Will Rails be the new PHP?

UPDATE 2: Here’s a follow-up to this post with some thoughts on how we can turn the tide if what’s to follow below is true.

UPDATE: I’m sure this is going to feel like an uncool move, but I’m not only not going to respond to all individual comments, I also closed the thread. Anything below is based solely on my own experience, and as stated in the first paragraph, it’s biased. It could very well not hold up in your specific situation. For the people calling me elitist, telling me I can’t compare the PHP language to Rails because that isn’t a framework, etc: please read again, specially the first paragraph. I’m not comparing languages or frameworks. It’s not about one language being better than the other. In fact, it isn’t about languages at all. This is about people and a mindset that seems to become more apparent in the Ruby community, which I’m trying to illustrate by using PHP as an example (and yes, I guess that can be considered trolling). I’m not bashing any newcomers, as some suggested. I’m not blaming novices for not finding the guidance they need, but I do believe this is one the sources for the issues we’re facing. This post is intended to create awareness. Now go help a novice (Ruby) developer out with getting better at their job. I know I do.

TL;DR; The Ruby community seems to be growing, making it more visible to outsiders. This subsequently attracts more outsiders to join that community. Some of those people aren’t the best when it comes to development skills and they are not necessarily willing to learn. Will this decrease the value of Ruby and Rails over time?

This post is not a comparison of languages and frameworks. It’s not about PHP developers being bad at what they do: I know a lot of awesome ones. It’s about poor developers in general, who now seem to be finding their way to Rails. Still, it may be biased and maybe only proves that I know nothing about the PHP ecosystem.

The company I co-founded made the switch from Java to Ruby in early 2005. In the years since, almost all Ruby developers seem to have come from other languages. I’ve spoken with a lot of converted Java and PHP developers, but I’m sure there are plenty who came from other languages. They all had one thing in common: they were seasoned developers who had their reasons to make the switch. They were unhappy with their current language, just liked Ruby better or wanted to work with Rails. Until not too long ago there weren’t that many who considered Ruby to be their native language.

Enter Rails Girls, Rails Bridge and a lot of other (online) programs who turn aspiring developers into Rubyist. Or maybe better: Railsists. I think those programs are totally awesome (I’m involved with Rails Girls Amsterdam) and may be the only cure for the lack of qualified developers in the current Ruby job market. Most of the offline novices, going through programs like Rails Girls, probably get in touch with enough of the community to have resources to better themselves. They stand the best chance at least. I’m worried about the portion of Rails developers who sucked at their previous language. Or the ones who got started with Rails as their first “language” without finding the proper (or current) resources or guidance. This group of developers seems to be on the rise, which leads to my question:

Will Rails be the new PHP? The PHP where there are lots of people writing below par software while charging their clients for it? The PHP that has a ton of websites with crappy advice and crappy code to copy/paste? The PHP which has a relatively small community, with the majority of people working under the radar and on their own?

Sure, Ruby and Rails have things going on right now that PHP never got around to having. User groups everywhere, conferences in almost every corner of the world and a ton of great companies actively pushing the community forward by investing in open source. Still, we never hear about the “whiz kids” building a website for clients in a few weeks time, not writing any tests and charging way too little. Are they over time going to undermine Ruby’s good name?

PS: Just so you know, these are my personal views and not necessarily those of anyone else in this universe.