O’Reilly interviews David about Rails 31 Aug 2005

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O’Reilly’s Edd Dumbill interviews David about Rails’ success and future.

Some of my favorite moments:

Q: What’s your favorite Rails feature? A: All the things it doesn’t do.
Q: How did you first get into Ruby? A: And it was one of those “love it or leave it” moments. I realize that if this was going to be my working life, developing web applications, I had to be using tools that I loved, not tools that I merely tolerated. So I was open for alternatives.
Q: Did you consciously set out to provide some “enterprise” features in Rails? A: I set out to serve me. Rails is a very selfish project in that respect. It gained a lot of its focus and appeal because I didn’t try to please people who didn’t share my problems. Differentiating between production and development was a very real problem for me, so I solved it the best way I knew how… It’s hard enough to solve your own problems with eloquence. Trying to solve other people’s problems is damn near impossible.

14 comments (comments are closed)

JohnO 31 Aug 05

I think SwitchTower is an Excellent idea. I only hope it is much much easier to use than Ant, haven’t yet had time to dive into it. Although it kind of obliterates the idea of production/development databases no?

Peter Mentzer 31 Aug 05

Forgive me if I’m off-base here (I haven’t had a chance to actually play with ruby on rails yet) but is ruby on rails a level of abstraction above ruby in the same way that zope is a level above python? If so, can we hopefully expect a plone-like cms (but ruby-based) from the great minds of 37 signals some time in the future?

I’ve been researching open source cms options for a while and keep coming up short of my functionality needs. Wow, if there were a 37 signals-inspired cms out there, I’d download and use it without question. Even be tempted to pay for “extras” and “support” :-)

JF 31 Aug 05

We don’t have plans to design a CMS system, sorry. CRM — well maybe, but not CMS.

Peter Mentzer 31 Aug 05

Sorry to hear that 37 sig doesn’t have CMS in the plans, but totally understand. I really like the level of discussion and ideas here (I read this blog religiously!) Don’t want to lead this stream off topic and into CMS-land, so to spin it back to Ruby on Rails: what are the concrete benefits of R on R? Most of the posts on signal v noise are about end-user experience as opposed to base-level coding. For people who are information architects and designers, what would you say are the reasons to opt for ruby architecture rather than python or php? Is ruby really a better core framework than the other more popular systems out there?

Karel Minarik 01 Sep 05

Could you please elaborate on why 37signals have no interest in building RoR-based CMS? I have the feeling that you have some opinions about CM systems in general =), or is it just you don’t have any interest in that kind of web application? I and probably many others would be very interested in that elaboration… There isn’t many topics as painfull and controversial as choosing, developing or implementing a content management system, i guess.


I myself, as Peter, have tried many CMSes and wasn’t satisfied in any of them — be it lightweight ones (bunch of PHP solutions) or robust ones (eg. Plone). So I went on with hacking my own PHP-based system (which is just a basic Model-Controller-View mapping solution with logic for specific things in specific classes). But hacking only goes so far.


I see number of CMS-like features in Rails itself (as far as I can see), namely the strict MVC separation and Routing, which are backbone of any CMS system. In my perspective (again, as far as I can see), writing Rails-based CMS is essentially a matter of some king of transparent site structure model and mapping (routing), implementing versioning of content, and extending the framework with some kind of PageElements, text ones, file-list ones, photogalleries ones, etc. (I am thinking in direction of Bricolage)…


But my familiarity with inner details of RoR is rather minimal, so I may be totally off base…

JF 01 Sep 05

Could you please elaborate on why 37signals have no interest in building RoR-based CMS?

Cause we don’t use CMSes. We only build things we need for ourselves. We want to use what we build so we can build it better.

emm ess eff 01 Sep 05


Cause we donít use CMSes. We only build things we need for ourselves. We want to use what we build so we can build it better.

For the first time in my career I’m using a CRM system regularly. It’s not pleasant. It feels like an island away from the mainland of my work style and intuition.

(For years I was in a tech role with loads of opinions on how to do sales and marketing. Now that’s part of my job and it’s not easy.)

At one point I began thinking about building a CRM system myself. I still am, so JF’s ‘maybe’ about building a RoR (or simpler, better) CRM naturally piqued my interest. Along the way I’ve found alternative perspectives on even the value and suitability of CRM to be particularly interesting, such as this book.

emm ess eff 01 Sep 05


Oops. The URL to the book got munged: http://url123.com/zkx33

Peter Mentzer 01 Sep 05

Thanks to David for the link to the amazing 15-minute movie demo of rails. So I’m pretty much sold now and will proceed to set up ruby on rails and mess with it. Interesting cross-reference from here to another post on signal v noise that asked “what did you want to do when you grow up”: I started getting into computers because as an artist/designer I liked the power for creativity and visual communication. That was in print in the 90s. Then around ‘00 I switched from print to web because it was so much more dynamic, fluid and exciting. Now, I find myself moving more and more toward command line to get at the “nature” and “power” of the medium. So, to make a long story short, I find myself becoming an engineer in order to be a better artist and communicator. Strange progression … but probably not too uncommon these days.