Thursday, October 28, 2010

Rails is a Mature Framework

At a recent B'more on Rails meetup there were no fewer than 7 companies hiring.

Think about that.

In the midst of one of the worst economic climates of the past 100 years, any quality Rails developer has their pick of jobs, likely for excessive amounts of money. What this means to a developer with qualifications is that all of the hard work that you put in 4 years ago learning a then new framework is paying off. You can use the accumulated skills of 4 years to flow -- to push your skills to the maximum as part of exciting teams and be financially rewarded for it. What more could you want from life?

It is a very exciting time for Rails developers.

It shouldn't be. It should be terrifying.

7 companies hiring means that there is significant cash to be made. And if the current crop of developers is not capable of meeting that demand, you can be sure that commodity solutions are imminent.

"Oh, but there is no way to compete with my awesome craftmanship" you say. While that may be true, how to you prove it? More importantly is it really true? Are you providing so much value that your output at $100+/hr is that much better than offshore developers at $40/hr? Do you really think offshore developers incapable of awesome craftsmanship?

One more thing to note: offshore companies aren't stupid. They are already trying to make inroads into Rails development. They are finding that the old strategies that worked so well in the enterprise world are not of much use with most established Rails shops. They will adapt. They will learn agile. They will learn how to participate in agile teams -- maybe not perfectly, but well enough to compete.

So what to do? For now: flow. Make as much money as possible doing interesting things with energetic teams. Enjoy. But...

Start preparing today for the future.

If you love Ruby and Rails and can imagine wanting nothing more from life, now is the time to kick your personal marketing up a notch to keep yourself differentiated from the coming commodity market (might I suggest a nice chain?). If you cannot differentiate yourself, you will find yourself competing (and often losing) against the commodity market for less pay on less interesting work with lesser developers.

Even if you love Ruby and Rails, maybe it is time to learn something new. Not just dabble, but really learn (again, might I suggest a nice chain?).

Personally, I am going all in on node.js. My main motivation? Simpley that it feels like the Rails community of 3 years ago. The community has a bit of a chip on its collective shoulder. The established players scorn it as insufficient for all uses (which is true just as it was for Rails 3 years ago). And there is just a general level of excitement of newness and seemingly unlimited possibilities.

What are you going to be in 4 years? I will be in the flow. But I'll also be getting ready for the next big thing.


  1. Funny, that's exactly what I've been preaching to people around me lately. Not so much the differentiation part, as much as the "it's time to move to something newer" part.

    NodeJS is definitively the front-runner in the "something newer" department, but there are others, as well. Also, learning not-yet-mainstream languages like Haskell, Clojure, Erlang, is also a way to keep ahead of the commodity market.

  2. Agreed on the not-yet-mainstream languages. I plan to hedge my node.js bet with Erlang (I'm shying away from anything JVM based).

    The differentiation part is possible, but I think the "something newer" is more fun and probably easier :)

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  4. Chris, just seeing this post now but wanted to say I completely agree. It's dangerous to have so much demand with so little talent to fill the space. In the short term we're focusing on recruiting talent from other technologies, but it's not a great long term strategy. We all need to remain ahead of the curve and, as you put so accurately, make a big bet or two.

  5. John: I hadn't even considered what all this means for businesses. As scary as all this is for me as an individual, it's got to be worse for a business.

    Even so, somehow, I think you guys will make it through OK :)