Wikipedia lists over 700 programming languages, so why do we here at Launch Academy (and many other programming bootcamps) orient the curriculum around Ruby and Rails? First, a disclaimer. Regardless of which language you learn, the focus in a programming bootcamp should not be on the language itself; the focus should be thinking in code. Once you learn how to think in code, learning a new language is fairly straight forward. It won’t be an overnight process, but similar to learning a spoken language, it's much easier to focus on syntax and vocabulary once you understand the fundamentals of languages in general. But back to the question: Why start with Ruby as your first language?
- Beginner friendly - Of all the programming languages, Ruby is most friendly to people who have never coded before. I won’t go so far as to say it reads like english, but the distance between the spoken language and ruby is not that far. For someone who is new to coding, Ruby introduces a syntax that is very readable and minimizes the amount of boilerplate code that needs to be written.
- Gems - Ruby developers are constantly sharing gems, packages of code or applications that perform specific functions. For example, Omniauth is a gem that allows users to sign up or sign into a website using their log in from Facebook, Twitter, and similar sites. So instead of building your own sign in functionality, you just use Omniauth. Combine this with the innumerable other gems, and you suddenly are able to build working websites very quickly. Go on google and you’ll find examples of people building blogs in about ten minutes. This would be impossible if you hand coded everything.
- Feeling Productive - Being able to quickly put up a site is not only valuable from a productivity standpoint, it’s also valuable from an emotional standpoint. You feel like you’re making progress and are less likely to feel discouraged. For beginners, this is exciting and keeps your motivation and energy up while you are learning.
- Startup Friendly - Given that gems allow you to build a website so quickly, they are very popular with startups and younger companies who need to get a product to market and get paying customers before they run out of funding. As startups tend to be attractive to younger people who attend bootcamps, the fit is very strong.
- Vibrant, Open Community - The Ruby community is extremely welcoming, especially as compared to older language communities. Lots of meetups, active message boards, and populated by younger developers, the Ruby community is an awesome place to be a part of.
- Quickly Learn Concepts - The core computer science fundamentals that power Ruby and Rails also power the other programming languages. So once you’ve taken advantage of the ease of learning Ruby, you can think in code. That puts you in a great position to say “hey, in Ruby I do this thing this way. How do I do it in this other language.” You then go on Google, search for that exact sentence, and find people who have written about the similarities between the Ruby and whatever language you’re trying to learn.