The best way I found to learn Ruby
🇧🇷🇵🇹 - Portuguese version
In this article I'm going to share things that are working quite well for me to learn the Ruby language.
The goal here is NOT to learn programming neither learn how to build web applications. I don't even talk about Rails here.
The goal here is solely and exclusively to acquire fluency in pure Ruby as quickly as possible. Therefore, I'm assuming the reader already know any programming language.
You probably know the typical advice: "practice a lot". That's a valid one, but too vague. In this article I'm sharing what I used to practice a lot.
- Goal: acquire basic fluency in pure Ruby as quickly as possible
- Be comfortable with the command line interface
- Familiarity with programming
- Basics of OOP would help (but it's not mandatory)
- Find a reason to learn Ruby
- Aggressively ignore!
- Read Ruby in 100 minutes to get a good overview of the syntax
- Do the challenges from the Ruby track in exercism.org
- Play with the Ruby Koans to internalize some of the most fundamental concepts of language
Most of the things I'm showing here requires some commands on the terminal, so I'm assuming you're comfortable with the command line.
As I said, the intention here is not to learn programming (that would be too basic) neither learning how to create web applications (that would be too advanced). We just want to be fluent with Ruby as quickly as possible.
Some knowledge about Object-Oriented Programming would make some things easier, but it's not mandatory. Just follow the examples and go with the flow.
Knowing the basics of
git would help. Not exactly to learn, but to save your code and notes in a repository. But it's also NOT mandatory. Don't sweat over it if you don't know git.
Before investing time on doing something, you need a good reason to do it!
I'm impressed about some great applications built with Ruby, like GitHub, GitLab, Airbnb, Shopify, Basecamp, etc. I also read a lot of good things about the Ruby community and how they care about code quality, testing, well designed code, etc. But it never was enough to give me the motivation to go and try it.
My main reason to learn Ruby is because I'm going to a Web Development bootcamp, and their choice for the backend is Ruby on Rails. (why I chose such bootcamp is out of the scope of this article, maybe I write about it in the future)
During the process of learning Ruby I confirmed that it's indeed a pleasure to read and write Ruby code.
If you want more info about how Ruby is cool, I'm sure you can find good articles and videos if you google for it. Maybe you can start in the official "about" page and then see a couple of videos.
But please please please! Once you're convinced you want to learn Ruby, stop looking for more material! This leads us to the next topic...
As I said, the Ruby community cares about quality. And for this reason there are tons of good material out there. So many that you would have an analysis paralysis trying to pick one.
Right now I'm holding myself to not put here some awesome links. And I'm doing this because it's a rabbit hole!
Yeah, it can be a little paradoxical. I'm telling you to ignore the existing Ruby tutorials out there not because they're bad, but because they're actually good! The problem is that there are tons of them. It's overwhelming!
Let's resist this urge to find The Best™️ resource to learn the language and focus on our goal: be fluent in Ruby as quickly as possible!
To achieve this goal you don't need to read a lot books/tutorials/articles, neither watch a lot of videos. You just need to get the basics of the syntax and then practice a lot.
First contact with the language
If you start googling things like "how to get started with Ruby" you'll probably stumble upon the "Ruby in Twenty Minutes" in the official page. I didn't enjoy that, I found it kinda unstructured. Then I went for another material.
I really enjoyed this one: Ruby in 100 minutes. Straight to the point and shows the basic syntax of the language. It worked very well for me.
Be sure to read the article with your
irb open and try all those commands to see the magic happening.
I particularly enjoyed learning the concept of Blocks. Realizing that blocks are passed to methods clicked some things in my brain.
OK, now that we know the syntax, let's practice!
Challenges from exercism.org
Now I suggest to solve the challenges in the Ruby track on exercism.org. The challenges start very simple and smoothly progress.
You'll need to check these short exercism Ruby Docs so you can configure your programming environment to work on exercism challenges.
