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Get the book that is called, "The best Rails book for beginners."
Get the book that is called, "The best Rails book for beginners."
850 backers pledged $16,130 to help bring this project to life.


Help publish a book for Rails beginners.



STRETCH GOAL - $15,000

Just one day to go but we're very close to reaching double the initial goal. It will be wonderful to reach $15,000 and we may be able to do it with your help. The $9 pledge is sold out but you can pledge $18 or more to help us reach the goal.

To celebrate the final day of the Kickstarter campaign, I'm running a "name the cat" contest. The fluffy white cat on the cover of the book has no name. Please suggest a name for the cat. If your name is selected, you'll be acknowledged in the book as the person who named the cat.

Rails developers are often playful and light-hearted. The book (and the cat) reflects that spirit, not just to make Rails less intimidating for beginners, but to give newcomers a feel for the community.

Thanks for your support!

STRETCH GOAL - Accomplished!

Woot! We've surpassed the initial goal. It's clear there is tremendous enthusiasm for this project. I want to take it further than originally planned with a STRETCH GOAL of $14,000. There's not much time remaining, but with your help, we can make the new goal, and I'll be able to add a vital EXTRA CHAPTER to the book, introducing Test-Driven Development. It's the most requested addition to the book, and I've got some great ideas about how to introduce just enough TDD to get a beginner started on the path to success. That's what the project is all about -- please contribute! The deadline is coming soon.

The Initial Campaign:

The need for a book for beginners has never been stronger.

I've written the book that beginners need the most. It’s titled Learn Ruby on Rails and you, with the help of our Rails community, can get it published and distributed.

  • "Learn Ruby on Rails is a great book for anyone starting to learn web development, giving you the context and explanations at the right time in an encouraging way." -- Linda Liukas, co-founder of Rails Girls, 1 Oct 2013

Learn Ruby on Rails is a book…

  • For newcomers to Rails who have no prior experience as web developers.
  • For people who aren't programmers and want to be.
  • To cover the gaps left unfilled by more advanced Rails books.

With your help, I will complete the final two chapters of the book, launch it, and see to it that thousands of Rails beginners, for the first time, will have a user-friendly book that provides a solid, easy-to-understand foundation needed to succeed with Rails.

My hope is that you will become involved in this Kickstarter project so that together, as a developer community, we will, for the first time, have a book we can recommend to new hordes of enthusiasts eager to learn Rails. From what I've seen in my experience as a teacher, the Rails tutorials we have now are too complicated and over their heads. Perhaps I should explain.

How did you learn Rails?

My name is Daniel Kehoe. If you're a Rails developer like me, you probably learned the hard way, piecing together your Rails knowledge by reading hundreds of blog posts, Googling a thousand times, and getting coaching from a friend or colleague like me.

And if you're like me, you were already a skilled programmer involved in web development before you learned Rails.

But not everyone has this background. I'd like to see a better and easier way for newcomers to learn Rails.

  • "I *love* what you're doing with this book. Specifically, that you're explaining and putting in context the whole ecosystem around Rails. Much needed for people just entering the field." -- Avdi Grimm, 1 Oct 2013

It's not so easy now.

As you know, Rails is getting more complicated. At the same time, it’s becoming really, really popular.

Two years ago, for most people, learning web development entailed reading a book on PHP and studying some JavaScript. Not anymore. Now, anyone eager to become a web developer wants to learn Ruby on Rails. Even if they don't know what it is. Rails has a solid and escalating word-of-mouth buzz.

In the classes I teach and the meetups I attend, I've met hundreds of students from all walks of life who have heard about Rails and want to learn more. Graphic designers. Social media folks. Hobbyists. Webmasters. Nonprofit volunteers. Moms and dads. Young and old.

They’ve heard Rails is powerful––the most popular framework for web development. They are enthusiastic to learn it.

But, there’s a problem. A problem you can help solve.

Why I wrote this book.

As experienced developers, we already have a library of exceptional books on Rails to recommend. Books written by Michael Hartl, Obie Fernandez, Ryan Bigg, Sam Ruby, and others, to name a few.

Like you, I recommend these fine primers because they helped me to learn Rails. But I know you agree, those books are very demanding and certainly not easy for beginners to comprehend.

At best, they are intermediate level books, best suited for experienced programmers and web developers. Have you seen beginners start one of those books? Only to quickly stop reading and toss their hands up in frustration? We know why. It’s because the only books we have to recommend for learning Rails are geared toward those who, in fact, are not beginners.

It is time for a new book for the newcomer.

My book, Learn Ruby on Rails, is the first book written precisely for beginners. It is THE book for those with no prior experience as web developers or programmers.

