Getting Started with Ruby on Rails

If you’re new to Rails, and you think it’s going to be easy, you might have been misled. There are a couple screencasts out there that show you how to put a blog together in Rails, in about 15 minutes. It’s tempting to think you can line up that first client, and learn as you go.

Or maybe you’ve seen just what a sophisticated platform Rails is becoming, and concepts like MVC architecture, RESTful resources, and Test-Driven Development seem daunting. It’s tempting to think you should stick with what you already know.

The truth is, Rails tries to automate the mundane so you get get to programming the unique parts of your application. It does a lot of things for you, but to become an expert you’ll need to know what’s going on under the hood. Ruby on Rails is a lot like chess – 5 minutes to learn, a lifetime (or at least a couple good years) to master.

If you don’t know where to get started, here’s a list of great resources that helped me. And always feel free to contact me if you get stuck on something.

Agile Web Development with Rails

This is the bible for Ruby on Rails. It was written by some of the smartest Rails minds, and walks through creating an application from simple to complex. It covers all the major concepts I outlined above. If you’re impatient, you can buy the PDF online and have it in just a few minutes.


Ryan Bates puts together a weekly screencast on a current Rails topic, and the videos are all free. If there’s a concept in Rails that I don’t quite “get”, I see if there’s a railscast about it. They’re not super-detailed, just 10 minute overviews that give you the solid basics to get you up and running.


Geoffrey Grosenbach produces these more in-depth screencasts and PDFs on Rails topics. The screencasts are usually 45-60 minutes. They’re not free, but at $9 apiece they’re a great way to get a more detailed understanding of a specific concept. I’m an annual subscriber – for $150, you get unlimited access to everything.


This is the definitive source for Rails code online, including gems and plugins. GemCutter has started hosting hte compiled versions of Ruby gems, but the source code is all still on GitHub. If you want to be a great developer, read the code for all the plugins you use. You’ll be able to use them better, and learn best practices.

Working With Rails

This is the largest online directory of Ruby on Rails developers. It tracks your accomplishments in the Rails community, and gives potential employers/clients an easy way to learn more about you. Even if you don’t plan on being freelance, sign up and start building a track record of your accomplishments.

Incidentally, it’s also a great way for developers to recommend each other. And if you’d like, you can recommend me.


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