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About The Authors

Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson is a social software consultant and writer who specialises in the use of blogs and wikis behind the firewall. With a background in journalism, publishing and web design, Suw is now one of the UK’s best known bloggers, frequently speaking at conferences and seminars.

Her personal blog is Chocolate and Vodka, and yes, she’s married to Kevin.

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Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson is a freelance journalist and digital strategist with more than a decade of experience with the BBC and the Guardian. He has been a digital journalist since 1996 with experience in radio, television, print and the web. As a journalist, he uses blogs, social networks, Web 2.0 tools and mobile technology to break news, to engage with audiences and tell the story behind the headlines in multiple media and on multiple platforms.

From 2009-2010, he was the digital research editor at The Guardian where he focused on evaluating and adapting digital innovations to support The Guardian’s world-class journalism. He joined The Guardian in September 2006 as their first blogs editor after 8 years with the BBC working across the web, television and radio. He joined the BBC in 1998 to become their first online journalist outside of the UK, working as the Washington correspondent for

And, yes, he’s married to Suw.

E-mail Kevin.

Member of the Media 2.0 Workgroup
Dark Blogs Case Study

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Interview series:
at the FASTforward blog. Amongst them: John Hagel, David Weinberger, JP Rangaswami, Don Tapscott, and many more!

Corante Blog

Wednesday, February 8th, 2006

FoWA: Happy programming with Ruby on Rails - David Heinemeier Hansson

Posted by Suw Charman-Anderson

Silver bullet for developers - motivation. We should be focusing on productive and motivation in our development, in the work we do. Not enough to be just working in an interesting domain, or customers who appreciate what you do, but you also need to enjoy the mundane things of what you do.

I’m most motivated when I’m happy. Motivation comes from happiness. Not far down to say that if happiness, is the key ingredient for motivation we should optimise for happiness to optimise for productivity.

Used to be a programmer who didn’t like programming, liked the end result but not the process of programming. Didn’t find that exciting. But found there was one key factor that me me happy about doing the actual work and for me that’s beautiful code.

Beautiful code is one of those things that’s hard to explain, it’s about feeling good about a single statement, expressing what you want to say in a way that’s aesthetically pleasing, that’s understandable, that’s right.

Your app is not a unique snowflake. It is not special. Hard for people to deal with the fact that they are not special. Most parts of most apps are just like everyone else’s. Most people do the same most of the time.

So Ruby on Rails optimises for the 80% of the workloads. Can’t optimise for special, can abstract special. So that’s not the work that we focus on with RoR, because it’s too hard.

To get people on board with this they have to believe that 80% of what they do is the same as everyone else, and the last 20% is special, is the snowflake.

One technique for making beautiful code is the notion of convention over configuration. Configuration is the annoying part of making software. First you do the work, then you tell the system how you did the work, then you tell another part of the system how you did the work. Programmers don’t like repetition. So beautiful code does not repeat itself. It express what it needs to express just once.

[Gives example of code.]

Look for patterns to abstract, conventions say in mapping. Look for relationships between things. Conventions are there for the 80% of the time. When you work inside those conventions, you don’t need to do work, because you can get the conventions to do it.

Configure once, the move on.

Flexibility is overrated. Assumption is that flexibility is good. Trading valuable parts of your system away to get flexibility, and usually not worth it. Should stop chasing flexibility.

Constrains are liberating. If you think about what most people are doing most of the time, you’ll get systems which are consistent.

Devil shows you the easy way, where something gets done today but tomorrow is tomorrow. On the other hand, the angel tells you to test things.

Not about whether something is possible or impossible, it’s about whether it should be encourage or discouraged. At this point I realised that PHP is the devil, because PHP was constantly giving me temptation to do the ugly thing. The whole language just encouraged me to be a slob. Yes, I could fight that, and that works until the pressure’s on, and then you listen to the devil.

Ruby on Rails is the angels, we’re trying to embed the angel on RoR. We’re making it easier to do the right thing, the clean thing, the pure thing, than the hack. You have to go out of your way to do something ugly.

Create invitations to do better, reminding you that you should be consistent, that you should be creating tests, and that you get benefits from doing things the right way.

We do this by allowing common patterns but showing you there is a better way to deal with these common patterns.





Want to set up a community of expectation that people are interested in doing the right things, the clean things.

[Another code example. Hard to take notes on code without the examples.]

Extracting common usage. Reduce mental effort. Sometimes the beautiful thing is to get out of the way. Sometimes, the beautiful thing is not to try to abstract, but to be a snowflake, do the unique thing.

What do you need to use RoR

- Feel the hurt. If you don’t feel the hurt, don’t hear the devil whispering in your ear, you’re not ready for RoR yet.

- Appreciate agile. That a functional spec is evil. Appreciate tests.

- You can skip the vendor. ‘I’m not here for you’. Open source because you want to help yourself. Rails is solution to problems faced by the contributors.

Does it scale? Yes.

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3 Responses to “FoWA: Happy programming with Ruby on Rails - David Heinemeier Hansson”

  1. forgot Says:

    i like to present the “idiots’” positions and make a dire prediction. :hah? you say? p certainly! # i retort! Look here missE: Too many Kids are given the role of ‘decision makers’ in this “industry”. heck, you can’t run an “industry” using a “cottage” industry mind{}.

    RoR is disposable software.

    Now that is a great idea, but hardly “motivating” to me, the “idiot” developer who have made, in spite of my best resolve, a dire prediction.

    Now, who would like to be the first investor in my RoR->? converter tool company?

    btw, please do not mis?interpreter my me?ssege, i think ruby is great “fun” and RoR one heck of a prototyping tool …

  2. Andrew Garrett's Scroll of Emptiness Says:

    Just some notes from a conference I wasn’t at.

    More for my own future reference than anything else, but I know some readers will find this osrt of stuff interesting.
    Building a webapp on a budget. Not a generic webpage, not just an app - a Web Application Business - in this case, Dropsend. Came i…

  3. Thought Leadership Says:

    More Thoughts on Ruby and Why it isn’t enterprise

    I previously blogged on Large Enterprises and why they don’t care about Ruby and was rightfully accused of bashing folks in the Ruby community but not providing the answer to my original statement. Figured I would set things right…