RE: Rails, It Turns Out I’m Just an Idiot, Not A Moron

Or vice versa.

About a week ago I wrote and deleted a fairly whiny post about how I was trying to write a simple Rails application and just didn’t get it. I mean, I could generate scaffolding and stuff, like any chimp could, but every time I tried to do anything in the least bit off-the-beaten path, I’d end up in a morass.

Having taken a little time off I started messing around with a simple rails app again, and needed to look something up, and I couldn’t find it in the api documentation or googling around, so I grabbed my ancient (1st edition) Agile Web Development with Rails book, and checked out the index. Ah, there was what I needed, on page X Y and Z.

In the midst of reading those pages I realized I had never really taken advantage of that book at all.

See, the first umpteen chapters of the book are a tutorial, where you follow along, they say do this and do that, and you are supposed to go “wow, it sure looks easy, of course, I’m not learning anything except what to do if I happen to want to build exactly what they are building in the tutorial example.”

I’d only made it through a few chapters before tossing the book aside as useless, because that sort of thing doesn’t help me at all. I can’t follow along and not understand what’s going on. I want to know what’s going on, how things work, first, and then I may be able to get something useful out of an example or tutorial.

There is basically no useful way (for me at least) to learn Rails on the web. All you have are these whizz-bang follow-along tutorials, which don’t ever give you a complete picture of what’s going on, and the API documentation, which is useful as a reference but horribly painful to try to learn from. It’s hell or high water — either handwaving la-la on the one hand, or details so nitty-gritty that you’ve got to be a lot more of a propellerhead than I am to use them for learning.

Anyone who’s got the Rails book I mentioned can already see why I’m an idiot. It turns out that the latter half of the book, after all that whizz-bang la-la tutorial, is exactly what I needed. It sets out very clearly and comprehensibly what all the various parts of Rails are, how they fit together, what you can do with them, giving you enough details to clearly understand what you can do with each piece, but organizing those details into a comprehensible presentation.

And I’ve owned this book the whole time and I didn’t realize that it contained exactly what I needed to have to learn Rails.

So I’m not a moron who can’t learn what’s supposed to be the easiest web framework in the world in my favorite language in the world, I’m an idiot who was trying to learn it with all the wrong resources. Or vice versa.

I’m glad I got that sorted out.