In this article I explain more why I think exercism is a great platform to learn a new programming language. But here's the short version:
- It's possible to focus on learning the language's features, instead of challenging your problem solving skill (this should be done after you're comfortable with the language)
- You'll practice with TDD
- You can ask for mentorship
- You can learn a lot by looking other people's solutions
Tip: keep your solutions and notes in a repository
I highly recommend that you keep your solutions in a git repository. If it's going to be public or private, it's up to you. But definitely create one.
I have a public repository for this purpose. For Ruby I keep this file with my notes highlighting what I learned from each exercise.
During your programmer's life you'll quite frequently stumble on a problem and think "hey wait! I think I already solved this in the past!". Having a repository to where you can go and search for how you solved that problem in the past is invaluable!
Ruby Koans - internalizing the fundamentals
According to the Wikipedia:
A koan is a story, dialogue, question, or statement which is used in Zen practice to provoke the "great doubt" and to practice or test a student's progress in Zen.
Uhm... This sounds very abstract... 🤔
In practice, the Ruby Koans are broken tests. They're intentionally broken so you can look at the code and figure out how to fix them.
Here's an example of one of the introductory koans (the
__ double underscore is where you need to put something to fix the test):
# To understand reality, we must compare our expectations against # reality. def test_assert_equality expected_value = __ actual_value = 1 + 1 assert expected_value == actual_value end
You just need to replace the
__ with the correct value and run the tests again.
I found this way of learning very funny and highly optimized.
Instead of reading a wordy text explaining code, you look directly at code. You get used to read and understand Ruby code faster.
If you're having a hard time to get started with the Ruby Koans, maybe this video can help you to get started (the relevant part starts at 4 minutes).
"Installing" the Ruby Koans
The Ruby Koans website has a link to a zip file with the Koans. As I'm assuming you have some
git knowledge, I suggest to get the files from their repository.
Here's the quick way to do that:
# clone the repo git clone email@example.com:edgecase/ruby_koans.git cd ruby_koans # check if ruby is installed ruby --version rake --version # generate the koans rake gen # if you want you can also regenerate the koans rake regen # to run all the tests in the koans' creator order: rake # it's the same as: ruby path_to_enlightenment.rb # you can also run a specific one, example: ruby about_symbols.rb
Most of the time spent learning with Ruby Koans is you iterating through these steps:
- run the test on the terminal and see where it's breaking
- edit the
about_*.rbfile to fix the test
- Sometimes run some code on
Sooner or later you'll get bored of alternating between the terminal (to run the tests) and the editor (to fix them).
To make your life simpler, you can use the
observr gem. This way:
# install observr gem gem install observr # watch changes in the .rb files observr ./koans/koans.watchr
Now you can keep a window on the terminal and another one on the editor. Every time you save your code on the editor, the terminal will show you the tests results.
When you advance from the introductory Koans, you'll notice that you need to test some stuff to understand how to fix the test. At this point you'll need to have an
irb instance at hand to run some code and learn.
Don't forget to take notes when you learn a new concept!
In this article I shared my approach to acquire fluency in the Ruby programming language.
It's an approach with the explicit goal of being fluent as quickly as possible. It's highly focused on practice, which means writing and reading a lot of Ruby code.
If you follow this strategy for a couple of weeks, you'll be reasonably comfortable with the Ruby language.
Things I wanna try later
This is a list of material that I'm planning to consume later. Only after acquiring the desired fluency.
As I didn't yet went through them, I'm not endorsing this content. But as they were suggested by experienced Rubyists I know, I decided to share it here.
- Practical Object-Oriented Design - a book by Sandi Metz (btw, if you see something by Sandi, pay attention that it's probably highly valuable).
- Confident Ruby - book from Avdi Grimm
- Flawless Ruby - the course after the intro-to-Ruby course, also by Avdi Grimm
- Metaprogramming Ruby 2 - book by Paolo Perrotta