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The End of the Ruby Fad?

Posted By Daniel Spiewak On January 23, 2008 @ 1:00 am In Ruby | 37 Comments

Well, it’s a new year; and apparently no sooner are the resolutions forgotten and the hangovers behind us then the internet en mass decides that we need a new language.  Ruby was indisputably the hip language of 2006 and 2007.  However, in an opinion shift so sudden as to make one’s head spin, the blogosphere seems to have rebelled against the hype and gone in search of a new mistress.

It seems more and more these days like people just don’t want to hear about Ruby.  Ruby posts to link sites like DZone or Reddit get voted down before they have a chance to see the light of day.  Pointless flames litter the blogs, declaiming Ruby and alternatively crowning Groovy, Scala, Java or even XML in its place.  The sad thing is that no one seems to have found the middle ground yet.

Personally, I’m with Reganwald [1] on this one.  I started coding with Ruby back in 2002 (or was it 2001?  I can’t remember now).  It was actually at the recommendation of some random guy on a forum who said that Ruby was a nice and clean language with a lot of potential.  I was getting pretty tired of Java at that point, so I figured I’d give it a try.  Since then, Ruby has become part of my essential scripting toolset, finding applications everywhere from complex utility scripts, build systems and even hacky dynamic web pages for my server monitoring tools.  Based on the strength of the language, I’ve tried Rails a few times without success.  I mean, honestly which is easier to remember?

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The middle ground is really where Ruby belongs, where it flourishes.  It’s hardly a general-purpose language, so it could never replace Java and company.  With that said, it’s far easier to write an incremental backup script in Ruby than in Java.  And while Ruby may not be suitable for an enterprise level, high-traffic web application, it’s certainly up for some tasks within that application.  It’s also perfect for managing scripting and rapid prototyping against that application infrastructure.  Unfortunately the community as a whole seems either blind to its benefits or blinded by its hype.

It seems like it’s constantly an “all or nothing” attitude with these new languages.  Developers these days fall into two camps: those who have heard the hype and rejected what it stands for, and developers who are totally carried away by the emotion of the fad.  To the former camp, developers who straddle the middle ground are traitors to the cause and just as bad as the hyper fanatics.  But to the fanatics, the moderates are fence riders who refuse to fully embrace their destiny.  In short, it’s the moderates who catch flack from both camps.  Yet ironically, it’s the moderates who seem to be doing useful things with the technology, rather than wasting energy on five minute blog demos and eloquent rebuttals.

So on one hand, I’m glad to see the hype die.  It was frustrating having to deal with yet-another bigoted “Rails Rocks, Java Suxz” rant every time I opened my RSS.  On the flip side, the backlash is equally annoying.  It certainly would be nice to have some balance around here, instead of breaking out the petroleum sulfite [2] every time someone accidentally expresses an opinion.  Perhaps now that the bubble has burst, we’ll finally get to see the popularity of Ruby in its proper place.

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URLs in this post:

[1] I’m with Reganwald: http://weblog.raganwald.com/2008/01/ruby-is-soooooo-2002.html

[2] petroleum sulfite: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_Fire

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