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Flex needs Learn from Ruby on Rails

Posted by Charles | February 28, 2007 .

I’m a Ruby on Rails (RoR) fun too. Flex (or later Apollo) as a commercial product, even the framework is free, could learn from a lot from Ruby on Rails.

Ruby on Rails started with a “bang” on great deal of quick and simplicity for rapid agile development. Then the ecosystem grows fast and strong. People start adapting Ruby on Rail based on the good amount of reusable “stuffs”. The DRY (don’t repeat yourself) concept really makes RoR HOT. Let’s see what Flex can learn from these reusable “stuffs”.

  • gem :: the Gem is actually Ruby way of extending the core Ruby engine with more functions and features. All other opensource scripting language such PHP or Perl have something like this. A gem is installable module and can be managed by the ruby utility, gem. There are standard way of distribute it, using repository, etc. Mapping it to Flex, we need something similar for ActionScript level extension sharing system. Do we have it? Maybe not yet. Adobe can play a important role on this. It’s all about a healthy ecosystem, for all tools using ActionScript.
  • Rails Engine :: This is the rails extension right into the Rails guts. Not a recommended way of sharing. We don’t want to directly change the Flex framework. Adobe of cause can play with it to provide more integrated extension (like the Charting).
  • Rails Plugin :: This is the best part of Rails. Similar to gem for Ruby, Plugins give clear and clean extension to Rails, with standards for plugin development, distribution and management. To Flex, the developer community really needs a way to share reusable code, not in the copy-paste way. Yes, from either Flash or Flex, you can build component for sharing, but it just seems this traditional “VB control” approach is not that community friendly anymore.
  • Rails Component :: Forget about this.
  • Rails Helper :: Helpers keep Rails view (UI) lean and clean and DRY. While Plugin could cover all part of MVC, Helper helps mainly for the view. The management and distribution of Helper is loosely like sharing lib, or just tag along with a Plugin. Since Flex/Flash is very visual, there could be room to share effects, theme, skin the Rails helper way.

Anyway, Flex is not Ruby or Ruby on Rails. Copy and Paste is no sure way to build a healthy ecosystem. However, all the popular opensource language or frameworks did it, might as well Flex. How do you think?

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5 Comments so far
  1. joshua noble  February 28, 2007 1:44 pm

    I have to agree, having worked with Rails and Flex, the default Rails structure is really conducive to rapid development. I’ve tried to implement some similar approaches into our Flash/Flex app development structures without a lot of success. Developers seem a little resistant to it and more inclined to take a classic straight ahead, no frills, MVC approach.

  2. jb  February 28, 2007 2:13 pm

    Actually Adobe is doing a perfect job, they’re using a markup for presentation and distributed services for the middle tier. This is a formula also being followed by Microsoft. Both companies have realized that the component architecture is the only way to fly and the language doesn’t even matter its all about the IDE.

    From my own personal experience ROR is an awesome case study for how the IDEs should perform. The IDEs should make your life faster, not the code itself. Visual Studio is an awesome example of this. I personally dropped ROR because it became completely unmanageable in large scale development.

  3. Alex MacCaw  February 28, 2007 4:58 pm

    Completely disagree. I use both flex and ror, for v big projects, and I tell you that frameworks, such as cairngorm, really need to catch up with Rails. Have the flex team ever heard of DRY?

  4. Michael Klishin  March 1, 2007 6:30 am

    Adobe have created an IDE that is absolute collapse. It even has no templates that are standart to Eclipse, has not smart autocomplete and refactorings (though their languages are not dynamic at all, compared to Ruby and Python). I thank God that JetBrains are working on Flex support in IntelliJ IDEA that many Java developers know of “something that Eclipse could never reach”.

    2jb: have you seen Ruby in Steel and heard of Ruby CLR? Ruby is the next big things just because Sun and MS are adding it to their platforms… And Flex brings nothing new for them. JEE ideas copy. Oh so 90s.

  5. Michael Kaufman  April 5, 2007 10:05 pm

    “Adobe have created an IDE that is absolute collapse. ”

    If you have Flex Builder you can toggle between Elipse view or Flex Builder view or make your own view. It’s extremely….sorry.. Flexible. How you can say the auto complete is not smart I don’t understand at all. It’s amazingly intuitive if you understand ActionScript. If you don’t know ActionScript well, I could see where it might appear to be bad. Flex components are highly MVC centric, re-usable and it’s possible to make rich apps in minutes that would take hours in Flash……that would take weeks using AJAX. Flex combined with Apollo runtime means you only need to test your app on one flash player instead of 4 platforms with 10 browsers each.



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