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People often ask me why and how I got into Rails, what the trigger was. To be honest, there was no one single trigger, it was a long process that included trial and error. I tried multiple programming languages. When I came across Ruby I wasn’t impressed at first. Only after I got familiar with Rails, I could fully appreciate how universal and flexible this is, without being too tedious or difficult. It’s not without challenges, though, and you have to be prepared for that.
First of all, you need more than just the basic knowledge of Ruby. It’s a great and relatively simple object programming language that, while easy to learn, is a bit more difficult to master. Yet I feel it’s worth it in the end. Learning Rails on top of that requires an understanding of seemingly obvious things like the mvc pattern and the idea of the object-based language.
Ruby might seem simple and very intuitive after dealing with most other programming languages, but you may come across some challenges. Since it’s syntax based, you might face the same problems someone learning a language does. The difference is that in programming, hand gestures won’t help you get your message across.
Your first Ruby steps can actually be quite easy – there’s a plethora of online courses, tutorials and whatnot. TryRuby.org is a good place to start. Within 15 minutes you’ll see exactly what Ruby is about, all in one neat and intuitive tutorial. While online sources are great, call me old fashioned but to me, nothing can beat a book – and here you’re spoiled for choices too. Personally, I’d choose the latest of the Programming Ruby series by Dave Thomas.
Once you have a somewhat firm grasp of the basics, you can move to other resources – like podcasts, screencasts and so on. Again, the amount of available sources of information is almost overwhelming.
The next step is mastering Rails. The first place you should visit is guides.rubyonrails.org – full of official guides. It’s the most comprehensive collection of advice an aspiring Rails dev might hope for. Once you’re through all that, it’s time to hit the books again. I have to agree with many of my colleagues that Agile Web Development with Rails, by David Heinemeier Hansson seems to be the go-to book here.
At this point you will probably start encountering problems that finding an answer to won’t be as easy, and this is where github.com comes in. The Ruby on Rails community is centered around GitHub and if anyone can help you, whether it comes to learning or working, it’s them.
Another thing you must know is that Rails hosting isn’t universally possible. There are hosts out there that simply won’t support it (for one reason or another) so choose wisely. It’s not that big an issue once you’re aware of it, but if you’re not, it can be costly.
Finally, there is one other source of information you can use – the source code. While you won’t find tutorials, tasks and tests there, assuming you didn’t skip any of the previously mentioned steps, this will give you a deeper understanding of the architecture of the language.
So this is it, the basic “how to” tutorial to RoR. Remember that any mistakes you make now are there for you to learn from them. Don’t be afraid to seek answers and solutions to new problems, don’t be afraid to analyze. Eventually, with both grasp of the theory and experience, you may create something impressive.
Monique Rivers is an Australian tech blogger who also loves good food and fashion. She works at ninefold.com. Ninefold is a powerful Ruby on Rails platform, that allows you to deploy Rails apps quickly and easily.