How I Calculated Ratings for My JVM Web Frameworks Comparison

When I re-wrote my Comparing JVM Web Frameworks presentation from scratch, I decided to add a matrix that allows you to rate a framework based on 20 different criteria. The reason I did this was because I'd used this method when choosing an Ajax framework for Evite last year. The matrix seemed to work well for selecting the top 5 frameworks, but it also inspired a lot of discussion in the community that my ratings were wrong.

I expected this, as I certainly don't know every framework as well as I'd like. The mistake I made was asking for the community to provide feedback on my ratings without describing how I arrived at them. From Peter Thomas's blog:

What you are doing is adjusting ratings based on who in the community shouts the loudest. I can't help saying that this approach comes across as highly arrogant and condescending, you seem to expect framework developers and proponents to rush over and fawn over you to get better ratings, like waiters in a restaurant trying to impress a food-critic for Michelin stars.

I apologize for giving this impression. It certainly wasn't my intent. By having simple numbers (1.0 == framework does well, 0.5 == framework is OK and 0 == framework not good at criteria) with no rationalization, I can see how the matrix can be interpreted as useless (or to put it bluntly, as something you should wipe your ass with). I don't blame folks for getting angry.

For my Rich Web Experience presentation, I documented why I gave each framework the rating I did. Hopefully this will allow folks to critique my ratings more constructively and I can make the numbers more accurate. You can view this document below or on Google Docs.

In the end, what I was hoping to do with this matrix was to simply highlight a technique for choosing a web framework. Furthermore, I think adding a "weight" to each criteria is important because things like books often aren't as important as REST support. To show how this might be done, I added a second sheet to the matrix and made up some weighting numbers. I'd expect anyone that wants to use this to downloaded the matrix, verify the ratings are accurate for your beliefs and weight the criteria accordingly.

Of course, as I and many others have said, the best way to choose a web framework is to try them yourself. I emphasized this at the end of my presentation with the following two slides.

Slide #77 from Comparing JVM Web Frameworks Talk at RWX2010

Slide #76 from Comparing JVM Web Frameworks Talk at RWX2010

Posted in Java at Dec 06 2010, 11:55:18 AM MST 10 Comments

My Comparing JVM Web Frameworks Presentation from Devoxx 2010

This week, I've been having a great time in Antwerp, Belgium at the Devoxx Conference. This morning, I had the pleasure of delivering my Comparing JVM Web Frameworks talk. I thoroughly enjoyed giving this presentation, especially to such a large audience. You can view the presentation below (if you have Flash installed) or download it here.

Unlike previous years, I chose to come up with a spreadsheet matrix that shows why I chose the 5 I did. This spreadsheet and rankings given to each framework are likely to be debated, as I don't know all the frameworks as well as I'd like to. Also, the missing column on this spreadsheet is a "weighting" column where you can prioritize certain criteria like I've done in the past when Comparing Ajax Frameworks. If you believe there are incorrect numbers, please let me know and I'll try to get those fixed before I do this talk again at The Rich Web Experience.

One thing that doesn't come across in this presentation is that I believe anyone can use this matrix, and weightings, to make any of these frameworks come out on top. I also believe web frameworks are like spaghetti sauce in The Ketchup Conundrum. That is, the only way to make more happy spaghetti sauce lovers was to make more types of spaghetti sauce. You can read more about this in my There is no "best" web framework article.

Update: If you disagree with the various ratings I gave to web frameworks in this presentation, please provide your opinions by filling out this survey. Thanks to Sebastien Arbogast for setting this up.

Update: Sebastien has posted his survey results at JVM Web Framework Survey, First Results.

Update 12/6: A video of this presentation is now available on Parleys.com.

P.S. My current gig is ending in mid-December. If you're looking for a UI Architect with a passion for open source frameworks, please let me know.

Posted in Java at Nov 18 2010, 05:23:10 AM MST 39 Comments

My Presentations from The Irish Software Show 2010

This week I've been enjoying Dublin, Ireland thanks to the 2nd Annual Irish Software Show. On Wednesday night, I spoke about The Future of Web Frameworks and participated in a panel with Grails, Rails, ASP.NET MVC and Seaside developers. It was a fun night with lots of lively discussion. Below is my presentation from this event.

