Blake Mizerany: How do I learn and master Sinatra?

by on August 11, 2009

Welcome to the last installment on the RL blog, of a mini series – “How do I learn and master Sinatra?” – by top Rubyists using Sinatra. The interview series will provide insight and commentary from these notable Sinatra developers, with the goal of facilitating and providing answers to the questions Ruby beginners face on how to learn and master Sinatra.

Satish>> Blake Mizerany, could you tell us something about yourself – your background, where you are based?

Blake MizeranyBlake Mizerany>> I’m one of the many Mad-Scientiests at Heroku. I started the Sinatra project in September of ’07. I create useless, and sometimes useful, things out of Ruby, Erlang, and sometimes C.

Satish>> Are there any pre-requisites for a person to start learning Sinatra?

Blake>> Be prepared to throw out what the big frameworks taught you and be prepared to learn what they hide from you. It’s not difficult.

Satish>> Would you suggest that a beginner learns Sinatra before learning Ruby on Rails? Why?

Blake>> Absolutely. When you learn a large framework first, you’re introduced to an abundance of ideas, constraints, and magic. Worst of all, they start you with a pattern. In the case of Rails, that’s MVC. MVC doesn’t fit most web-applications from the start or at all. You’re doing yourself a disservice starting with it. Back into patterns, never start with them. Don’t think you’ll win that big bet on the golf course just because you bought that $10,000 set of golf clubs. ;)

Sinatra – quickly create tiny web apps and services

Satish>> Any features of Sinatra that you consider awesome?

Blake>> Sinatra features that I consider awesome are:

  1. The community. I’ve met so many bright people on the mailing list and in IRC. Including those I work with at Heroku today. These people are fantastic and always willing to help. Drop in anytime.
  2. halt and pass. See the README. :)
  3. Sinatra::Base

Satish>> How should one start learning Sinatra?

Blake>> Read the README. It has *everything* you need to start. Use Heroku to deploy.

Then learn Rack. Understand how Rack works. Write basic apps in Rack. Write a simple peice of middleware.

Satish>> Which area of Sinatra should a beginner pay particular attention to?

Blake>> It’s not a MVC framework that starts you with CRUD. You can separate your concerns how you like. Don’t start using it they way you would use a MVC framework. You *can* use it like a MVC framework; but it will make you a better person to keep things simpler until you need those abstractions.

Satish>> Is the official documentation on Sinatra good enough for a beginner? Are there areas which need improvement or need to be re-written

Blake>> Yes. The README is a fantastic place to start.

Satish>> Sequel, DataMapper, ActiveRecord – which one would you recommend to use with Sinatra and why?

Blake>> Any. When I do use a SQL database, which is rare these days, I use Sequel because it’s light on memory and dependencies (see http://github.com/rtomayko/sinatra-sequel/tree/master). It just always works. I’ll use ActiveRecord (AR) when I have something CRUD’y that I know is CRUD’y; AR is awesome at that.

Sinatra Icon

Satish>> Is an understanding of Rack important while learning Sinatra? Why? Which area of Rack should one be really comfortable with?

Blake>> You don’t need to know Rack to learn Sinatra. It would behoove you to understand it to ensure you get the most out of Sinatra. Rack is the foundation of Sinatra.

Satish>> How should one hone one’s skills in Sinatra?

Blake>> Read the source. It’s less than 1,200 LOC. Thanks to the all the great contributions, it’s a fantastic example of how to get a ton of features out of Ruby with little, clean, pretty Ruby code.

Satish>> What type of projects should a beginner work on to gain more expertise in Sinatra?

Blake>> Build a JSON web service. Build a small blog. Build a url shortner. Any of those will get your feet wet. You’ll see how Sinatra gets you going quickly and how it can grow to great heights to fit most of your needs as a framework.

Thank you Blake. In case you have any queries and/or questions, kindly post your questions here (as comments to this blog post) and Blake would be glad to answer.

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Posted by Satish Talim

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