Rails on the Run

Rails experiments by Matt Aimonetti

Browsing Posts published by Matt Aimonetti

This is huge!

While people still try to find some drama an in hypothetical war between rails and merb.

The Rails team and the Merb team announced working together on a joined version of the 2 frameworks. This is so exciting, nobody believed it could ever happen (I personally, had my serious doubt).

Yehuda had a great post laying down the plan and explaining things in details. Check out David’s post explaining why he wants us to work together and his vision of a better Ruby world.

I have to say that I have been impressed by the Rails core team and especially David (DHH).

I’ve known David for few years now and we had long/heated discussions on topics like i18n/l10n for Rails. David is known to be a very opinionated person. But if you come up with the right arguments, he can be convinced and when that happens, he is willing to move forward and shake things up.

This merge is a concrete example that David and the rest of the Rails team cares about Rails and the Ruby community more than we usually give them credit for. As a unified team, we are going to change the way web development in Ruby is done!

But what does it mean for you?

I put together a FAQ video here is the transcript:

Hi, I’m Matt Aimonetti from the merb core team and as you might have heard, a big announcement was made earlier today.

I did this video to hopefully answer the questions you might have.

Q: So what’s the big news?

  • merb and rails team will work together on the next version of their frameworks
  • merb 2.0 and rails 3.0 share the same common endpoint
  • we realized we now have the same objectives and agreed on all the key principles.
  • merb will provide Rails with agnosticism, modularity, improved performance and a public API.
  • The end product will be called Rails 3.0 but what real matters is that it’s a huge gain for the entire community.

Q: What??? I thought there was a war going on between Rails and merb, what happened?

  • There was no war between rails and merb
  • We created merb because rails was not fitting us
  • We wanted better performance, more choices/ more modularity and a Public API.
  • The Rails team now embraces these concepts and want Rails to follow them, so why not work together?

Q: Wait, does that mean that merb is dead?

  • Absolutely not!
  • merb development won’t stop, we are going to keep on releasing updates until rails 3.0
  • clear migration path, and upgrading to rails 3.0 will be as trivial as upgrading from rails 2.x to Rails 3.0

Q: What does the timeline look like?

We just started getting together and discuss the technical details. We are shooting for a release at RailsConf 2009. However it’s hard to estimate this kind of things so again, that’s just an estimate :)

Q: I just started a merb project, so what now?

I’m sure you had valid reasons to use merb, you needed modularity, performance and a solid API.

Keep on using Merb, we won’t let you down. The good news is that the next version of merb (rails 3.0) will be even awesomer!

Q: What about my client who was looking at using merb for his new project?

If your client is going to be using merb for valid reasons (and not, just because it’s not rails) he should still use merb, but with the full understanding that he/she will end up using Rails in 6 months or so. Again, Rails 3.0 will have what pushed you to use merb.

Q: I’ve been involved with the merb-book, what will happen with this project?

  • rails 3.0 won’t get released right away
  • still need awesome documentation
  • if we look at rails 3.0 as merb 2.0, we can easily imagine how the current work can be extended to the new version.
  • rails team will also include an evangelism team which I will be part of, so will be able to focus more on projects like the book.

Q: I’ve been working on a merb plugin, what should I do?

Keep working on it! We’ll assist you with the migration process and the new solid API.

Q: What if I still have questions?

Come talk with me, or any members from the new team. We’ll be open to hear your questions, worries, frustrations.

merb always valued its developers and we will continue to do so but at a bigger scale.

Concretely, nothing changes for Merb users. People loving Merb should not worry. The way you build merb apps won’t change until merb2.0/rails3.0. We will still work on your favorite framework and improve it.

Lori Holden worked on merb_sequel and we should release a 1.0 release of the plugin in a few days.

I’m sure this news comes as a shock for many of you, but try to not see Rails 3.0 as the way Rails is right now. Imagine a version of Rails with true modularity and agnosticism (sequel, DM and AR will still be supported) and the same type of performance as what you get with Merb. In other words, the rails world is about to discover the power of merb!

