Why’s Poignant Guide to Ruby

Is it useful?

In response to the guide’s chapters 3 & 4:

This “guide” to Ruby has been around for some time (10+years), and it’s immediately apparent that this thing is peculiar. The guide undoubtedly contains many valuable insights, but it’s also very dense. Each chapter is filled with illustrations, sidebars, and the ramblings of a man known as Why.

If I try to remember what it was like to remember to code for the first time, this guide seems pretty fun. I imagine it could do quite well with younger kids — it does call the reader a child. But it definitely feels slow too, and not in a good way — it rambles on about nonsense, and asks you to be patient. Don’t mind the foxes and their love for chunky bacon.

If you’ve got some understanding of programming concepts, this guide will feel uncomfortably slow. However, it does break things down to the basics in a useful way. Because a basic line of Ruby code is so readable, Ch 3. walks through it’s “parts of speech” (e.g. strings, variables, methods) with valuable descriptions for each. This definitely helped me solidify my understanding of these concepts, and how they’re used in Ruby. Though the guide doesn’t get into much code, the explanations are very understandable for beginning programmers of all ages.

Bits of usefulness become more apparent though, when the guide does show code. Though the guide tries to be quirky, the guide is more useful when it instead points to the specific quirks of the Ruby language. Ch. 4 especially highlights conditional logic and the usage of nil, true, and false. It further highlights the quirks of using unless, and details the usage of hashes and blocks.

I find this guide frustrating because it doesn’t mesh with the way I learn. I get distracted by silly drawings and sidebars. They’re pretty fun, but they definitely affect my productivity. Also, because I had prior experience with these basic programming concepts, I simply found myself turned away by the guide’s childish tone.

I find that, in learning to code, I learn best by constantly testing new things. I do understand, however, that everyone learns in different ways, and that getting starting in programming can be intimidating. The guide seems to be written with this in mind. But if you’ve got a grip on the basics, I would probably suggest something other than Why’s Guide.

Well, at least check out the drawings. It’s part of the Ruby culture!