Friday, January 4th, 2008

Zed Shaw interview on Rails community, enterprise, Ajax, patents, and a whole lot more

Category: Podcasts, Rails, Ruby

Rob Sanheim sat down with Zed Shaw at RailsConf and had an hour long conversation with him that covered his thoughts on the Rails community, the role of the Enterprise, the state of Ajax, JRuby and Rubinius, documentation, tests, tooling, the role of patents in software, and a whole lot of opinion.

Zed Shaw

It is very interesting to listen to this after the explosion that happened when Zed lambasted the Rails community. When you listen to this interview, you see some of the seeds of the rant, but it is a lot more toned down, and there is some good stuff in there. It is easy to blog a crazy rant…. but when you are talking to someone you get a different side of the coin. This gives you that side, from a time when he wasn’t as upset as he may have been when he sat at the computer to type up his post.

Listen to the recording, or subscribe to the podcast. We will go back to more “standard” Ajax topics in the future.

Zed’s Core Quotes

  • On Semantic Web: Einsteins brain on a crack whores body isn’t going to happen
  • I’m waiting for someone to blind-side the entire Web stack
  • Some people hate me, but love Mongrel
  • Where is the XP for managers

And here are some of the thoughts that Zed expressed throughout the interview:

Thoughts on the Rails community, and enterprise (as big business)

  • Mixed feelings
  • Mongrel was an art project
  • Simpler software is better
  • Enterprise software is known to be complex, and survives to make money for consulting companies
  • Afraid of consulting companies getting behind it, as their interest is in selling 30 people vs. 3 people teams

What could an enterprise company sell?

  • Do enterprise stuff well such as Authentication
  • Stacks: Make it simple (no ClassLoader6)


  • It is a huge deal
  • The only fear is that Sun will mess it up with the JCP.
  • The JRuby guys are rock stars


  • An open source project not controlled by anyone
  • A bunch of guys who really love Ruby
  • Massive “spec”, working with the JRuby guys

State of Ajax

  • HTTP sucks
  • Needs to be a reset
  • Semantic Web: “Einsteins brain on a crack whores body isn’t going to happen”
  • I’m waiting for someone to blind-side the entire Web stack
  • Ajax the technology doesn’t impress me, but the new UIs that we are seeing is fantastic
  • Usability != better looking
  • “click here” actually does a really good job at having people click here!

What is going to come out with all of the work happening on top of Mongrel?

  • Swiftapply
  • Evented mongrel
  • DrProxy
  • OpenBSD clustering
  • X hits per day is meaningless. What is the peak?

Honest Open Source

  • Not all open source projects are equal
  • Make everything open and public immediately (e.g. SVN)
  • Corporate open source projects often lose their flavour
  • Outside commiters are key
  • Some people hate me, but love Mongrel
  • Documentation is poor for Rails and Ruby, Ruby doesn’t have a culture for it
  • Rails core does a much better job that the Ruby community in general, and this is a reason why it took off
  • QRI command line. Way better than RI
  • If Rails core isn’t using it, don’t use it. Add: used_by

What tools do you use?

  • Vim
  • Use a generic tool, and pimp it
  • “I code with a thesaurus”
  • Vim is designed to be used on phone lines, and it is very safe
  • Good tools never cover your code


  • A bit of design up front
  • Design the API
  • Tests to measure how it is working
  • Quality comes from the design ahead of time

Posted by Dion Almaer at 7:55 pm

3 rating from 66 votes


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Well, i don’t know why all this fuss about his rant started, maybe its just this blogosphere crazy dynamics.

Because i really can’t see where he was wrong in the first place, its because he used the word “f**k” a lot? The guy fundamented his opinions quite well and maybe he is right about these teenage kind of groups with their mentality “you are with us or you are soooo not going to the party tonight..”

Comment by Pedro — January 5, 2008

I’m happy to see this post after all the slashdotting – Zed’s rants unfortunately are a bit personal here and there (concerning the original post) and for many outsiders it seemed to be an all out high school drama… this might clear up things a bit.

Comment by deadcabbit — January 5, 2008

Yeah, it would be much better if we just ditched all the web standards and jump right into the big hairy claws of Adobe or MSFT and jump on the ActiveX 2.0 bandwagon, what a nice world that would be, and both MSFT and Adobe are so creative that we don’t really need standards…
What an easy world it would be, we wouldn’t even have to care about the difficult stuff like innovation and creativity, we could just leave that up to Adobe and MSFT…!
OMG I am glad I don’t have those opinions, it would be just SO embarrassing 10 years from now … !!

Comment by Thomas Hansen — January 5, 2008

“Fundamented” is a verb?

Comment by Diodeus — January 7, 2008

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