Friday, March 24, 2006

Refresh Dallas

I went to Refresh Dallas last night. "Refresh is a community of designers and developers working to refresh the creative, technical and professional aspects of new media endeavors in the Dallas area." Last night's meeting was about Rails. Adam Keys did the presentation. He also runs the local Ruby Brigade. Since Refresh is front-end focused group, Adam focused mostly on the templating and Ajax features.

I have been going through the Agile Web Development with Rails book so I am pretty familiar with most of the ideas behind Rails but it was still good to see the templating in more detail. I am a big fan of using templating engines and have worked with a wide variety of them. I mostly work on marketing oriented sites or CMS driven sites and design control is a big deal.

Templating engines like Velocity (Java) or patTemplate(PHP) make a big deal about having no code in the templates at all and controlling the templates externally. The Rails approach uses embedded Ruby which at first concerned me. Seeing some simple layouts layered minimized some of that. Despite the embedded code, the approach seemed very readable and flexable. I could still see an advantage to moving to something a little more "pure" HTML with code controlling from the outside. An approach like Tapestry's where the markers are valid HTML seems like it would work also but could be a performance issue in a scripting language like Ruby.

The Rails approach would be very comfortable for the average PHP or .NET coder but might cause problems for the average Dreamweaver-only designer. On the other hand it's been a while since I've seen designers working directly on these kind of projects. Especially considering the Rails sweet spot is apps rather than content sites. Considered in that light, I guess the Rails templating is the "practical compromise" approach, which is pretty much what Rails is all about.

The Ajax demos were surprising to me as well. I have been doing a lot of Ajax lately but within Typo3, a PHP CMS. Since I am using OpenRico and Prototype, I really don't have to write near as much code as I would thought to create some really slick things. The Rails approach drops some of these down to one line.


Anonymous Abel Rios said...

Wow, you were there? So was I!

I don't remember seeing you though. Must have been that there were so many people. It was quite the turnout.

Adam did a good job, but I was a tad disappointed with how the presentation went. Mostly everyone there was new to Rails, and he didn't really 'show-off' what Rails is to the front-end developer.

11:10 AM  
Anonymous Web Designer Developers said...

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2:02 AM  

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