK7wGAYP6k

She demonstrates that language influences a tremendous amount of the way we perceive and interact with the world. Everything from our sense of direction to our understanding of time and distance. It touches our ability to count or quantify, our awareness of colors, our perception of intent, credit and blame, even our concepts of gender.

Our language changes what we pay attention to and notice. What we place emphasis on. What our biases are. It impacts our capacity and speed at which we can accomplish various tasks. It can even change the physical characteristics of our brain.

Language acts as a stepping stone into entirely new cognitive realms and can lead to big differences in creative and intellectual ability.

The Ruby Language

Yukihiro Matsumoto (Matz) has indicated that Ruby was inspired and influenced by several other programming languages. Lisp, Smalltalk, Perl, Eiffel, Ada, Basic, and others. More recently, Rust, Go, and Elixir.

I knew many languages before I created Ruby, but I was never fully satisfied with them. They were uglier, tougher, more complex, or more simple than I expected.

Throughout the development of the Ruby language, I’ve focused my energies on making programming faster and easier.

Ruby is designed to make programmers happy.

-Matz

Why I still love Ruby

Ruby has a long history of assimilating the best ideas, patterns, and practices from other programming languages. In many ways, it is the convergence of the most exceptional features from other languages.

Admittedly this can feel messy or chaotic at times, but it delivers the widest range of options to the programmer. Ruby's culture of embracing and including the best from other languages dramatically increases the solution space and directly impacts our capacity to think and perform as developers.

Does this mean we should ignore other languages and trust the MRI team will always get it right? Of course not. Learning another language will improve your ability to work with Ruby... or any language for that matter.

To have a second language is to have a second soul.

-Charlemagne

Having said that, Ruby is the most malleable and flexible language I've ever worked with. It frees my mind to explore solutions that I may not have considered or even been aware of in another language.

A short note on Rails

I should point out that Rails wouldn't exist without Ruby. DHH appropriated Ruby's culture of inclusivity and created a framework that is a delightful melting pot of tools, patterns, and techniques. All made possible by Ruby. Language choice may also help explain why no other web framework has materialized that shares the same eminence and stamina.

This is why I still love Ruby, even after 10 years of working with it.

Discussion

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern

Ruby has a long history of assimilating the best ideas, patterns, and practices from other programming languages.

I think this is also happening in reverse a lot these days. I definitely think I spot Rubyisms in new ideas these days. Hard to trace idea origins though.

I, too, am still very much enjoying developing in Ruby.

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hopsoft profile image
Hopsoft Author

I agree that programming languages borrow good ideas from each other all the time, but Ruby's focus on developer happiness seems to make this a first class goal of the language.

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jrtibbetts profile image
Jason R Tibbetts

Totally agreed. I can't think of a single other language that has developer happiness as one of its stated goals. Although I don't have many opportunities to use Ruby these days, I still think that I was at my most productive when I did. Ruby (and Rails) taught me, among other things, that

  • test-driven development was actually doable and useful;
  • web frameworks didn't have be stinking pieces of shit; and
  • "convention over configuration," far from being limiting, frees you up to do what's really important in your apps.
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shaijut profile image
ShaijuT

😄, I used to have questions like which language is better ? After discussing with my friends and listening to people online, I realized that Its better to stop asking these questions. Instead start asking which tool is better for current Job and Trend.

Choose the right tool for the Job.

  • Based on your experience, you can use C# or Java for building enterprise and large applications.
  • Instead JSF you can think of using Anuglar orReactorVueetc. for Front End.
  • Python for Machine Learning.
  • Go for Micro Services based performant applications.

In future maybe today's Languages and Framework may be outdated, so to survive you will be forced to learn new language of that time.

Conclusion:

  • Developer Happiness, stick to the language which make your life easier, like easy to read syntax, maintainable, has Good IDE. I like C# for current work, and its up-to you to decide what you like.

  • Its always good to be Open to learn any language as required and Choose the right tool for the Job.

Hope this helps.

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andrewmcodes profile image
Andrew Mason

I should point out that Rails wouldn't exist without Ruby.

I think this is a key takeaway. I always hear people talking about how they are trying to create Rails for their given language, like JavaScript, but no one has quite hit the mark. It's called Ruby on Rails for a reason!

Like Ben, I am also still really enjoying developing in Ruby.

