After being a very happy Python programmer for 2 years, i have switched to Ruby a few months ago, and though Python is still
my 2nd favourite language, i have never thought of going back to it for a second. In fact, this feeling was so
natural that i did not even think about it’s reason for some time.
If someone compares these two languages just from the technical point of view, the difference is de facto non-existent.
Both languages are built on similar principles, both of them serve essentially the same purpose. What is the secret
sauce of Ruby then? Why did i get attracted to it immediately, past the point of no return? Here are a few points that came to my mind:
‘He is the ONE‘
- If a beginner stumbles onto Ruby, there is ONE book he will be pointed to. The PickAxe.
- If somebody asks which web framework should he use in Ruby, he will be pointed to a specific ONE: Ruby on Rails.
- If he asks for a starter book on RoR, he will be advised to buy the coolest ONE: Agile Web Development with Rails.
- If he asks for a discussion list/newsgroup, he will be pointed to the only ONE: ruby-talk.
- If he looks for an XML processing library, he will be pointed to the standard ONE: REXML.
The list could go on and on…
A Rubyist with no previous Python experience may ask ‘Well, what’s so cool about this? It’s normal’. Well, i am glad that in Ruby is, but Python is a different story. I think it lacks the books like PickAxe and Agile Web Development with Rails, and also the community is divided up between Django, Turbogears, Pylons, Subway, … and the other dozen of web frameworks.
nice application of the DRY principle 🙂
Rolling on Rails
If you would ask random people to summarize in one point why Ruby is so popular today, i am quite sure most of them would say ‘because of Ruby on Rails’. This framework is really that cool, believe it or not. Some people are already apostrophing it ‘the language/framework of web2.0’, pointing out that Rails is the next big thing in the web space.
Spread the word
A programming language is essentially a bunch of boring definitions: Some grammar, rules, constructs etc. Even if it is very very cool, no one will notice it unless it is evangelized. That’s why great stuff needs great evangelizators: Perl+Larry Wall. Microsoft+Bill Gates. Ruby+DHH.
To follow the logic, i should have written Ruby+Matz. But i would not write Matz, just as i would not pair Python with Guido van Rossum in this sense. These smart gentlemen are really good at language crafting, but the analogy with Perl/Larry Wall stops here. Fortunately Ruby has a great evangelizator, too, although an ‘indirect’ one: David Heinemeier Hansson, who, in my opinion made Ruby really popular through the Rails framework.
After a few dozen of mails, i have much much better experience with the ruby-talk ML than with python-tutor. Of course one should not judge based on a few dozen mails, but the Ruby community feels to me like a big family, whereas the Python community is more like a bunch of engineers in white suits. Matz’s ‘Why does Ruby suck’ kind of style appeals me much much more than Python’s agnostic approach – ‘Maybe it is not even sure that there is a problem – first you should define what do you think the term ‘problem’ means, anyway’ etc. Of course this rigorous style may appeal to some – but not for me.
Integration [with Java]
From the JRuby page:
[JRuby is] A 1.8.2 compatible Ruby interpreter written in 100% pure Java
On the Jython page, i could not even find the compatibility with java – but according to the page, “The final release of Jython-2.1 occurred on 31-dec-2001”
For comparison: Ruby 1.8.2 is almost the latest stable, and JRuby’s last release was on 27-march-2006. JRuby makes also some Rails integration possible already, and the authors are focusing on other J2EE issues like calling EJBs etc.
I think in a world where Java is the king of the hill (at the moment), Java integration can be a deciding factor.
T-shirts. Cofee Mugs. Baseball caps. Other kind of good-for-nothing junk – must haves for all geeks! Of course with their favourite stuff on it. Well, after looking on cafepress.com (and on google in general) Ruby is a winner again when compared to Python.
The list could continue on, but since this entry is already too long i am going to stop here 😉 Of course, as everything on this blog,
this article reflects my opinion, my perception of Ruby/Python. If you think Python is better suited for you, i am not arguing or anything – it would not make sense. However, i think Ruby has much more potential to become widely accepted as a mainstream language right now than Python – and this, besides that i like to code in Ruby much more, will keep me in the Ruby camp for a long-long time…