How to start learning Ruby

YouNoob

'You Noob on a shirt' by Flickr user xrrr

The problem with learning to program from a starting point of knowing nothing about anything, is that you are in a fairly unique position. There aren’t many people who just decide one day to “learn to program”. This makes it pretty difficult to find suitable information about how and where to start.

Sure, if you go off and Google for “how to learn Ruby” you will find loads of websites which will try to help you get started. The problem is that most of these websites are written for people who can already programme a bit. There is no need for them to explain some of the most basic ideas, as their audience already knows them. If you’re already a Python whizzkid, it’s fairly unlikely you’re going to need to be told what a text editor is.

I really had a hard time finding a resource that started from the assumption that the reader knew absolutely nothing.

The first place I tried was an e-book I purchased called “Learn to Program” by Chris Pine. It describes itself as “A Place to Start for the Future Programmer”. Well that sounds like me!

It’s quite a decent read. Chris’ style is nice and light-hearted and he does explain things quite well. However, I did feel that I didn’t really get the basics from reading this e-book. It felt to me a little like it assumed that initial tiny bit of knowledge about programming languages that I was missing. I gave it a go, and worked through the basics but didn’t quite “get it”. It was some of the important concepts like classes that I didn’t seem to pick up in this book.

Yes, that’s right, I needed something that assumed the reader was even dumber.

I found a good thread on Hacker News: Learning to Hack for the very first time. Reading this guy’s situation, he sounded exactly like me. He had zero experience of programming and wanted to learn to “make stuff”.

The suggestions in the thread are really useful. The guy already had a site running on Rails, hence he was going to learn Ruby.

Among the many recommendations, was: Beginning Ruby: From Novice to Professional, 2nd Edition (Expert’s Voice in Open Source)
*. I bought this book and I’ve found it excellent so far. When the author says “novice”, he really means it. The book starts out assuming you know nothing and explains all the necessary concepts so that doofuses like me can get it. Inevitably the learning curve is steep, but it definitely starts at the right level for someone like me. I’m sure it would also be a good book for people who want to learn Ruby and aren’t complete noobs.

So my recommendation if you’re a complete noob like me is to buy that book above and start from there. I’ll talk more about the book as I work through it. I’ve already gone through a few chapters but I’ll try and write a couple of quick posts to catch up.

*that’s an affiliate link. i.e. if you click on it and buy something from Amazon.co.uk I get a few pennies. I actually logged in to my affiliate account for the first time in 4 years to make that link. Turns out I’ve got £4.25 waiting for me. What annoys me about Amazon affiliate scheme is that if I put a link for .co.uk, I wouldn’t earn any money if someone from the US clicked on the link, then decided to buy the book from .com. How daft is that? What’s the point in having a .co.uk affiliate account then?

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2 Responses to “How to start learning Ruby”

  1. Randy Says:

    Hey Steve,

    Your post got me going. I’m expecting the book in tomorrow’s mail and I will start digging in as soon as I get the thing unwrapped.

    I wonder if I really can move from knowing precisely zero to becoming proficient and constructive in a modern programming language.

    Program or be programmed, I suppose.

    Cheers!

    Randy
    Reno, Nevada, USA

    • Steven Says:

      Glad it helped! I really should update this blog. I stopped the programming and started an MBA at Oxford University. Hopefully it will lead to good things!

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