Let me introduce myself…

Perhaps you know me by reputation. I run the open source RailsApps project. I've been doing web application development since 1991, as one of the first few dozen developers on the www-talk mailing list with Tim Berners-Lee.

I started using Rails in 2006, with a leg-up boost from starter apps developed by Courtenay Gasking and the Caboose gang. After years of slogging along with Perl, Java, and PHP, discovering Rails brought joy to my programming life.

Later, I launched the RailsApps project to provide open source example applications. And I started writing tutorials to accompany the starter apps. You see, in the early days of the web, I was a writer and editor for PC World and NeXTWorld magazines, among others. I wrote one of the only books about the NeXT computer and edited Internet Basics (Random House, 1993). Because of my background as a skilled writer, my tutorials became very popular with Rails developers.

Though I now focus on open source projects and startups, I still love to find ways to make writing about technology fun to read. Software development, as you know, is a craft full of joy and satisfaction. We need user friendly writing that simplifies, satisfies, and motivates readers. Honestly, I believe that reading about web development should be fun! Especially for beginners. And that is why, and how, I wrote Learn Ruby on Rails.

We’ve got to get newcomers up to speed on Rails.

Learn Ruby on Rails is my first book in many years. Observing so many newcomers struggling to learn Rails, many giving up, I decided it was time, and a necessity, to write a user-friendly book that is simple to understand, easy to read, and that celebrates the beauty and efficacy of Rails.

Some hardcore developers will say newbies should try harder and that only the gifted will survive. That line of reasoning does not serve our community. As developers, we all know Rails has become more and more complex over the years. We also know, for the sake of the Rails community, and for our Internet economy to move forward, we've got to get more people up to speed with Rails.

In San Francisco, I see firsthand how startups are held back due to a lack of qualified developers. And it’s not just here. It's the same in Austin, Seattle, NYC, London, Berlin, Singapore, Barcelona.

Immersive code camps, like General Assembly and Dev Bootcamp, are springing up. But they’re not enough. The startup world needs more senior engineers, which means we need junior developers, which means we need beginners, and we need to help the beginners transition from simple HTML and CSS to application development.

We can all agree we need more videos and boot camps. But we also need Learn Ruby on Rails, the first and only introductory Rails primer that provides a solid foundation for beginners.

What's in Learn Ruby on Rails?

Learn Ruby on Rails is short. Purposely so. A student can complete the book with a single dedicated weekend of reading and coding. My goal in writing the book is to make available a beginner’s book that rapidly communicates Rails’ most important concepts while giving a student the satisfaction of building a real application.

I’ve found it’s much more difficult writing a book for beginners than writing for experienced developers. After all, given so many divergent backgrounds and learning styles, how do you introduce complex abstractions without losing the student?

I've coached for Rails Girls and taught for RailsBridge, two outstanding organizations that are leading the way in cultivating engineering skills among women and other under-represented newcomers to the Rails community.

I've taught my own courses as well and, for more than a year, fine-tuned the curriculum on which this book is based. I've tested and retested in my classes and got outstanding feedback from my students.

At just over 200 pages, Learn Ruby on Rails introduces every key concept. From this book, a beginner can build a real-world Rails application. The only background required? A little knowledge of HTML and CSS.

Learn Ruby on Rails is not merely a classroom exercise or a "taste of coding" walk-through. The book introduces professional development practices, so newcomers to Rails will be well-prepared when they work on real-world, open-source projects, in startups, or in the enterprise workplace.

In writing the book, I made some controversial choices. I didn’t use the "scaffolding" shortcuts that are often taught in beginner tutorials. To prepare students for real-world development, the book covers version management with RVM and similar utilities, as well as showing how to use Git for source control. Test-driven development is introduced conceptually and shown in a final chapter.

Though the book is short, it has a greater depth than most introductory web development tutorials.

Learn Rails in a Weekend? I Don’t Think So.

It takes many months, possibly years, to develop the skills of a senior developer. The habits established in the early stages are critical. What you will like about Learn Ruby on Rails is that in one dedicated weekend of reading and coding, a beginner can learn enough to confidently and competently continue with more challenging material, because the book provides concepts and strategies that make it easy for beginners to succeed with more advanced Rails tutorials.

Why the Kickstarter campaign?

I’ve put together this Kickstarter campaign in hopes that you and other members of the community will see the benefit of helping me complete and launch Learn Ruby on Rails.

You'll be happy to hear, I've already written the book (all but two final chapters). I've had years of experience as a professional writer. I know how difficult it is to deliver a full-length book on time. I decided instead to first finish the book and then ask you to support the final stages. For the book to be truly valuable for beginners, I want it to be of the highest quality.