This morning, I delivered my Comparing Kick-Ass Web Frameworks talk. This presentation contains updated statistics for various metrics comparing Rails vs. Grails and Flex vs. GWT.

Thanks to all who attended my talks this week!

P.S. I believe audio was recorded on Wednesday night, but I'm unsure how it turned out. I'm pretty sure no recordings were done on this morning's session.

Posted in Java at Jun 10 2010, 07:11:35 AM MDT 9 Comments

Comparing Kick-Ass Web Frameworks at The Rich Web Experience

Yesterday, I delivered my Comparing Kick-Ass Web Frameworks talk at the Rich Web Experience in Orlando, Florida. Below are the slides I used:

Although it's difficult to convey a presentation in a slide deck, I can offer you my conclusion: there is no "best" web framework. I believe web frameworks are like spaghetti sauce in that everyone has different tastes and having so many choices is necessary to satisfy everyone. You can read more about the plural nature of perfection in Malcolm Gladwell's The Ketchup Conundrum (a written version of What we can learn from spaghetti sauce). Even though there is no "best" web framework, I believe GWT, Flex, Rails and Grails are frameworks that every web developer should try. They really do make it fun to develop web applications.

You can find the slides for my other RWE talk at Building SOFEA Applications with GWT and Grails.

Kudos to Jay Zimmerman for putting on a great show in Orlando this year. I had a great time talking with folks and learning in the sessions I attended. I particularly enjoyed bringing my parents and kids and staying at such a nice resort. Disney World (Magic Kingdom) and Universal Studios was very enjoyable due to the short lines. Also, the weather was perfect - especially considering the freezing cold in Denver this week. ;-)

Posted in Java at Dec 04 2009, 08:16:48 AM MST 3 Comments

Lean Teams: Doing more with less

This evening I attended the Denver Rails User Group (a.k.a. DeRailed) to hear a presentation by Marty Haught. It was titled "Lean Teams: Doing more with less" and the following are my notes from the event.

Today's talk is about "Rocking with Ramen" - a.k.a. working with less funds to make great things. Lean comes from the manufacturing world in that you should Add Nothing but Value. The most important thing you should do is add business value.

The Seven Wasteful Sins for manufacturing are:

  • Overproduction
  • Inventory
  • Extra Processing Steps
  • Motion
  • Defects
  • Waiting
  • Transportation

The key to fighting overproduction in software is to trim features to those that achieve the greatest value. You should do "the simplest thing that could possibly work" and delay commitment as long as you can because YAGNI.

A minimum viable product is a starting place for validated learning with the least amount of effort. It should be embarrassing. Early adopters see the potential. Rails Rumble and Startup Weekend are good examples of promoting this type of development.

Unused and useless features are best solved by feedback-driven development. This is a process for validating value and creating software that people use. The end result is that you create software that people use and you're able to pivot your plan as you learn. The benefit of this is you stay humble and you don't drink the Kool-Aid (e.g. VC's tell you you're going to be the next Twitter).

The first part of feedback is "Pirate Metrics" by Dave McClure. The main things to track are acquisition, activation, retention, referral and revenue (AARRRR!). The main things you should gather from metrics is they're actionable and should help you make decisions. Vanity metrics like hits-per-month and such should be ignored.

Other feedback options include net promoter score (popup question to ask if users would recommend to a friend), feedback form (make it easy for users to tell you what you think about your product), A/B testing, and usability testing.

The final point is that it's OK to remove features.

To reduce extra processing and waiting, you should implement "Kanban". It's a pull-based system for a continuous flow of work and can be used in software projects to manage/schedule work for cross functional teams. It's an expression of just-in-time and has an emphasis on flow. It's all about getting across the board as fast as possible. In agile development, this is often expressed as a card-based system on a wall in the same room as your development team. Things can only move from the left-to-right as there is space for them. Marty is showing a screenshot of a "Zen" tool he uses on his projects. It has 3 columns (Definition, Work and Verification) from left-to-right that allows you to easily move stuff.

The most important thing about Kanban is it helps to eliminate constraints. The Zen tool only allows a certain amount of items in the "Work" column and it visually communicates blocked items by moving them to the top and highlighting them with a red border. The Zen tool that Marty is showing looks similar to Rally, but is much more visually appealing.

