Today, I’m starting a new series called meet the the merbists. My goal is to feature various people from our community and ask them a few questions about Ruby, Merb and their projects.
Matt Aimonetti: Hi Derek, could you please introduce yourself and the company you work for?
Derek Neighbors: I am Derek Neighbors and I work for Integrum Technologies, an agile software company based in Chandler, AZ focused on web solutions using Ruby.
Matt Aimonetti: How did you get started with Ruby, what’s your background?
Derek Neighbors: We were doing custom software development using PHP and Python. We mostly had Python backends with PHP front ends that would communicate via XML-RPC. While this was working, it just didn’t feel productive. We had heard some inklings about this new framework called Ruby on Rails. It was nearing 1.0 and so we decided to do an important but relatively simple e-commerce application in it. We fell in love almost immediately and within 3 months started solely using Ruby for development. The productivity gain just could not be ignored.
Matt Aimonetti: You chose to learn, support and use Merb, could you please let us know why?
Derek Neighbors: We deal with a lot of customers that also have opinions. When we need to work to integrate into their systems, we need the flexibility to do things their way at times. Having to dismantle a framework to do little things can be frustrating. Having a framework with solid engineering practices behind it better allows our developers to help improve or deviate from the framework when necessary. This is something we were struggling with in Ruby on Rails.
Matt Aimonetti: Do you have a public project you wrote using Merb that people can look at?
Derek Neighbors: We have an academic scheduling program we are starting to work on, but have not yet released.
Matt Aimonetti: What is your favorite aspect of the Merb framework?
Derek Neighbors: It reminds me of unix. Lots of small pieces that do their job really well, that when combined make up something pretty spectacular. If you don’t need a piece you can leave it out. If you like emacs (datamapper) instead of vi (active record) then use it. In particular, the concept of Merb Slices is very appealing for code re-use. Something we have struggled with in Ruby on Rails to date. While plug-ins help with re-use there is nothing that would allow the flexibility that say merb-auth enjoys today as a slice.
Matt Aimonetti: Could you please mention an aspect of Merb you hope to see be improved in the near future?
Derek Neighbors: Documentation is pretty high on the list, but also losing some of the “you have to be a ruby hacker to use merb” implications. While it is a hacker’s framework, things like opinionated stacks and talks of Django-like admin interfaces make it sound pretty appealing to the non-hacker audience as well. I am looking forward to Merb not being only for hackers, but still preferred by hackers.
Matt Aimonetti: Thank you for your time. Anything else you would like to add?
Derek Neighbors: I just want to thank Merb-Core for their dedication and passion towards Merb. I think believing in quality and having the determination to make frameworks take it to the next level is what improvement is all about. I thank them for loving Ruby on Rails enough to push the development of both Merb and Ruby on Rails forward by not being okay with “good enough”. People don’t tell open source programmers enough how much they are appreciated. So Merb-Core.. AGAIN, THANK YOU!