What’s needed is funding for final production costs––technical editing, adding illustrations and images, formatting, and creating a cover. It will be self-published and initially released as an eBook. I've produced a PDF version of the pre-release edition of the book and I also intend to release it in ePub and Kindle formats so that it will reach a greater number of beginners.

Getting the book out there.

I’m hoping to exceed the funding goal because any and all additional funds will support an advertising campaign.

Although I'm counting on you to help me get the word out by promoting the book in your blogs, and telling your Twitter and Facebook followers, frankly, newcomers to web development are not yet my followers or yours.

I've analyzed the marketing efforts of well-known commercial teaching products, and deduced that the best way to get the book in the hands of the largest number of newcomers is by executing a Google AdWords campaign in tandem with strategically selected display advertising. With a large enough base of support, I can provide future revisions as Rails changes, attract the interest of hard-copy publishers, and collaborate on foreign-language translations.

Benefits for the community.

What’s in it for you, and the Rails community?

Well, first of all, together we can welcome others into the Rails community. You can help newcomers feel the sense of pride and joy you felt when you deployed your first Rails application. Together, we can make it easier for the next generation of developers to get introduced to Rails’ professional practices. Together, we will pave the way to widen the talent pool.

I’m sure you agree with me, that it's up to our community to make sure all those who want to learn Rails have a solid start in learning best practices and core concepts. More and more are learning Rails. Let's make certain they produce quality code. I've done my part by writing the book. Now it's up to you to help get the word out.

Benefits befitting you!

Not only will you have the satisfaction of helping newcomers learn Rails, you’ll also be rewarded for your generosity. Here’s how…

Pledge $9

Pledge $9 bucks and I’m going to send you a copy of Learn Ruby on Rails when it’s released in January. You'll get an eBook in your choice of formats––PDF, Kindle or ePub––at a 50% discount off the anticipated published price of $18.

Pledge $18

Do you want to see Learn Ruby on Rails right now? Would you like the ebook on your screen immediately? Pledge $18, and you will get a pre-release edition, and the chance to help me finish the book. I'd love to have your feedback and suggestions before the final book is completed.

You probably know someone who is eager and ready to learn Rails, or who is learning it now. The eBook is yours to share with a friend as soon as your pledge is recorded. Help them make their way, the right way.

Pledge $25

Earlier I mentioned Rails Girls and RailsBridge. These nonprofits help expand the Rails community to include people who are under-represented in the technology field. Every weekend, somewhere in the world, there are students learning Rails at free workshops organized by these wonderful organizations and others.

I intend to give Learn Ruby on Rails to students enrolled in free Rails workshops, free of charge. Your support for the book makes it possible, so your name will appear as a sponsor when a student downloads their free book (you can remain anonymous if you like).

Pledge $35

Pledge $35 and get stickers for the book. It's a great way to show your support and help friends learn about Learn Ruby on Rails. Everybody loves stickers: put a sticker on your laptop, skateboard, refrigerator, and show you care about helping newcomers.

As soon as you pledge $35 and I receive your mailing address, I will hand address and mail you a package with your stickers and a personal thank you note. You'll get a book sticker plus a bonus sticker with the Rails trucker hat logo you’ve seen on my GitHub pages and Twitter account.

Pledge $100

Have you seen the Rails trucker hat that appears as the logo for the RailsApps open source project? Did you know there actually is a Rails trucker hat? For years, there was only one Rails trucker hat in existence. It was handmade for me by a supporter in North Carolina.

I gave that genuine rarity away at a Rails user group meeting in Guangzhou, China. But, don’t despair, I've purchased A DOZEN new Rails trucker hats and I'm waiting to send one to you. Wear it when you’re driving your rig. Use it as a thinking cap when you are coding. Or just display it as a collectible on a bookshelf in your office or workspace. It's truly unique!

Pledge $350

Learn Ruby on Rails is a study guide to help beginners prepare for more advanced learning materials, such as the online tutorials from the RailsApps project. The RailsApps tutorials are intermediate and advanced guides for experienced developers. They’re available by subscription only, at $19 per month, per person.

Step forward and show your support with a $350 pledge and you will receive 10 ONE YEAR SUBSCRIPTIONS you can share with your development team, members of your local user group or meetup, or anyone you choose to invite.

Not only will you support Rails beginners by launching Learn Ruby on Rails, but with my famous guides to well-tested starter applications you will help the developers on your team get more productive.

Do I have to pledge?

I'm offering a wide range of benefits because I’d like everyone in the Rails community, regardless of their circumstances, to support this project. If you can’t afford to support the project with a financial pledge, you can support it adding a "LIKE" on Facebook, a post to Twitter or a blog, or you can tell a few friends about it.

