the spirit of giving, open source style

posted

So as many in my current little niche of a business community know, Ruby on Rails and Merb have decided to combine forces and become some sort of Ruby super framework. I had just come home from Christmas shopping to find my RSS feed full of blogs from some of the players involved, so I jumped on to IRC to try to get a feel from the community.

The results were mixed: some of the prevailing thoughts was "What's in it for Merb?", "I thought Rails embodied all of the aspects of a framework that we wanted to get away from.", and "Why not combine them into a new framework instead of merging Merb into Rails?"

Well, there's a ton that Merb, or the Merb community, will get out of this: for one, access to a wider community of plugin developers and framework contributors. Being able to pitch a project to a client and not have to say that we'd like to use a 1.x framework that is still going through growing pains. Validation that Merb took the right approach and has added some fresh insight and serious benefits into the medium-sized MVC Ruby web app field. Rails will no longer embody the aspects of a framework we don't like: no code is still faster than no code, there will be a public API. Promises have been made about dropping alias_method_chain. It's a Good Thing.

That's not to say that this couldn't be messed up: there are a million ways this could go wrong. When it comes down to it, what really matters are the people involved. If you've got good people working together, you'll do a lot better. Get the wrong people spearheading a project, and the best project can become a nightmare.

The key people heading up Merb and Rails said all of the things you'd expect them to say. They're the public face of their respective frameworks, after all. However, it's some of the developers of each framework that actually made me feel better about this. They said the things I needed to hear.Carl mentioned his initial fears (similar to mine) and how they were assuaged, and Pratik (on IRC) did mention that Rails 3.x would be a lot less bloated than current Rails. Pratik has in my mind often been playing defense when it comes to Rails, so it was heartening to hear him be open and forthcoming on the aspects that would be improved.

While I'm not naive enough to think that they'll be able to deliver on every promise, I'm cautiously optimistic, and I'm thinking things just might work out after all.

Meanwhile, I've been busy writing a lot of open source material. The mantra of OSS has always been that you have the power to make it what you want, and while I've always believed that, I've always been content to want what other people make. But when I bit the bullet and fixed a bug in an OSS library that I was using, I kind of caught the fever and started doing this all over the place. The result is a dozen open source projects on GitHub, roughly half of which are forks of other projects, contributing little additions here or there. When I have time, I'll go into more detail on these projects over at http://carpeliam.github.com.

Well, tomorrow is Christmas, and I have gifts to wrap, so I hope everybody gets what they were hoping for this year, whether that be a merge of your two favorite web frameworks or some nice open source software.

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