Zed on Ruby, Rails, Mongrel, and More

by Steve Mallett

Interview by Pat Eyler

Zed Shaw is an up and coming programmer in the Ruby world. He's the creator of the popular Mongrel webserver, and is building a reputation for fast, solid, secure code. In this interview, he discusses Mongrel, Ruby, and his path to better code.

How did you come to Ruby?

Zed I actually came to Ruby years back while developing the first version of a weird revision control tool I was playing with called FastCST. I tried Ruby out but didn't quite see the point and so went back to using C. Then I read Curt Hibbs' article and realized, "Hey, they do domain specific languages with that thing!" Right after that I started a Ruby version of FastCST and then became distracted with work and several other weird projects related to Ruby on Rails.

Ah, there's the Rails link that most people expect when some says they use Ruby. How much of your work is in Ruby vs Ruby on Rails?

Zed I'd say the majority of my work with Mongrel is in Ruby in order to support Rails and the other frameworks that run with Mongrel, but I work with Rails at my day job.

Zed What I like about Ruby is how you can express statements succinctly but still clearly so that other people can read your code. It has warts but the speed that I code in Ruby is incredible. The language is just amazing for how it mixes domain specific language abilities with object oriented design to let me crank out fully functioning applications at prototyping speeds with production quality.

A lot of people are saying that Ruby and Rails aren't ready for the enterprise. What's your take on this?

Zed Before answering this I'll have to clarify the term "enterprise" into something people can talk about. Right now "enterprise" seems to mean three general things:

  • "Big and expensive for running real businesses."
  • "Scales and performs well enough to meet my service demands."
  • "Has legally enforceable commercial support options to cover potential losses."

Okay, let's talk about each of those concepts. Ruby and Rails are both free, how does this square with spending a lot of money?


2006-05-17 09:52:05
Wow, that was a really nice, informative article. Thanks a bunch for such thoughtful questions and specific answers.
2006-05-17 11:02:52
Zed is actually zedas, not zenspider. He's probably going to kill you, http://www.zedshaw.com/blog/programming/programmer_stats.html
Steve Mallett
2006-05-17 11:07:46
"Zed is actually zedas, not zenspider." Asleep at the wheel. Offending refernece removed.
2006-05-17 11:20:31
Actually, it's zenspider I'm worried about ... I'm visiting the Seattle.rb again next month. I'm not likely to see zedas in person for a while. ;)
2006-05-17 11:56:37
"who is zed?"

"zed's dead baby, zed's dead."

oh come on, you know thats what you thought when you saw that.

2006-05-17 12:38:31
Solid article. I'm glad this was finally published!
Daniel Berger
2006-05-17 12:57:02
Great interview, especially since it mentions me.


Seriously, though, great interview.

- Dan

Curt Hibbs
2006-05-17 13:57:42
Yes, this was excellent!

This is not intended as any kind of slight to Zed, but I wanted to correct one thing that Zed said about Rails development on Windows.

"I seriously think nobody developing Rails actually even gets within five feet of a Windows computer."

This can't be right. Instant Rails (which currently runs only on Windows) gets about 400 downloads a day during the week. And the One-Click Ruby Installer gets about 6,000 downloads a day (before Rails, the One-Click Installer only about 300 downloads a day).

To me, this says that there is a *lot* of Rails development on Windows machines.

Daniel Berger
2006-05-17 14:38:42
Curt, I think he was referring to the core Rails developers. At least, that's how I took it.

- Dan

Zed A. Shaw
2006-05-17 15:14:11
Regarding the "nobody developing Rails uses Windows" I *meant* that none of the rails-core use windows, and probably very few if none of the committers. There's people using Windows for sure, but it's such a painful experience since Ruby and Rails on Windows gets no love since the developers seem to use mostly Linux, OSX, or a similar Unix variant.

Anyways, my appologies for the confusion.

Zed A. Shaw
2006-05-17 15:16:41
Oh, one more thing, Curt, Luis, Daniel and all the other folks banging away at Windows do fantastic hard work pushing the Windows boulder up-hill. It's too bad they don't get more direct support from the rest of community. Especially considering Windows is still like 90% of the desktop market and there's an obvious demand.
2006-05-17 16:14:32
Zed (and everyone else), watch on Monday for Luis to get a bit more credit. ;)

I'm not a Win32 user myself (though I occasionally do use Windows at/for work), but I agree that getting Ruby and Rails solid on Windows is and important and undervalued job.

Daniel, Luis, Curt, et al., keep up the good work!

Curt Hibbs
2006-05-17 18:37:53
Ok, now I get it... yes, you are correct. I don't think any of the Rails core developers use Windows.
2006-05-17 22:51:19
Watch out for the Macinstas! They'll chastise you for your offenses.

Could the Google trends drop off on 'Rails' be due to a plateau of Mac developers curiosity?

Gonna be even tougher to crack the .NET nut without any Windows love from the core team. In fact, you can't be 'core' unless you use Texmate. :)

2006-05-17 22:54:59
Good interview! It must have been a lot longer before editing (Zed swears like a sailor!).
2006-06-24 23:21:38

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Ruby's advantage though is not in it's blazing execution speed but it's blazing coding speed.

Pain! Anguish!

The possessive pronoun "its" has no apostrophe. No apostrophe! NO APOSTROPHE, DO YOU HEAR ME?!?

YARRGGGH!!! (runs from room, thumping chest and tearing hear)

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