The Key To The Hartl Ruby On Rails Tutorial

When I first tried out Michael Hartl’s Ruby on Rails tutorial a few months ago, I absolutely hated it. The main reason was that I didn’t get how mindlessly following Hartl’s confusing instructions with little explanation would get me to learn Ruby on Rails. I gave up and didn’t go back to it until last Thursday, when I decided that I will learn Ruby on Rails no matter what! Quitting was no longer an option for me 🙂

So, as I started the tutorial, I went to the sfruby meetup, where I declared that I was learning Ruby on Rails and starting by going through the tutorial. As I was sitting and working through it, one guy asked me about how I was learning Ruby on Rails. I told him, and then he said something that really stuck out to me.

The Revelation

He said that he always learns a language by having a project and then figuring it out. When I went home that night, I started thinking about this and thought of a project to work on. I jotted down a few ideas, and one that I’ve thought about before really jumped out, TweetMark!

The Idea

Sometimes I tweet just so that I can save a specific article. The problem is that when I try to go back to that tweet, I also have to go past all the other irrelevant tweets to find it. Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a way to indicate that the tweet is a bookmark and have an easy way to search for it?!

I’m not sure if anyone else has the same problem (well, I actually have one friend who does!), but I don’t really care. I’m now determined to build TweetMark for myself, and in addition to using it, I get to learn Rails in the process. And if anyone else finds it useful, that’s great.

The Bliss

So over the weekend, I continued to go through the Rails Tutorial with TweetMark in mind. Wow, what a difference it has made!

Before, I was going through the tutorial thinking “I don’t really need to memorize this or even understand it, when I need it, I can just go back to the tutorial”. Now, I was going through it thinking “How can I use this part to build TweetMark? What if I need to make it slightly differently?”

After going through the first 5 chapters of the Tutorial, I switched over to TweetMark, and made a Sign In with Twitter and Sign out function which stores the users information in a database as well as an About page. You can check it out here: http://tweetmarkrails.herokuapp.com/.

For the past day, I’ve been going through the rest of the tutorial and really thinking about how everything will function in TweetMark. And, guess what!, stuff is really clicking and starting to make sense!

I will still need to refer to the tutorial a lot as build out TweetMark, but I’m fine with that. The point of me learning Rails is so I can build stuff, and it is the most empowering feeling to know I actually can now.

The Key

So if  you’ve had the same problems with going through the tutorial as I have (after all, it does get confusing and even boring at times), think of something simple you can build and attempt to build it! It will make all the difference.

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  • Wow, I had the same exact problem. I went through the first 5 chapters, then a couple weeks went by that I didn’t have time to look at the book. After jumping back in, I felt like I didn’t learn anything. It was frustrating to say the least. Now I’m taking the same approach, I decided I will build a blog that I’ll use all the time to track what I’ve learned and I’m currently using the tutorial to help me build it. Things really start to click this way.

    • Glad you came back to it and are starting to build things!!! Best of luck!

  • Tom

    Great anecdote and inspiring, frankly. Just wanted to ask if either of you’ve done any programming at all prior to going through Hartl’s book and learning RoR? Thanks!

  • prakash_murthy

    Great idea.

    I did the same with ‘Rails 3 in Action’ – http://www.manning.com/katz/ – book, and built http://www.ruby5k.in while learning from the book.

  • Max Q

    Thank you for the article! Am also getting stuck on the Michael Hartl book, and it’s really nice to read a review like this. Will get started on a project asap!

    • Max Q

      To be clear, I’ve done a little bit of Java in the past in a classroom setting, and I spent a few weeks doing the basics of Ruby on CodeAdacemy through books before starting on Rails. I really enjoyed Ruby, especially after Java. However, jumping into the Michael Hartl book has been crazy. I’m going from working with a few classes in an IDE to working with tons of folders and files, not to mention using Heroku, Git, TDD, and so on. Even the simplest projects involve so many moving parts, it’s crazy. I’m going through with the tutorial, and wherever I recognize Ruby, it’s a breath of fresh air – cause I actually understand! I hope all the rest of it makes sense soon.

  • Aditya Dhulipala

    I had the same experience when going through Hartl’s tutorial. Although, I only found the rails guides BECAUSE of a project I had to work on in my internship… But it made all the difference to the way I learn