As we all know, skill retention has a lot to do with level of immersion and length of stay – the deeper you are into a particular technology and the length of time that you’re at that depth usually are directly related to how long you can remember a given technology, language, or practice.
My experience with Ruby and Rails reflects this. I’ve been in and out of two projects in my free time while working on other projects during the day. My approach to picking up Rails was similar to how I picked up Groovy and Grails – get a book and read it . In my case it was the classic Advanced Web Development With Rails. Coming from a java background, the learning curve for Groovy was easy. I only had to learn Grails. For Ruby and Rails, diving right into Rails was ok, but I glossed over a lot of the Ruby syntax and shortcuts, assuming I would pick them up later. With Ruby having a steeper learning curve for me, and not being deeply immersed in these projects for long periods of time, my personal velocity suffered. It was like learning English from an auctioneer – too often going back to find syntax examples of things I knew I wanted to do, but couldn’t remember exactly how…
A few weeks back a co-worker sent a link to our team about Ruby Koans (http://rubykoans.com/). While I’m not a huge fan of the ‘path to enlightenment’/’Zen b.s., they serve as a fast and hands-on way to learn the language (and it’s shortcuts), and serve as a quick reference point for use later. In short, I’m a big fan, and if you’re interested in learning Ruby and making it stick, I recommend working through them. The easiest way to get started is at github: (https://github.com/edgecase/ruby_koans).
ruby_koans = awesome (or is it ruby_koans == awesome?) Check the koans!