Peter Marklund

Peter Marklund's Home


I'm on Rails Now

I was finally able to put my new homepage live late last night after too many hours of programming (why do things always take longer than we expect?). About two weeks ago I caught a cold and I spent several days alone in my apartment. The upside of being sick is that I've had time to work very intensely on my homepage (when I probably should have been resting)...

This is the third incarnation of my homepage. A couple of years ago I started out with an OpenACS site using Lars Pind's weblog software. Since OpenACS hosting is hard to come by and that technology had little momentum I moved to and Wordpress which both have worked out very, very nicely for me. At that point I didn't know the Rails revolution was coming...

When I was working for Collaboraid with Lars last year we had David Heinemeier Hansson (the creator of Rails) come visit us in our office and tell us about his toolkit. I remember how we were shooting all kinds of tough questions at him of the type "ok, that sounds good, but can Rails do this or that particular thing that we need". David exuded confidence and would patiently and immediately answer each and every one of our questions like "sure you can do that, or in fact, you can do something even better, let me show you...". We were all very convinced. At that time though, I didn't have the time or energy to pick up a new web technology and I was somewhat deterred by the fact that Rails was still such a small niche. Having lived in the OpenACS niche for so long I was very impatient to find my way back into the mainstream.

Rails stayed in the back of my mind though and when I came to Stockholm to work as a Java developer at Pricerunner I noticed how people were talking about Rails. I then realized just how big the technology must have gotten. Over the past months I've read countless articles about Rails and it's really mind boggling to see how Rails had litterally taken the world by storm. I didn't see that coming, at least not at the rate that it's been happening. There is a myriad of open source web toolkits out there competing for attention and people like me who have worked with OpenACS know how hard it is to get a toolkit using an unpopular programming language into the mainstream (there are other more compelling reasons why OpenACS never entered the mainstream, but that's a different story).

When I had realized that the Rails way is really the future of web development, and also had experienced first hand how wonderful the Ruby language is, I knew I had to learn these technologies. I figured that what better way to do that than to build my own homepage using them? I started by trying Typo - the Rails weblogging software that all the other cool Rails hackers seem to be using. However, at the time that I tested it I was kind of put off by some bugs that it had. It seemed awfully immature coming from Wordpress. Also, Rails is not a framework for plugging in and reusing applications (like OpenACS is). Rather, it is a framework for building applications from scratch in a very fast and elegant fashion.

Of course, building any application, even if it's something seemingly simple as a weblog, is going to take a lot of work and thought if you want the result to be top class. What's fascinating is that Rails makes it feasible (because of its productivity) to build from scratch in a lot of cases where previously application reuse was the only realistic option.

I'm really thrilled about web development again know that I know Rails. I'll write up some details about how I built my homepage later on.

My old homepage is still accessible and now lives at