Posts Tagged revolution

The Ruby Revolution, take II

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

My recent ‘Ruby revolution being over‘ blog post generated quite a lot of comments.
Let’s be honest, I did not expect less from the readers.

However, I noticed three types of reactions I would like to address:

  • It was not a Ruby revolution, it was a Rails revolution
  • The revolution has stalled due to no major enterprise backing
  • The revolution will only be over when we will reach a greater adoption

First of all, as Joe correctly mentioned, for me, the revolution is not about specifics or individuals. It’s really about the big picture.

The influence Ruby had and still has on the IT world seems to be undermined by some.
Ruby is a dynamic, truly Object Oriented programming scripting language designed for humans first.
The real paradigm shift is in the fact that Ruby was designed to make programming fast, enjoyable and easy instead of being optimized for the machines running it.
This is for me the essence of the revolution and it is meant to transcend the scope of the Ruby language.

The way I see it, Yukihiro Matsumoto (Matz) is more of an artist than a technician. He had a vision for software development. Programming languages cannot be optimized/designed for both machines and humans, the language designer has to choose which one he wants to privilege.

Most programming languages believe that it’s up to the programmer to make an extra effort since he is smarter and easier to optimize than a machine. Matz questioned this approached and decided to turn things around. The result is one of the reasons why developers seem to just fall in love with Ruby.

It was not a Ruby revolution, it was a Rails revolution.

I am not denying that there *also* was a Rails revolution.
But if you look at it, Rails and its revolution are a direct effect from Ruby’s revolution.
One might argue that it is actually an extension of Ruby’s philosophy. But what is Rails if not a web framework designed to make web development fast, easy and enjoyable?
Without Ruby there would not have been Rails and that was my point, the underlying revolution comes from the language itself.

The revolution has stalled due to no major enterprise backing.

That’s an interesting comment. It is true that .NET and Java are still dominating the enterprise world. But let’s be clear, Ruby was not designed to please “suit people”.
And to this day, there is still a strong feeling, from some individuals against the enterprise.
In the past, DHH openly said that he did not care nor wanted to hear about the enterprise, more recently, Obie Fernandez, during one of his talks said: “Fuck the enterprise” (49:39).
But the truth is that Ruby and the so called enterprise, both, are changing.
The smart people in the enterprise world saw potential in Ruby and decided to give it a chance. An easy way to include Ruby’s philosophy without breaking the fragile enterprise equilibrium was to inject Ruby in the midst of well known and respected technologies such as Java and .NET. The enterprise can now use “re-branded Ruby versions” with “new taste or ‘improved’ flavor” like JRuby, Scala, groovy, IronRuby.
I work for some enterprise clients and I can tell you that they ‘also’ use Ruby. Mainly because developers love the language.
Microsoft, Apple and SAP investing in their own implementation of the language is yet another example that the enterprise recognizes the value of Matz’s work.
Nobody can blame them to try to make Ruby fit more their requirements.
So, at the end of the day, Ruby is not the #1 enterprise language and Rails isn’t used by the large majority of enterprise web apps, but that is NOT the point. Ruby has influenced the enterprise and we will see its effects for many years.

The revolution will only be over when we will reach a greater adoption

Saying that is missing the point entirely. A revolution is a step towards a situation change. Things don’t change right away after a revolution. It takes a long time for mentalities to evolve and for people to change their habits.
The consequences of a revolution are to be studied over the decades following the event. Take smalltalk for instance. Smalltalk adoption was not that great, however it brought a paradigm shift that directly influenced languages such as Ruby, Python and Objective-C.
So, again, do not focus on the adoption but instead look at the influence of the Ruby revolution and the ripple effect around it.



The Ruby revolution is over

Liberté guidant le peuple - Eugene Delacroix posted by Matt Aimonetti

According to wikipedia, a revolution (from the latin revolutio, “a turn around”) is a fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time.

Somehow, I believe this is exactly what Ruby has done in the programming world, especially with the help of Rails. Over the last few years, Ruby lead a mini revolution in the midst of software development. Thanks to Ruby, developers now look at software development differently. One thing for sure, it pushed DHH to write Rails and then convinced thousands of people to develop Ruby based applications on a daily basis.

How did it happen?

Let’s take a look at history of revolutions. Some people get frustrated their situation, they try to find workarounds until it’s just too much and the revolution kicks in.

Ruby came up with a new holistic perspective on things. Unlike most other programming languages, one of the main key value of Ruby is that writing code should feel right for the developer. You feel good about it because the language was written for humans and not machines. Basically, the language was designed to make you productive because it’s designed to please you.

As people were discovering web 2.0, Ruby also came with an opinionated framework, pushing for productivity, testing, simplicity and elegance. People started to see a new way of doing things and it quickly became the new, cool technology. Rails became a buzz word, developers were hired to work on cool projects, and books were selling by the thousands.

What did it change?

If you ask my mom, she would probably say: nothing, except that now my son works from his home office and he seems to really enjoy what he does for living.

Relatively speaking, Ruby did not change the way we work or live. However, I believe that it has influenced many software developers around the globe. Why else do you think that companies like Microsoft, Apple or SAP are working on their own implementation of the Ruby language?

When I first discovered Ruby, I was amazed at how “right” it felt, at how much fun it was to write code using its syntax and idioms. Now, if I don’t get that feeling when testing a programming language, I think there is something wrong.

The Ruby community also revived the Agile/XP world. Testing being a strong value of the community, we spent a lot of time discussing TDD, BDD, integration test as well as other practices such as pair programming, code review, sprints etc..

A few years ago, when people were asking me what programming language I would write their app in, I would reply Ruby and had to explain what it was, why it is great and would have to answer a lot of questions from potential clients. Nowadays, people don’t even argue, sites like,, and many others are written in Ruby and it’s just part of the tools known to work very well.

The revolution is over!

Yes, Ruby made it’s revolution and the world “has changed”. But a real movement doesn’t die after its revolution, that’s actually when it has to be strong and defend its values.

This doesn’t mean that Ruby is dead or that Rails is “passé”. To the contrary, Ruby imposed itself as a new valued and respected player, a new standard if you will.

Ruby is certainly not the “new kid in the block”anymore nor the “popular kid”, however lots of older kids seem to want to have her on their team. (.NET, Java, Objective-C can all use Ruby)

The TDD + Ruby combo doesn’t surprise anyone anymore and the Enterprise is slowly but surely adopting Ruby. Ruby is now just getting better, tools and libraries are improving and the amount of users is growing.

Certainly the Ruby community is still small compared to other software developer communities, but the fundamental change was done and we are now working on improvement and keeping things running smoothly, growing and getting new ideas inspired by our experience and other communities.

Long live Ruby!

See my follow up.