Michael Hartl or: How we learned to stop worrying and love the Rails

Matt and I aren’t technical people. The last programming related things I did were a satire conspiracy theory site in the ninth grade and a Lego Mindstorms robot to terrorize my dog when I was twelve. Matt’s not too far ahead of that.

A lot of you are probably wondering how the hell are we making an app if we don’t know a thing about computers? In the past five years the learning curve for web development has leveled out dramatically. With services like WordPress, Squarespace, and Tumblr you can make a customized professional looking site without writing a single line of code (eat your heart out, Geocities).

What we want with HearBy, however, required us to start from scratch. But where to even start? We had our mockups and our features list, but that’s like trying to bake a cake from a drawing of one. We could outsource the coding to a domestic development house but that’s very pricey. There’s a rogue’s gallery of web languages:  PHP, Django, Python, Json, Javascript, the list goes on. But which one would let us hack together what we needed without four years of comp sci classes?


That’s when one of Matt’s friends recommended we try the hip, new development system, Ruby on RailsIt might sound like jewelry snorting cocaine, but it’s actually a powerful web framework that’s very user friendly and based in the Ruby language. We burned through the Ruby tutorials on Codecademy in no time, then Try Ruby, and even something called Rails for ZombiesEven though we now knew the basic grammar of Ruby and the structure of Rails, we had no idea how to deploy that into a website. That’s when we stumbled across this man:


No that’s not the tall robot suit alien from Men in Black:


It’s Michael Hartl, author of The Rails Tutorial, and the man who gave us the skills we needed to start coding independently. What the Rails Tutorial lacks in name originality it more than makes up for in its 700 pages of text and 15+ hours of videos featuring Mike’s sultry voice. He goes through everything from setting up your development environment, version control via Git, basic Ruby syntax, test-driven development, and even online deployment. And at the end you have your very own Twitter-esque app.

Now Mike didn’t make us expert programmers by any stretch and every feature we code in requires lots of Googling, but he did take us to a point where we don’t need hand holding and can actually teach ourselves how to become better programmers.

If you’re looking for a place to get started, I’d recommend him. If you can make it through all 700 pages and 15 hours, you’ve got more than enough patience to code.


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About deshuck

Startup founder, filmmaker, jean blogger, typewriter enthusiast.

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