Hot Glue: A Scaffold Companion for Turbo-Rails and Hotwire

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Turbo-Rails is a bold new vision for Ruby on Rails. It is based on an old concept from the early days of computing, dating back to the 1970s, called “dumb terminals.” This means that the computer screen you use is for display only. In the ‘dumb terminal’ world, the majority of the computing will happen in the cloud and the terminal you use will be ‘dumb,’ or not contain a lot of heavy processing logic.

Alternatively, in today’s modern JS-heavy environments (React, Vue, Ember, etc), megabytes and megabytes of Javascript code get loaded into your browser. That code must maintain all kinds of application logic and, most importantly, a context state. That means that no matter what you do, you have to worry a lot about writing your business logic in Javascript.

Turbo-Rails is the opposite of that idea. In Turbo-Rails, you’ll keep your business and display logic on the server, and treat the browser as a terminal that is there to display your UI only— it is ‘dumb.’ Whether or not Turbo-Rails will rival the new kids on the block will remain to be seen, but it sure is fast.

These days, I think most of the process of building a great app involves user feedback, product-market fit, and iterating to make sure your users actually want what you’re building. The power of Rails lies in ActiveRecord and migrations, and thus it is an ideal tool for putting together prototypes quickly. The problem is, Rails has its own idiosyncratic syntaxes that make getting started challenging for those curious about this old framework. Do I start with Turbolinks or Turbo Rails or just plain page reload interactions? How about I treat Rails as the API-only and build my own frontend? Should I use ActiveRecord’s relationships, even knowing that instantiating (loading into memory) a lot of Rails objects can be slow? Will Ruby 3 really be 3 times as fast as Matz promised?

The problem presented is that there are almost too many choices for people who just want to build a basic app today.

As the CEO, entrepreneur, product owner, or visionary, your job is to map your users’ mental models. From there, the programmer will take those user mental models and map them onto code, objects, interfaces, or tuples (database records). Then comes the marriage of these to the interfaces, screens, and interactions that will happen for your app. Perhaps you start in Rails quickly and get lost in specific syntax, style, or architecture decisions to do basic things. Frustratingly, you are attracted to Rails’ simplicity but have a hard time with its recherché parts.

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