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2015 (Fathom this!)

2015















Why it’s silly to say you shouldn’t use Rails for a new company

Jared Friedman wouldn’t use Rails for a new company. Fair enough, he’s entitled to his opinion. However, his reasoning deserves scrutiny. While the trends in web frameworks that he cites are interesting, most of his arguments are not so clear-cut. The biggest flaw in his blog post is that it doesn’t mention what kind of application “a starting company” would be developing.

Rails certainly isn’t suited to every situation, but the same can be said for Node.js frameworks or any other alternatives available. Leaving this critical aspect out fundamentally leaves Friedman’s titular claim without a leg to stand on.

For example, in systems that require real-time communication, Rails isn’t the best fit. But its strong development principles and eye-wateringly rich ecosystem make it incredibly productive to develop with. This productivity is useful not only in developing rapid prototypes — especially relevant when iterating an early product proposition — but also when developing large-scale web applications that require rich functionality and longevity.

“Ruby is slow.” Comparatively so, but the speed of the executing language is hardly the key factor in providing a fast user experience in web applications. So much more goes into architecting a modern web application that can scale.

Some years ago you heard the argument made for not choosing Rails that it wasn’t mature or popular enough — meaning that it lacked functionality or it’d be hard to hire developers. It’s somewhat ironic to now hear that Rails’s maturity (“development has stalled”) and increasing availability of developers (“bootcamps teaching Rails”) are now considered weaknesses.

These two arguments essentially boil down to “Rails isn’t cool any more”. Maybe it isn’t, but as arguments, they’re weak, as both offer considerable upsides: increased talent pool (which Friedman mentions) and a more stable framework not taxed by constant upheaval typical to early-stage frameworks. (As our devops engineer twisted the “devil you know” idiom: “I prefer in-your-face evil to the lurking evil you have no idea is going to hit you.”)

Admittedly, as a company with lots of experience in using Rails, we are naturally predisposed to use a framework and language that we’re familiar with. However, we constantly investigate and evaluate various new technologies and frameworks here at Made by Many (see our provocatively titled, three-part series on replacing Rails with Go). We have also used both Node.js and Go in production, but only when they’ve been the right fit.

Without focusing too much on the validity of the evidence, I would note that search volumes don’t equate usage. Interest in something doesn’t mean that it’s being used in anger. Equally, looking at what back-end languages AngelList companies are using is certainly interesting, but hardly conclusive evidence that a particular framework will suit your use case or enjoy lasting popularity.

Which brings me to Friedman’s final summation:

“If you want to future-proof your web application, you have to make a bet on what engineers will want to use in three years. That’s more important than what framework lets you be most productive right now.”

Without productivity now, you’re likely not going to have a company three years from now.

Ilya








The Conversation

I watched The Conversation on Saturday. Hat tip to @higgis for the recommendation: it’s a great movie. One thing that struck me is that it included a lot of dialog that was either abortive or just hard to work out the meaning of. I’m not sure if this was just to make it more realistic (our everyday spoken language is riddled with utterances that “change directions” mid-sentence) or if the phrases and comments would have made more sense to contemporary audiences.

Ilya





Introducing The People’s Operator

The founder of Wikipedia wants to be your mobile operator. Really interesting bootstrapping of business models. The People’s Operator (TPO) is also a social network (“similar to Twitter”). It’s free marketing for the operator that leverages the network effect. It also puts the operator’s billing relationship (and infrastructure) to use to power frictionless — and commission-free — payments to make it easy to raise money for charities.

Ilya

The myth of the ethical shopper

The myth of the ethical shopper. Pressuring Western big brands doesn’t work (any more, at least), the improvement of working conditions needs to come from the ground up.

“Foxconn has a factory in Indiana. It is not a sweatshop. That isn’t because Foxconn carries out such great audits or offers entrepreneurship classes. It’s because it is located in a country with functioning institutions.”

There’s some interesting and encouraging stories of how Brazil has tackled these issues (“Brazilian inspectors act more like McKinsey consultants than cops”).

Ilya
  • The founder of Wikipedia wants to be your mobile operator. Really interesting bootstrapping of business models. The People’s Operator (TPO) is also a social network (“similar to Twitter”). It’s free marketing for the operator that leverages the network effect. It also puts the operator’s billing relationship (and infrastructure) to use to power frictionless — and commission-free — payments to make it easy to raise money for charities.









  • The New Yorker: Headspace is enlightenment on your iPhone. Interesting article on the rise of meditation and mindfulness. I chuckled at the notion of Headspace creating a fake meditation app as means to placebo-test it’s effects. There’s also a cursory nod to corporations being excited about treating the symptoms of stress — rather than root causes such as corporate dysfunction and job insecurity. “It’s saying, ‘It’s your problem, get with the program, fix your stress, and get back to work!’”

  • The Iceman List. Classic movie antagonists who were actually pretty much right all along.

  • Why Circa failed. Tl;dr: Too factual (boring), generalist and wasn’t shareable.

































  • Brothel creeper. “In the late 1950s, these shoes were taken up by the Teddy Boys along with drainpipe trousers, draped jackets, bolo ties, quiff and pompadour haircuts, and velvet or electric blue clothes. [...] Self-made brothel creepers were picked up by the Soviet subculture stilyagi (rus. стиляги) in the mid 1950s. They were called ‘ботинки на манной каше’, literally men’s ‘shoes on semolina’, because they used to call the thick crepe sole ‘semolina’.”


  • V&A: 11 tips for writing a killer proposal. Great read, really useful feedback from a client’s perspective. Also reminded me of how TED wrote about choosing the right agency — incidentally mentioned (and linked to) in one of the comments.









  • Asbury & Asbury: Conversation my arse. A hilarious look at two long-term trends in marketing: mission escalation (when branding reaches escape velocity and shoots off into abstraction, like Burger King’s “Be Your Way” tagline) and conversation (Andrex’s “scrunch or fold” campaign).


















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