Don’t learn Rails!

You’re currently a computer science student and you think web engineering is a nice career choice? Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, Digg. Isn’t a web startup a good idea to get rich quickly? Think again!

In the year 2000 the mentality was similiar.

A year ago, Yahoo invested in Right Media, a New York company developing an online advertising network. Yahoo’s investment valued the company at $200 million. Six months later, when Yahoo acquired Right Media outright, the purchase price had swelled to $850 million.

What changed? According to Right Media’s co-founder Brian O’Kelley, very little, except for the fact that Yahoo’s rivals Microsoft and Google were writing billion-dollar checks to buy online advertising networks, and Yahoo felt that it needed to pay any price to keep up.

“I have to say I giggled,” O’Kelley, 30, said of Yahoo’s acquisition, which earned him $25 million. “There is no way we quadrupled the value of the company in six months.”

This excerpt is from Dot-com fever stirs sense of déjà vu. A more famous example than Right Media would be Skype.

EBay acknowledged this month that it had overpaid for Skype by about $1.43 billion

Assuming a cyclical up- and downswings we’re currently near the top of an upswing, like we were seven years ago. This means we will experience a downswing in the next few years. The “bubble will burst again”.

If you think about learning Rails (or any other web framework), because you think about a startup after graduation, think again!

The situation will be different then. It may be harder to find investors who throw money at you. It may be close to impossible to find someone to buy your small company that is rapidly running out of money.

Don’t misunderstand me! There is nothing wrong with learning Rails, if you want to create an interactive website and from what i know Ruby is pretty handy programming language. A web startup may still be a good idea. Just don’t expect to get rich quickly with this.

In short: Don’t bet your career on web engineering just because Facebook is so cool!

Published in: on October 17, 2007 at 10:43 am  Comments (14)  
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14 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Facebook is written in php…

  2. “Don’t bet your career on web engineering” — that would have been a good title.
    The title is really bad but that fits well with the entire post.

    Giving advice that learning something is useless because you can’t make money out of it is … sad.

  3. Did i say Rails or web engineering is useless, Soeren? Maybe i wasn’t clear enough?

    My advice is: If you want to sky-rocket your career, i think web engineering isn’t a good path, although it currently looks like that.

    If money, fame and influence are not your objective this post doesn’t really apply to you. 😉

  4. So what you really meant to say is don’t bet your venture capital on web-based start-ups, which has very little to do with the career path of your average web developer. For the record, if money, fame, and influence are your objective, development as a concept probably doesn’t apply to you. Go learn to play the guitar or get a degree in business or pol-sci.

    Make no mistake, I don’t disagree with the general premise of your post (web 2.0 is going to pop), however you’re clearly in no position to make sweeping statements about an industry you don’t even work in. My advice, leave the speculation to the pro’s. And fix the title. This post has nothing to do with Rails, or any other technology for that matter.

  5. I’ve been in computing long enough to see the hype build and then burst on (amongst others): Visual Basic; Visual anything else; All variants of C#; Java Beans; etc etc; Each time I see a new hype coming along, I see people jumping on the bandwagon, thinking it’s going to be the Next Best Thing (and will therefore get you loads of money), only to be generally disappointed with how the whole thing works out.

    You know the one main technology skill that got me through 4 different jobs over 15 years of programming?


    Yes that boring language that’s been dying since the day it was invented in the 1960s (or whenever), but hasnt quite given up the ghost yet. Needless to say, I could write COBOL on at least 3 different types of machine, which is probably my other skill, and have since left programming to be in management, but there you are!

  6. Facebook in of itself is not cool, but the two guys that came up with the idea are. Wait… didn’t that Mark guy come up with it? Oh no, it was just his idea to make more money out of it.

    -Thunk Different.

  7. The first – I think that everybody should seek the job which he likes. If it will be Rails programming – let him do that. Before graduation it is hard to decide what to do after that but if you find something which you like and you will do your best, you may find the well-paid job:)

  8. Great blog you have here. And this is a great post too. I’ve added you to my blogroll.

  9. silly. I graduated in 1992 with a degree in English and got my MA in 1996. I started building websites in 1998, and got my first professional gig in 1999. I survived the HUGE dot bomb on the US west coast by working in academia during the early 2ks. I have never stopped being a web site designer? Why? Because it has never stopped fascinating me.

    Personally, I do not think the current era is ANYTHING like the late 90s… that mentality was seriously SILLY. People put a lot of money into huge projects with no real path to profit. I saw that sh*t coming a mile away… the crash was no surprise at all.

    Things are different now… for one thing, our enhanced networking capabilities and technology mean that good ideas can and do generate buzz, without all that venture capital needing to be thrown up front.

    It isn’t about making money, IMO, it’s about making really cool shit… this goes for any creative endeavor, and double if you play guitar.

    Anyone with any heart won’t change careers based on a post like this anyway.


  10. I’m a Rails developer by vocation and that stems from the love for developing with Ruby. Even if the web bubble bursts, there will still be a market for software in other mediums. And it’s much prettier to write office apps in Ruby/Rails/JavaScript than in.. lets say Java.

    Web Engineering doesn’t have to be a “website” in Facebook sort of way. Localhost applications can just as well employ the same technologies.

  11. Lol, this post is making it into my TOP 10 SILLIEST POSTS EVER.

    Nice job.

  12. Do you hate Rails that much by using Rails on the title. The title supposed to be about web application developing and not just rails. We have PHP, Django, ASP… blah blah blah :p.. I’m using rails not to develop killer apps, but it was fun coding with rails framework.

  13. “Don’t bet your career on web engineering” — that would have been a good title.

    \and hoe did he1d get our attention to the article?
    Nice strategy, pal! and a well written article too.

  14. Maybe you forgot that while the theorists trot around, burning through millions of investor dollars to (hopefully) revolutionize the world someday, some pragmatist out there has to actually do those “menial” web engineering jobs because the world can’t wait on that life-changing breakthrough–people need consumables every single day. It’s amazing how often brilliance mutates into arrogance.

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