Why *you* need to learn Ruby on Rails

Editor's Note: For those of you who may have missed it, the Pragmatic Programmers have just launched a new series called "Pragmatic Fridays" and their first book was released last week. As an even more interesting note, the first one entitled "Rapid GUI Development with QtRuby" was written by our own Caleb Tennis.

In the movie "The Shawshank Redemption", after the character Brooks Hatlan got out of prison (after being cooped up for a very long time), he opines that: "...The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry". He wasn't able to cope in the outside world after living in prison for so long. He liked his old lifestyle better.

The same thing exists in software/tech world. In order to survive, you've got to stay afloat with knowing something about the latest and greatest happenings. No doubt you know that Microsoft is releasing a new version of Windows next year called "Vista". I'm sure you're aware of lots of the latest gadgets coming out of Steve Jobs' hands.

Well, if you're a web developer, no doubt you've heard of Ruby on Rails. But, more importantly, have you tried it?

Rails is definitely the breakout technology of the year for web development. It's pushed the envelope by redefining the way the backend of the page generation is handled. It's been on the forefront of integration with the latest Web 2.0 hype, like AJAX. And it has all sorts of built in goodies, thanks to the fundamentals of the Ruby language, that make web page design just plain fun.

It's very easy to get started with it. In fact, the hardest part is probably getting the database installed, configured, and running. But you owe it to yourself to spend a little time understanding Rails - seeing how it works, what makes it tick, and what all of the buzz is about.

You'll find that all of the people who hype it aren't the people who developed it - they're the people who tried it out and found it to be the framework to use. I found that it's hard to switch back to anything else - even PHP.

Don't get me wrong - PHP, Struts, .NET - none of these are going away anytime soon. But when a Rails developer swoops in and underbids you on one of your contracts because it takes them half as long to finish a project, you may just wish you had spent a little time playing with the framework.