Needed: a Ruby on Rails A-Team

Friday, December 16

The release of Ruby on Rails 1.0 is more than an important milestone. It represents the ushering in of a new era in web application development with the modern browser acting the part of platform. Despite early skepticism and sometimes harsh criticism, Rails has emerged as a clear champion in the framework debate. Whether or not you believe that Rails changes everything, one thing is certain: the web application is poised to play an important role in the future of software development.

I’m not going to get into the details of what I think defines the web version 2.0, but I think most would agree it includes tools like Ruby on Rails. In fact, as the makers of some of the only financially successful web 2.0 applications thus far, I would venture to say that the dynamic duo of Rails and 37signals are (deservedly) among conductors of the web 2.0 train—why, Rubies are more valuable than Snakes nowadays and even Google has taken notice, awarding Rails’ creator DHH the prestigious hacker of the year award.

Rails has it all: a great language, an agile philosophy, opensource good looks, and now that it’s hit 1.0, a professional image that rivals even its most established competitors. Recently redesigned by Jason Fried, the Rails website is a remarkable testimony to the power of clarity and honesty in web design. It looks simple enough to have been designed in a day, and showcases some fresh ideas in layout and branding. A year ago, Ruby on Rails was an underground open source web framework with a niche following; today it’s 37Signals newest product: a polished web application framework and a philosophy for software design and development. Clearly, a line has been drawn.

Despite this momentum, at this late stage it seems that no one company has emerged from the Toronto area as the A-Team of agile development with Rails. Sure, the two-thirtys have a distinct presence (though they don’t seem to venture on programming territory), and Prince Edward Island has the infamous silveroranges, but (surprisingly) neither of these have embraced Ruby on Rails as an application framework and a metaphor for software development. The closest Toronto comes is (Rails core) Tobias Lutke’s Ottawa outfit, Jaded Pixel.

The time has come to create such a force. I should know. I’ve been completely absorbed for the past year in all things Ruby and Rails—programming, learning, salivating, and paying attention. All that’s needed now is a crack team of developers. Passionate, switched-on people who really get the whole ‘getting real’ concept. I already know of a few worthy individuals, but if there are others out there, I want to hear from you.

If you are a Ruby on Rails developer in or around the GTA and want to get together for a fireside chat on world domination, drop me a line.


Leave a response

  1. David CrowDecember 16, 2005 @ 09:22 AM


    I agree, Toronto is a tough city, Shift Media is probably the closest to a GTA super star. Albert Lai’s Bubbleshare is built using Ruby on Rails and there are some folks like Joey doing Django and Rails development. But most of the focus is else where.

    My hypothesis is that the financial services industry skews the technologies that TO developers use severely towards J2EE and .Net. There is no incentive to play/explore technologies like Rails because there is no secondary market for these skills (there are not enough small companies that value the experience). I’ve started to try and pull a community together around these technologies and ideas at TorCamp . It turns out there are a bunch of us, all working in isolation but doing fun things.

  2. paulDecember 16, 2005 @ 10:32 AM

    i think there’s a sad lack of not just rails programmers or rails programming companies, but a lack of programmers/programming companies in general that “get it” in canada. while twothirty doesn’t touch anything but xhtml/css, we end up working with programmers or backend teams on every project, and when we are asked who to use, it pains me to never be able to recommend a canadian programmer/company for development work – especially in vancouver. i can think of 2 decent programming companies here, one that focuses on more enterprise level apps, and one that focuses almost entirely on community portals.

    are americans stealing our coders? or are canadians just less interested in coding than everyone else in the world?

  3. David CrowDecember 16, 2005 @ 03:20 PM

    Don’t forget Nicholas Seckar a Rails committer in Toronto. The AvailableForHire page has a few Toronto/GTA Rails developers (Reuven Cohen , Lee O’Mara , Exinos , Chris Nolan , Reality Engine in London and others).

    A lot of the great coders I meet in Canada are working for somebody else, i.e., they seem to be at IBM, Mozilla Corporation, Iotum, but they are all tucked away, they are not self-promoting, or not that entrepreneurial.

  4. PackagethiefDecember 16, 2005 @ 04:52 PM

    I think David is right, that great developers are in our midst, squirreled away in isolation, trying to fit fun projects into their spare time. I’ve been working away under the guise of my own company, but always seem to find myself tangled up in long and tedious projects for large companies, or working with legacy systems and other (dare I say) boring things.

    That’s why I’ve been thinking so much lately about taking a new direction, forming a new company that puts its focus squarely on software development with Ruby on Rails. I’ve worked with so many other languages and web frameworks in the past, but nothing excites me as much as Rails. I sometimes fantasize about how much fun work would be if I didn’t have to spend time writing PHP, or worse, visual basic and could just spend all my time in Ruby.

    Sometimes I think it’s not great developers the area lacks, but great clients.

  5. mindslipJanuary 24, 2006 @ 07:29 AM

    I’d love to drop you a line and meet up so we can plan world domination, but your email address is rather hard to find!

    World domination needs to be planned in private… and I’ve got something I’d like to discuss with you that needs an NDA. Write me.

    Cheers, David Szego.

  6. PackagethiefJanuary 24, 2006 @ 03:21 PM

    David—you’re right. Thanks for pointing out this glaring omision. I’ve updated my about page with contact information and my real name (Jeff).

  7. Pete FordeFebruary 23, 2006 @ 08:58 AM

    Hey everyone.. I have no idea if this is being track-backed or whatever, but my partner Anthony sent me a link to this thread this morning.

    So guess what – we started just such an A-Team: we’ve got our pilot, a veteran with leadership abilities, a bouncer-type who knows his way around a welding torch, and of course a face man.

    Seriously though.. we’re called Unspace and we’ve been picking up speed for a year now, operating entirely on a referral basis and cultivating a roster of amazing clients that understand why we do things how we do things. We have an intentionally small team and a super-iteration-heavy process. And we’re located in a modest, laid back office at Queen and Spadina.. surely the Toronto tech ghetto at this juncture in history. The decision to go full speed with Rails as our toolset was the simplest we made. We spent more time deliberating the colour of our wall.

    Right now I am in the process of organizing what I hope will become a monthly event: Toronto Rails Pub Nite. Our goal is to advocate Rails and try to combat the feeling that we Toronto Rails developers are working in a dead-zone. We want to hang out, swap stories, and throw some business cards around.

    Most importantly, we need to celebrate how much Rails makes us happy. We could all be working for investment companies right now. I can no longer picture starting new projects outside of the Rails world.

    So please, wish us luck, and come out to see us at Pub Nite!

    Pete Forde Partner, Unspace Interactive Inc.