VBScript in a Web 2.0 World

ML Jan 26, 2006

Well, what about those 2 projects? To help this site erupt in buzz, I’m going to also make it into a tutorial site, focused on a unique brand of tutorials that I can’t get enough of: baby-step tutorials. Now for a bit of philosophy. I program in chisel-strike projects—projects I can conceive of and implement in a single day, while it stays consistent with the overall vision of the project. I was inspired by the way Michelangelo once described his work as revealing the sculpture that was already hidden in the stone. Every chisel-strike a master sculpture takes reveals more of the masterpiece contained within. It reaches a certain point where it’s clear what the sculpture is, and it becomes a joy to look at, and could already be put on display.

That’s what all these “beta” sites that are in beta for years are about (in addition to reducing tech support liability). There’s no reason to wait for the pristine and polished finished product before you start getting the benefit. There’s lots of ways to describe this. I use a chisel-strike metaphor. In programming, there used to be a lot of talk of spiral methodologies replacing waterfalls. Recently, talk of agile methodology has come into vogue. Some would call it hacking. But whereas hacking in yesteryear resulted in a working app at the expense of long-term manageability, hacking today can very easily result in the same working app, but on top of a robust framework that “un-hacks” it. Ruby on Rails is an example of such a framework.

But many of the chisel strike projects I start out with are going to be VBScript. That’s right. I’m building this thing is ASP Classic on IIS. I’m doing it knowing it will be on the Ruby programming language for the back-end scripts when I have the time, and the Ruby on Rails agile framework for the front-end user interface and applications. What? ROR is supposed to be so ridiculously simple that you can sit down, install it, and have written your first app in under an hour. It’s true, and I’ve done it. But several factors affected my decision to move forward with VBScript.

First and foremost, I too am doing an extraction of an existing system (the way ROR was extracted from Basecamp). I don’t like my extraction as much, and I’ll never open source it. But it exists, and it’s my fastest path to implementation. Second, once I make the move to ROR, I think it will be time to break all my Microsoft dependencies, and get off of SQL Server. I love SQL Server, and think it’s tweaked-out in terms of transactions per seconds, self-optimization, and disaster prevention in a way that MySQL is not (yet). It is increasingly an acknowledged competitor to Oracle and DB/2. But scalability has a lot to do with cranking out multiple software instances of your system at little to no additional cost. That means being in the open source world.

It will also lower operational cost and maximize profits. Yes, there are MS-arguments against this, but they don’t hold up over time as there are more and better means of supporting open source installations. And I don’t know Linux/Apache yet. So, no matter how simple ROR may be, I will be taking it as an all-or-nothing package. I don’t want to create a hybrid of keeping a Microsoft platform, but installing MySQL and Ruby. Even though it would be a great learning experience, it would slow my initial speed of deployment. The benefit for you as an audience is to see someone still doing viable Web 2.0 work on VBScript/ASP Classic, with a plan to move to Ruby on Rails, and then whatever tutorials I create during the transition. If my plan goes well, it should be a series of baby-step tutorials that will help anyone make the move.

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