Here is what Yehuda explicitly says in his blog post:

  • Rails will become more modular, starting with a rails-core, and including the ability to opt in or out of specific components. [...]
  • We will port all of our performance improvements into Rails. This includes architectural decisions that are big performance wins.[..]
  • As of Rails 3, Rails will have a defined public API with a test suite for that API. [..]
  • Rails will still ship with the “stack” version as the default (just as Merb does since 1.0), but the goal is to make it easy to do with Rails what people do with Merb today.
  • Rails will be modified to more easily support DataMapper or Sequel as first-class ORMs. [..]
  • Rails will continue their recent embrace of Rack, which [..] will improve the state of modular, sharable logic between applications.
  • In general, we will take a look at features in Merb that are not in Rails (the most obvious example is the more robust router) and find a way to bring them into Rails.

Personal perspective

I’m personally really excited about this opportunity. I had a hard time believing that we could work together but I was proved wrong. We have many challenges in front of us, but watching the two teams working together is very reassuring.

I’m also glad to see that we will have a Rails Evangelism team that I will be part of. I strongly believe that one of the many reasons why merb has been so successful is because we work and listen to our community. We have put a tremendous amount of energy trying to understand what you guys need and what you like and dislike. In return, we saw many people working hard on the wiki and the merb-book.

Can you imagine doing that with almost 4 Million Rails developers?

I’m also looking forward to working with a team and reaching to even more people.

Other news related to the merge:

If you have any questions, or if you want me to publicly answer questions on your blog please contact me. I’ll do my best to get back to everyone.


That’s now finally official, MerbCamp 2008 registration are open! What an exciting time!


To understand why I’m excited, we need to go back few months back. Merb was first released by Ezra has an alternative tool to handle file uploads. Merb came to reality because Ezra needed something fast, light and flexible to handle something that, let’s be frank about it, Rails had a hard time dealing with. Rails was king but was not as popular as now. Merb started as a simple Mongrel handler, in other words an alternative for small, light limited actions. Most people started using Merb simply to handle uploads. But as few cool kids started using Merb, they thought, hey, this thing is super fast, maybe I can use it to build small standalone apps. After all, hardcore developers don’t need “cool ajax helpers” and form builders to create a simple site. [Geoffrey Grosenback]() aka topfunky even proudly used Merb to reduild his site!
That was just enough to convince me to start using Merb back at version 0.3.4.

I was an active Rails user and contributor. Having to use a bare bone Ruby web framework was quite refreshing however the lack of testing framework was a real show stopper :( (Being hooked up on RSpec by Josh Knowles I ended up only writing a small portion of a Rails app with Merb 0.3.x (uploader backend).)

Quite quickly Merb’s philosophy changed and switched. The Mongrel handler framework started dreaming of becoming an alternative to Rails. Merb took the best from Rails but targeted another audience: the Ruby hackers living on the edge.
Merb prides itself in being less opinionated than Rails(that can be argued tho), ORM agnostic (supporting ActiveRecord, Sequel and DataMapper), Javascript framework agnostic and truly modular. People like Yehuda Katz, Michael Klishin aka antares got involved, as more contributors joined the effort, rules were enforced to make sure the framework would be as fast as possible and easy to extend without monkey patching. (ohh and fully tested using RSpec ;)

Engine Yard decided to support the development effort and helped with Merb’s major rewrite (0.9 versions). Today, Merb is divided in 3 repositories, merb-core, merb-more and merb-plugins. By letting developers only choose what they want to use and by following a principle of isolation with private/public APIs, I believe Merb is today the most flexible yet powerful Ruby framework available.
Furthermore, even though many people don’t understand the purpose of rewriting a “new Rails” from scratch, the reality is that many progress made by the merb team were ported back to Rails and inspired others (DataMapper for instance)!

Anyway, this is not a sale’s speech and I’m not trying to convince you to use Merb. My point is that Merb is finally coming to a point where the public API is stable and where one would find most tools he needs to build production ready applications.
And, that’s basically a long sum up explaining why I wanted to organize something special to celebrate the 1.0 release and to create more awareness around Merb’s awesomeness!

The Team behind MerbCamp

I started getting involved with the SDRuby community a couple of years ago. As I got to know more people I realized that many people lead by Patrick Crowley (leader of SDRuby and one of the organizers of SD BarCamp) had the desire to organize a local Ruby conf/camp.