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leob profile image
leob

Laravel comes pretty close doesn't it? Although it seems that Laravel adopted a bit more of the "architecture" and "patterns" mindset of Java, and it's a bit more verbose (I admit you could say more clunky) than Ruby/Rails. But, when working with Laravel the feeling I get is pretty close to the feel of working with Rails.

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shaijut profile image
ShaijuT

Is Ruby more readable and maintainable than C# and Java, What are its advantages compared to C# and Java ?

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kwstannard profile image
Kelly Stannard

Ignoring frameworks and libraries I would say this:

  • Ruby is much lighter on syntax than Java and C# so it can be incredibly easy to read.
  • Ruby is a dynamic scripting language so it is very easy to make changes to anything about your app and see what happens. I make a lot of OSS contributions by just altering a few lines of code in a third party library and seeing if it works.
  • Objects and functions are both first class concepts in Ruby so you can do both object oriented and functional programming at the same time.
  • Ruby is a scripting language, so you can use it for everything from a terminal one liner to a business application to microservices.
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notjames profile image
Jim Conner

One thing I'd like to add for those who are put off by dynamically typed languages (scripting languages, usually). There's a project called crystal, which is a statically typed Ruby-based compilable language. So if you wanna learn Ruby but use it in a compiled language, consider crystal. It's still in pretty heavy development, it seems, but I've done some small projects with it. It's a little different, but I like it because of its Ruby syntax. I love Ruby.

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strzibny profile image
Josef Strzibny

functions are both first class concepts in Ruby

Actually Ruby does not have functions at all. There are all methods.

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swiknaba profile image
Lud

They are all objects! :D

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kwstannard profile image
Kelly Stannard

Procs are functions.

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strzibny profile image
Josef Strzibny

From the Ruby doc: "Proc objects are blocks of code that have been bound to a set of local variables. Once bound, the code may be called in different contexts and still access those variables."

I can also recommend a book patshaughnessy.net/ruby-under-a-mi... that goes greatly to the implementation as well.

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shaijut profile image
ShaijuT

Thanks, What about performance ? does the performance is well when compared to C#, Java, Python and Go ? I also like to know which server side language is better for making web apps.

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kwstannard profile image
Kelly Stannard

I don't know what the comparison is in 2020, but for most business logic and webapp use cases Ruby and Rails is more than fast enough. Usually the biggest speed problem in web apps results from excessive database calls and that is going to be a problem in every language.

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swiknaba profile image
Lud

I found a nice benchmark a while ago, comparing:
Ruby 2.7 vs. Python 3.8 => in most benchmarks, Ruby is faster
Ruby 2.7 vs. PHP 7.4 => in most benchmarks, PHP is faster

source: benchmarksgame-team.pages.debian.n...

I guess almost all compiled languages will have an edge over scripting languages.

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cyberhck profile image
Nishchal Gautam

blog.iron.io/how-we-went-from-30-s...

I don't think performance is as good as other languages, I consider ruby and python to be slow, developers write code faster though

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hopsoft profile image
Hopsoft Author

There are people that will argue both sides of whether or not Ruby is more readable or maintainable than other languages. I think Ruby and Rails are both best suited for disciplined, sometimes smaller, teams. I think this actually enhances the "designed for happiness" aspect of the language. Here are some of the reasons I find Ruby so enjoyable.

  1. Brevity - syntax is very developer friendly, you can do a lot with a little
  2. Speed - unparalleled developer productivity
  3. Power - it's a very sharp tool that provides power when you need it
  4. Community - top notch people always willing to help and contribute
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notjames profile image
Jim Conner

I agree. Most people I've talked to who don't like Ruby stated they didn't like it because it wasn't easy to read. In my opinion, that's likely because Ruby is not in the C-family of languages and most people are not prepared for that. It took me a little while to break out of that C-lang syntax mode and I'm so glad I stuck with it.

Ruby is consistently OOP from the kernel up. Its ability to do some awesome stuff succinctly and reliably is fun. I just really love Ruby, but it doesn't fit everyone's mold. I suggest that if people find it strange at first but invest the little time it takes to get used to it, they will fall in love with it.

