October 31, 2005 4:00 AM PST
Ruby on Rails chases simplicity in programming
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called stored procedures, is very much an asset and an example of how contrarian thinking can be innovative.
"We took a pretty radical stand: Stored procedures and all things that make your database clever are evil," Hansson said. "If you tell a lot of IT shops that, they'll be majorly offended, because that's just the way they do things."
With future enhancements, he intends to take the idea of simplicity beyond writing code to different areas of the development lifecycle. One idea is to include tools to easily deploy Web applications onto clusters.
Hansson thinks that the current interest in Ruby on Rails is the "tip of the iceberg." And like others, analyst Monson-Haefel agrees that Ruby on Rails has a good future.
As an open-source project leader, Hansson has the right traits: He's willing to take contributions from others, he knows the product well, and he's constantly promoting it, Monson-Haefel said. "This is exactly how things like Linux got started," he added.
Despite the interest in Ruby on Rails, Hansson never had any intention of setting the Web development world on fire. The project grew out of practical necessity, a philosophy he intends to maintain in the Ruby on Rails open-source project.
In 2003, Hansson was working as a consultant for 37signals, a company that sells hosted project management and personal organizer applications.
During that development project, he discovered Ruby , a scripting language developed in Japan in the 1990s. To speed up his own work, he developed templates to complement that basic Ruby language.
About halfway through a project, he decided his templates could be packaged as a framework that could be used for all manner of Web development. In July 2004, he released Ruby on Rails and began actively promoting it.
Now a principal at 37signals, Hansson has no plans to commit his efforts full-time to Ruby on Rails. Remaining at 37signals as a programmer will ensure that the project continues to be practical, he said.
"If there is one thing that will kill Rails, it's to put people on it who are no longer in touch," said Hansson, adding that he has recruited like-minded, practical people to work on the open-source project.
The decision to start an open-source project was a business, rather than a personal, decision. By getting outside contributors, his employer can improve Ruby on Rails faster.
"Open source is a better business model for developing infrastructure code," Hansson said. "There are a handful of companies that have any business selling infrastructure software. It's really laughable for other entities to try."
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