ILoggable

A place to keep my thoughts on programming

January 21, 2011 .net, geek, mindtouch , ,

Porting ASP.NET MVC to Ruby on Rails

This isn't yet another .NET developer defecting to Ruby. I have very little interest in making Ruby my primary language. I've done a couple of RoR projects over the years, nothing serious I admit, but I just don't seem to enjoy it in the way that so many of my peers do. That said, RoR does hit a sweetspot for websites. The site I'm porting has very little in terms of business logic — it's primarily HTML templating with navigation — so this was an exercise to circumvent my mod_mono issues.

I'm a huge C# fanboy, but having worked with ASP.NET MVC for a while I have to admit that the amount of cruft one has to assemble to stay DRY in ASP.NET templating is just not worthwhile. While views can be strongly typed, it's an exercise in frustration trying to write templates generically. Maybe this becomes easier with dynamic usage in MVC3, but i haven't checked it out. What certainly doesn't help is that the MVC team decided to make TemplateHelper internal, turning the addition of helpers in the vein of .DisplayFor or .EditorFor into a major task that still ends up being a pile of hacks. Now I'm not an ASP.NET MVC expert and there's probably a lot of extension points I just don't know about. But the articles on extending it that I have found are usually pages of code. I shouldn't have to become a framework internals expert just to add some generic templating extensibility.

Ok, enough ranting. ASP.NET MVC is still a huge improvement over webforms, but right now I'm watching Manos de Mono and OWIN to see what develops in .NET land for websites there. The ASP.NET stack, in my opinion, is just too heavy for something that should be simple.

So, why RoR instead of node.js, since I claimed that I was going to get serious about javascript this year? Mostly because this port has a deadline, so use what you know applies, and it's a production site, so use known stable tech applies. Another benefit was that RoR uses the same <% %> syntax as webforms views and MVC was clearly heavily inspired by RoR.

I ported the site over 3 nights, maybe 10 hours of cumulative seat time which feels like time well spent. Strategic search and replace got me 80% there, faking Html. for my custom extension in RoR got me another 10%, leaving only 10% for actual new business logic written in ruby. Once I get to more complex business logic for the site I may stick to Ruby, although I know I'll be sorely tempted to write it as REST services in C# on top of Dream.

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