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jonathans profile image
Jonathan Sundqvist

Compared to the mantra of python. "There should be one-- and preferably only one --obvious way to do it". I wonder if that has constrained python developers :)

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benbot profile image
Benjamin Botwin

Matz (the creator of ruby) used to talk about the "Principle of least surprise" being this idea that if the way some language feature works doesn't surprise you, then you're happier for it.

Because of this idea Ruby has many MANY different obvious ways to do anything. This makes many different kinds of devs happy, because they can always write in the way that makes the most sense to them.

This is an amazing boon as a solo dev or a small team, but in larger settings this can be kind of a pain since a code base could become inconsistent pretty quickly unless the org enforces a kind of style.

Python takes the opposite approach.

That's probably why in the early 2010s there was a lot of (mostly comedic) volatility between the ruby and python communities

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jonathans profile image
Jonathan Sundqvist

"Principle of least surprise" maps pretty well onto there should ideally only be one way to do something. If there isn't several ways of doing something it's not surprising :).

I was reading some ruby a while ago, and stumbled upon. array << element. It took some serious googling to figure that one out, and I'm sure there are several ways you can write that too.

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benbot profile image
Benjamin Botwin

I think the approach that ruby took is one of individuality. Imaging that the "one preferred way" of adding elements to arrays was array << element.

You'd be surprised that something like array.push wasn't working, and even more surprised that array << element even existed.

Even though, in our hypothetical language, that's the only preferred way to push to arrays, it's still surprising.

If any of that made sense

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hopsoft profile image
Hopsoft Author

It's fascinating to see how something like "principle of least surprise" can be interpreted and addressed so differently. The Ruby and Python solutions for this could not be more different.

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benbot profile image
Benjamin Botwin

It’s especially interesting because both languages (python 2.7 at least) are pretty similar from a high level technical point of view.

Both OOP style languages
Both interpreted (usually)
Both very high level
Both dynamic
Both are even heavily used in web development

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notjames profile image
Jim Conner

I agree. There are some Python things that just drive me insane due to the inconsistencies of implementation namely between procedural and object oriented development. Python is an OK language, but given the choice, personally, I'll take Ruby over Python any day.

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strzibny profile image
Josef Strzibny

There should be one-- and preferably only one --obvious way to do it

Except for the Python dependency management ;)

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hopsoft profile image
Hopsoft Author

This is an interesting question. The two distinct philosophies is certainly the primary difference between these amazing languages IMO.

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philnash profile image
Phil Nash

I still find it easiest to think in Ruby. Maybe that's because I have been writing it for so long, maybe it's because the standard lib handles many details I don't need to think about, and maybe it's just because it truly does live up to Matz's mantra of developer happiness.

All I know is that I still love writing Ruby too.

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Juan Carlos

If you love Ruby in 2020, go join Crystal lang community, Ruby and Crystal should tinker with more cross-project collaborations.

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fyodorio profile image
Fyodor

The way people talk about Ruby makes me want to learn this language so much

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tfantina profile image
Travis Fantina

It's a pretty approachable, tons of resources I'd highly recommend you give it a go.

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etampro profile image
Edward Tam

Benefits of Ruby's development happiness can be translated into it one key business metric: Development lead time. That is a important metric for businesses to stay a step ahead of the competitors especially for startups. I think that is why a lot of the new companies are still on RoR, even though people keep shxtting on it :)

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Marc Philippe Beaujean

Although I never coded in Ruby (Python dev) it would still be my second choice - I love Django and in many ways, Django is great because of RoR

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Andrew Mason

I’ve heard Taylor Otwell say he pulled a lot of inspiration from for Laravel from Rails as well.

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andrewbrown profile image
Andrew Brown 🇨🇦

I still love Ruby and use it every day.
I never thought Python would bound back as it did.

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veer66 profile image
Vee Satayamas

I have used Ruby instead of Perl and Awk for 18 years already. 😍

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notjames profile image
Jim Conner

I love Ruby...but I love Perl too!

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darkrubyist profile image
darkrubyist

I enjoy developing in rails and I wish I had the time to learn more.
After 3-4 years of coding in Ruby, I'm still learning new things.

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hopsoft profile image
Hopsoft Author

I'm still learning new things after 10+ years with Ruby and Rails. The breadth of features has much to do with this I think. It may not be at the top of the hype cycle, but there are new and interesting things constantly happening in and around both Ruby and Rails.