Our mission, if you choose to help, is to get the word out to newcomers that Learn Ruby on Rails is available. By doing so, the entire Rails community benefits. But please, if you can, pledge what you can, so we can reach as many newcomers as possible.

Yours in Community, 

Daniel Kehoe

P.S. I invite you to email me with your thoughts and suggestions for the book. Tell me your story. How did you learn Rails? What were the biggest challenges you faced? What advice do you have that I can share with beginners? I'd really like to create the finest book ever for beginners to pleasurably learn Ruby on Rails.


Here's a summary of topics covered in the book.

Professional practices

  • Rails guiding principles
  • Product planning
  • Project management
  • Where to go for help

Inside Rails

  • Rails directory structure
  • Time travel with Git
  • All about gems
  • Configuring an application
  • Static pages and routing

Gaining skill

  • Request/response cycle
  • Troubleshooting
  • Ruby literacy
  • Layout and views
  • Stylesheets and themes

Building your real-world application

  • Contact forms
  • Connecting to an API
  • Sending mail
  • Signing up for a newsletter

Final steps

  • Deploying an application
  • Using tests
  • Adding analytics

Overcoming obstacles

  • Rails challenges
  • Next steps

What people are saying

  • “It's very well written. Other books present way too many new concepts at a time. Your book instead is an ideal starting point for Rails beginners.” —Giacomo Lepori,  9/22/2013
  • “Probably the best tutorial available for people new to Rails.” —Mark Everhart, 9/19/2013
  • “A perfect beginners' friendly book. Easy to read and absorb, a fantastic digest that brings all the scattered pieces together.” —Richard Afolabi, 8/13/2013
  • "I tried several different resources for a beginner - ranging from the more common online tutorials to books – and must say your work is among the best I've discovered." —Thom Mikail S. Berre, 8/14/2013
  • "You're good at explaining things in a clear and digestible way." — Vanessa Vengco, 8/13/2013
  • "Take if from one who is just starting out and has been over innumerable materials on Ruby and Rails, I've not read anything as easy going as your book. In my honest opinion, it is the best Rails beginner tutorial book out there that I've come across." — Paul Dariye, 9/14/2013

Risks and challenges

The biggest risk in producing a book is not being able to complete the writing by the expected delivery date. Fortunately, I've already written the book (except the final two chapters) so I'm confident I can deliver it on time. There remain some small risks. If I'm unable to obtain the services of technical reviewers in a timely fashion, if the changes suggested by editors are substantial, or if I encounter delays in preparing illustrations, delivery of the finished book may be delayed.

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    It's up to you. Show your support for the project with a like on Facebook. Post the link on Twitter or Google+. Pledge more if you can.

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    Receive the ebook when the completed book is released in January (PDF, Kindle, or ePub). Pledge and receive a 50% discount off the anticipated final price, as my thank you for supporting this work.

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    Get ADVANCE ACCESS to a prerelease edition of the book (PDF only), plus an update when the finished book is released. Your feedback and suggestions encouraged! Allow 1-3 days for processing.

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    Your name listed as the sponsor for a book given to a student attending a free Rails workshop (Rails Girls, RailsBridge, or others). The student will see your name and have an opportunity to thank you when he or she downloads the book (or you can choose to remain anonymous). Plus you get advance access to a prerelease edition of the book (PDF only), with an update when the finished book is released.

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    STICKERS! Get stickers for your laptop, advance access to a prerelease edition of the book (PDF only), an update when the finished book is released, plus your name listed as sponsor for a book given to a student attending a free Rails workshop.

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    YOUR NAME INCLUDED IN THE BOOK! Your name will appear with an acknowledgment as a benefactor in the Contributors section of the book. Plus receive stickers for your laptop, immediate access to a prerelease edition of the book (PDF only), an update when the finished book is released, and your name listed as sponsor for a book given to a student attending a free Rails workshop.

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    TRUCKER HAT! Get a Rails trucker hat, your name included in the book as a benefactor, stickers for your laptop, advance access to a prerelease edition of the book (PDF only), an update when the finished book is released, plus your name listed as sponsor for a book given to a student attending a free Rails workshop.

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    ADVANCED TUTORIALS FOR YOUR TEAM! You'll get a one year subscription to the RailsApps Tutorials for ten members of your user group, meetup, or development team; one Rails trucker hat; your name included in the book as a benefactor, stickers for your laptop; advance access to a prerelease edition of the book (PDF only); an update when the finished book is released; plus your name listed as sponsor for a book given to a student attending a free Rails workshop.

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Funding period

- (59 days)