The more things change…

April 1, 2012

A few weeks ago Don called me up to say that the server for LOL had gone down. There was a good chance we couldn’t recover what was on it, or so it seemed at the time, and it didn’t matter anyway because I hadn’t done any maintenance on the Ruby on Rails version of LOL since 2008 and barely remember the first thing about Rails.

I had abandoned it for a variety of reasons, chiefly that it was a bad design where we had to approve each submitted joke or picture before it appeared on the site and it was written using a language that I didn’t use in my day-to-day work (Ruby). There wasn’t anything wrong with Ruby on Rails, I loved it, but when I spent all day in Java, my skills in Ruby didn’t exactly get better over time. In fact, each time I took a few weeks off from the site, returning to it seemed like I was having to climb a hill to relearn things I had once known.

So, just to have something up on the site and to continue making some money, I stuck a hand written piece of HTML on the site with some jokes on it and called it good. Then I added a few more the next day, and the next, and so forth for a few weeks while I tried to think about what to do next. I know that the next site has to be done using Java, but in general, Java web application development blows. I say that from years of having done JSP work, Struts, looked at the horror show that is JSF (pure design by committee there), etc. The only thing I’ve seen so far that I didn’t hate was GWT but it turns out that’s a terrible fit for a site that makes all of its money from AdSense ads.

So I was stuck. What could I do to develop a site where it wasn’t going to seem like each page was a chore, especially compared to Ruby on Rails, with its rich ecosystem of plugins and gems to make things like tagging, authentication, etc. easy? My answer was the Play! framework, it looks a lot like RoR but it works with Java and they just released a new version.

Sadly, having actually spent some time going down that particular road, I don’t think that’s the answer to anything. To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen Senator, “I used Ruby on Rails, I knew Ruby on Rails, Ruby on Rails was a friend of mine. Play, you’re no Ruby on Rails.”

So I went through one book (Just Spring) on the Spring framework both because I think it could be helpful for the server development and because it’s a gap in my existing experience and now I intend to learn something about Spring’s MVC framework in hopes that it isn’t a mass of configuration and clunkiness and hopefully it could help me build a simple site without too much pain. And that’s where we stand now. Hopefully soon I’ll have something new up, but in the meantime, updates will be a little sparse.