At the same time, while I was working daily with Merb and contributing back to Merb’s code, many other SDRuby fellows were also getting really excited about Merb (Rob Kaufman, Ryan Felton to mention a few).

Seeing the opportunity to host the very first Merb event in San Diego (host of RubyConf 2005!) I chatted with yehuda and the rest of the merb team. All the merb people were really excited, Leah Sibler from Engine Yard even offered her expertise to organize such an event (she’s totally awesome at planning/running conferences).

However, setting up such an event isn’t something one can do on his own. Before promising anything, I checked that Rubyists from San Diego would be interested and would help. In no time, I got a lot of people offering to help.

The key thing for me was to get someone with a good experience in organizing conferences. A person with resources and contacts. The only person I knew in San Diego who would be good enough to do that was Patrick Crowley. We had a quick chat Patrick and I and it turned out that Patrick was very excited about organizing the very first MerbCamp in his town.
Patrick quickly got a team together who agreed on working on the project. We got back to the Merb team and sealed the deal.

Patrick even found the awesome venue that many other cities will envy us! He’s been running the show, running here and there, making phone calls to make sure registration would open on time, setup the website etc…. Thanks Patrick!

The Conf

MerbCamp will be an hybrid between a BarCamp, a conference and an unconference. When the organization team got together, we all agreed that what we like the most during conferences is networking. We certainly also enjoy some good talks and definitely enjoyed the hack-room during the last Rails Conf. We therefore decided to organize a conf *we* would love to go.

  • 1 scheduled track with “official talks” to make sure we have some serious content and to motivate people to signup ;)
  • BBQ at the beach, because we live in San Diego and we love that! (plus, big open meals are the best way to network)
  • BarCamp type impromptu talks
  • hack-rooms so people can work together
  • friendly and small conference (we limited the amount of participants to 200)

To conclude, I hope the “history” of MerbCamp 08 wasn’t too boring. People seem quite excited about this event, we even have guys in London who would get together to watch the talks via a webcam we are going to setup for them.
We hope to see you there, if not, we hope you’ll organize your own conference and we will come have fun with you.

Like most people who started with Rails a while back, I first loved Rails fixtures and ended up hating them (slow, a pain to maintain etc…).

I went through different experiments, trying different existing libs, writing my own solutions etc… I wasn’t quite satisfied until I found factory_girl from thoughtbot.

You might not feel the need for a decent fixtures solution if you do a lot of mocking/stubbing, but I recently came back from my “mock everything you can outside of models” approach and I’m getting closer to the mock roles, not objects approach. So, I’m loosing my model/controller testing separation but I’m gaining by not having to maintain “dumb mocks” which don’t always represent the real API behind. I mean, how many times did I change a Model, messing up my app but all my specs were still passing. Anyway, that’s a long discussion, which will be covered by wycats during merbcamp

So here is a simple example of how I use factory girl in a Merb + DataMapper app. (you can do the same in a Rails app, there is nothing specific to Merb in factory_girl).

  • I. create an empty app, set the ORM etc…
  • II. git pull and install factorygirl from http://github.com/thoughtbot/factorygirl/tree/master. Or install thoughtbot-factory_girl gem using GitHub gem server.
  • III. create a spec/factories.rb file. (You might prefer to create a folder called spec/factories and add a factory per model)
  • IV. modify spec_helper.rb and add the following
  require 'factory_girl'
  require File.dirname(__FILE__) + '/factories/index.html'
  • V. write some specs against a Client model

  • VI. Create the Model

  • VII. create a factory

  • IIX. run your specs

    failing specs

  • IX. fix the model (note that I set dependencies "dm-validations" in my init.rb)

  • X. run the specs

    passing specs

  • XI. add more specs

As you can see, Factory.build(:client) only creates a new instance of the Object, while Factory(:client) creates, saves and loads the instance.

  • XII. get them to pass

Factory Girl makes fixtures simple and clean. Here is another example for creating associations:

Factory Girl also supports sequencing, check out FG read me

In conclusion, Factory Girl is a mature and solid factory solution which will take you less than 15 minutes to get used to. It will offer you loads of flexibility and less frustration than good old yaml fixtures. You can also use it with existing fixtures if you want to start using it in an existing app.