Where to begin with Ruby on Rails?
December 29, 2007 7:22 AM   Subscribe

I'm interested in attempting some work with Ruby on Rails. Other than some very elementary BASIC programming and HTML (yes, I know it's not a programming language), I have no programming experience.

I've attempted to get into programming in the past, most notably with Python when I was much younger, which I've all forgotten now. A friend and I are interested in a web project that probably wouldn't be exceptionally difficult for even an average web developer, but we want to put it all together ourselves. He's going to be doing the design portion and I want to take a whack at the programming.

Again, I'm no programmer, but from what I'm reading Rails is the way to go for cutting-edge web apps and whatnot. I'm interested in learning it from the ground up. I bought the Pragmatic Programmer's book on Ruby on a recommendation, but I don't think it's exactly what I'm looking for.

I need something that works from the most basic level and then up systematically. If possible, I want something more than just a book; I'm a much better "classroom" learner than a book learner. Videos or workshops (I'm in Nashville) would work really well for me.

Suggestions, AskMeFi?
posted by joshrholloway to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
Here are some links for you:
Why's Poignant Guide to Ruby - A little weird at times ("Crunchy! Bacon!"), but useful.
Learn to Program with Ruby - If you've never ever programmed before, this is good.
Ruby in 20 minutes - From the Ruby-lang site.

List of recommended Ruby books - Lists a book for beginner, intermediate etc., so might be helpful.

Some video resources:

If you're on a Mac, this will come in handy - Building Ruby on Rails on OSX

I'm still seriously beginner at all of this, and I think the main thing is just to use Ruby a lot (like learning a spoken language, really). I always spend a chunk of time using Ruby, and then for weeks I won't. So when I need to make a small script to do something, I have to dredge up all the info I've forgotten.
posted by djgh at 8:26 AM on December 29, 2007 [4 favorites]

Hackety Hack, brought to you by the same guy who did Why's (Poignant) Guide To Ruby. Yep, it's mostly intended for kids, but you're not above that, right? It's an absolute beginner's introduction to Ruby that teaches through practical examples. And jokes.

Caveat: it might all be balls, I don't know, because I'm just starting out too...
posted by flashboy at 8:29 AM on December 29, 2007

There are probably two other Pragmatic Programmer's books that you should get started with. Learn to Program and Agile Web Development With Ruby on Rails. I'd hold off on the Rails book because the next edition that covers Rails 2.0 is not out, and the current one, while still valid, does not address many of the new features.

But like you said, you need to learn to program first, and "Learn to Program" will do just that using Ruby.
posted by AaRdVarK at 8:35 AM on December 29, 2007

Second the recommendation for Why's Poignant Guide to Ruby.

Here's the thing though....RoR is not the ideal way to learn Ruby, and without learning Ruby first RoR will be much harder.
posted by Kickstart70 at 9:29 AM on December 29, 2007

Ruby on Rails heavily relies on certain architectural assumptions about web applications. If you are a beginning programmer I would recommend some education in some of the areas of software development that RoR assumes as a given. These would include:

Object Oriented Programming (I recommend the book by Craig Larman. He does a very good job of teaching OOP from first principles)

MVC (model-view-controller) architecture (I don't know of a best book, but there is a wealth of online info -- start with the wikipedia article and go from there)

Patterns (the gang of four book, but this book is pointless until you have a background in OOP)

I also second the agile programmers learn to program book, and definitely the pickaxe book (but it is not a beginning programmers book).

If you're a ground-up type learner, rather than an immersion-sink-or-swim type, you'll want to start with OOP and basic Ruby programming not RoR. The canned examples make RoR look super easy -- this is because RoR tucks away a lot of complexity & tedious repetitive programming behind the scenes. This is great for experienced programmers but can have the disadvantage of making it very opaque for non-experienced programmers.
posted by lastobelus at 1:34 PM on December 29, 2007 [3 favorites]

This probably isn't for you, since it's playing to a crowd of programmers, but just in case here's the video archive of an all-day Ruby-on-rails crash course taught in the Berkeley CS department. Alas, it's in realmedia.
posted by k7lim at 4:18 PM on December 30, 2007

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