The benefits of Kanban include:

  • simple, less process
  • less inventory of requirements/stories
  • limit work in progress, maximize throughput
  • less time in meetings
  • more naturally represents story lifecycle
  • more easily spot bottlenecks
  • estimate only if it adds value

Kanban promotes tracking how long it takes for a story get across the board and into production vs. tracking velocity of a team.

On my current project, we use Rally, a small team and have two week iterations. Because the things that Marty is talking about seem to be things we're already doing, I asked him how Kanban differs from Scrum with small teams. He explained that this biggest difference is Kanban is most useful when you're pushing things to production with each iteration.

The most controversial practice that Marty promotes is Continuous Deployment. This is the automated deployment of code to production. It includes automated testing and continuous integration, simple deployment/rollback scripts, a successful CI build triggers deployment, and there's real-time alerts in production. When shit goes wrong, you should use the "five whys" to perform root cause analysis. Marty admits that this is only a good idea when there's a high-level of trust in your development team and lots of tests to prove nothing is broken.

The benefits of continuous deployment is there's a lower story cycle time, you eliminate waste in deploying code, you deliver features/bugs fixes faster and you find integration issues quicker and in isolation. It's also a great way to promote not checking in shitty code.

The skeptics think this is a bad idea because 1) it's scary, 2) they believe it causes lower quality and 3) it causes more issues in production. The good news is you can still control production deployments with your source control system (e.g. branches and such). More than anything, it forces you to have a high quality continuous integration system that acts as the gatekeeper for what goes to production.

You can learn more about topics Marty covered in this talk at the following sites:

If you're lucky enough to be attending Aloha on Rails, Marty will be presenting there. I recommend you attend his talk if you're trying to get stuff done quickly and get it into production even quicker. His techniques seem to be invaluable for developers that are trying to maximize their efficiency and reduce the time it takes to get their code into production.

Posted in Open Source at Sep 23 2009, 09:20:28 PM MDT 4 Comments

Presenting Web Frameworks of the Future Tomorrow in Denver

Tomorrow (Thursday) night, I'll be doing an encore presentation of my Web Frameworks of the Future at DeRailed. If you're in Denver and would like to hear me ramble while drinking a beer, join us at Forestroom 5 at 6:30.

After the last few days, I'm happy to report I should be in good enough condition to pull this off. If you're curious to learn more about my experience at OSCON and this presentation, please see my writeup on the LinkedIn Blog.

Posted in Open Source at Jul 30 2008, 09:56:17 PM MDT 2 Comments

[OSCON 2008] Web Frameworks of the Future: Flex, GWT, Grails and Rails

Below is the presentation I'm delivering at OSCON today. Unfortunately, I had to remove slides on GWT and Flex to fit w/in the 45 minute time limit. I hope to expand this presentation in the future, as well as continue to develop the side project I'm working on using these technologies.

Posted in Open Source at Jul 23 2008, 04:25:23 PM MDT 19 Comments

[OSCON 2008] An Introduction to Ruby Web Frameworks by Ryan Carmelo Briones

Ryan is a Server Monkey / Code Sumari for Edgecase, LLC in Columbus, Ohio. A framework allows you to create re-usable code. Frameworks allow you to use encapsulation. Frameworks tend to be domain specific. For example, Rails works really for CRUD application, but not for others (i.e. Twitter).

Why Ruby?
Ruby has been Object Oriented since day 1. Ruby promotes Beautiful Code that's easy to read and maintain. Yes, MRI has performance issues. Matz has said "I'm a language designer" and has turned over the VM to others for Ruby 1.9. Another thing that might keep folks from using Ruby or its web frameworks is the libraries available. This is understandable, but it's being solved by alternative implementations. This includes YARV (the official 1.9 implementation), JRuby, IronRuby (not ready for production) and MagLev.

Rack
A framework that provides a minimal API for connecting web services and web frameworks. As a web application developer, this framework allows us to know about web services, but not worry about the details of talking to it. Below is a very simple Rack application.

class HelloWorld
  def call(env)
    [200, {"Content-Type" => "text/plain"}, ["Hello World!"]]
  end
end

Rack allows the handlers do the work and not worry about the web server abstraction. Handlers exist for WEBrick, LightSpeed, Mongrel, Fast-CGI and many others. As an application developer, it allows you to choose different architectures (threaded, evented, etc.). Ryan is talking about Rack first because it's used in all the other Ruby web frameworks.

