Why Zed's post is good for Rails

05 Jan 2008

Unless you're living in a cave or have been celebrating the new year a little too enthusiastically, it is hard to miss Zed Shaw's rant about Rails. Honestly, I am not in a position to comment about most of the stuff that is in there. I don't know any of the core Rails members, neither the assorted celebrities of the Rails world. But one thing is true: Zed has made valuable contributions to the Rails community, he does make a few points which are worth noting.

His performance bugbear did a lot of good in making Rails deployment easier. I still remember what a pain it was to get Rails working with Apache2. Until mongrel came along. Briefly, fastcgi with Lighttpd worked, but it was never a complete solution because we lost some of the great Apache modules like modsvn and moddav_svn. When mongrel came along, everybody enthusiastically embraced it, as it fixed a big painpoint.

So if somebody who did so much for the Rails community says it is a ghetto, probably we have to sit up and listen. His emphasis on empirical evidence behind the slowness of Ruby/Rails stack is correct. We cannot fix something unless we measure the extent of the problem clearly. And we should rise above our personal opinions of others to evaluate the solution in a community. I would say, this is the time to be gentle with Zed, fix the problems, and invite him back into the community.

That is not to say I completely agree with the article. It could have been much better if names were not taken, not because it destroys reputations, but because it makes the writer look bad. Sometimes, you have to let the problem correct itself. As long as the markets and community are involved, it normally does. I would say the article would have been as effective, if not more, if Zed explained the problems in an even handed manner. The community has enough goodwill for Zed to believe what he says even without taking names.

We love you, Zed. Please come back. Even if you choose to stay away, you will continue to inspire a lot of Ruby folks, and your parting shot will be remembered not for its' vehemence, but as a wake-up call. Thank you.