Ruby on Rails
Rails is 4 years old now and was written by DHH when he was a contractor at 37Signals. Rails doesn't define and grand new ideas, everything has been done before (MVC, code generation, etc.). What Rails did is package everything in a unique way that makes it very easy to use. Rails has influenced a lot of what has come from web frameworks in the last few years. One of Rails' nicest feature is code generation. Ryan showed part of DHH's Create a weblog in 15 minutes video to demonstrate code generation. He noted that the minute he showed was picked because David said "Whoops!" and "Look at all the things I'm not doing". Rails popularized Convention over Configuration using naming conventions and load paths. While this is definitely a cool feature, I think most web frameworks have adopted CoC by now. Maybe not JSF, but who wants to use JSF w/o a framework on top of it anyway?

One warning about Rails: "The Golden Path" can get in your way. Rails is very Opinionated Software and that's how Rails works. As long as you follow that, you should be very productivity. If you decide to go off the Rails (i.e. namespaces), it can be difficult.

Rails uses a DSL in its models (i.e. has_many, has_one for relationships) and in the Rails router. It allows you to very simply map a URL to a controller/method. In addition to DSLs, Rails has first-class testing and its generators create stub tests for you.

Bad things about Rails: too much magic, moves to fast (too many releases).

Merb
Merb was originally developed by Ezra Zygmuntowicz to run alongside a Rails app to handle file uploads. It grew from there and became it's own beast. Merb is very much about using only what you need. It has "package repos" that allow you to add additional features. For example, merb-core doesn't contain an ORM framework, just a web framework. Merb also allows you to choose your ORM. It's standardized on Rack, so it can run on just about any web server. It also included "deferred actions" that allow you to send some URLs to evented web servers and others to threaded web servers. Merb eschews the "magic" that Rails has. It tries to stay away from making it's code a "monument to personal cleverness". Simple code scales better and runs faster.

One of the downers to Merb is that it's flexibility allows you to get down to the nitty gritty. However, it can be less productive than Rails because of its flexibility. Another downside is its documentation and examples are sparse. Merb is not recommended if you're just getting into Ruby.

Camping
Camping is a micro framework (< 4K) developed by why the lucky stiff. It's designed to develop small applications. You can do everything in one file and create prototypes very quickly. It uses Markaby to write HTML code in a builder-style fashion.

Since a Camping application is all in one file, it can be difficult to develop large applications. The solution is to write small apps and mount them in the same URL space. The only issue with small apps sharing the same space is they have to use the same database. One downside to Camping is there is no standard test framework. Mosquito was developed as a solution, but doesn't seem to be maintained.

Sinatra
Simple. Fast. Effective. It's designed to allow creating REST applications with minimal dependencies. Similar to Camping, it has one file for the entire application. Unlike Camping, Sinatra doesn't follow MVC conventions, so it may be difficult to port a Sinatra application to another framework.

Posted in Open Source at Jul 23 2008, 12:33:08 PM MDT 1 Comment

The 416

The Few, The Proud, The Pradipta 416

Posted in The Web at Jul 18 2008, 02:10:37 PM MDT 1 Comment

LinkedIn has the Biggest Rails app in the World

From the LinkedIn Engineering Blog:

LinkedIn loves Rails Bumper Sticker started as a small experiment in August, 2007. Facebook had released their development platform while we were hard at work on our own. We were curious to experiment and discover some of the characteristics of an application platform built on a social network and to see what, if any, learning we could apply to our own efforts. After noticing that professional and business-related applications weren't flourishing in the Facebook ecosystem, a few of our Product folks put their heads together while out for a run; one engineer, one week, and a few Joyent accelerators later, Bumper Sticker was born.

We'd be lying if we said that anyone was prepared for the kind of success Bumper Sticker has had since then - though we should have expected it, given the excellent Product team here at LinkedIn. Here's a quick snapshot of Bumper Sticker statistics at this moment: Read More »

The "biggest Rails app in the world" claim comes from this video.

In addition to having a kick-ass RoR team at LinkedIn, we also do a lot with Java and love our Macs. Why wouldn't you want to work here?

If you find a gig you like, or simply have mad programming skills, contact me and I'll see if I can hook you up. And yes, we are hiring at LinkedIn Denver.

Posted in Java at Jun 24 2008, 01:25:16 PM MDT 5 Comments