My Secret Life as a Spaghetti Coder
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There are a couple of drawbacks (or some incompleteness) to scaffolding being truly useful. The one that seems to be most often cited is that normally (at least in Ruby on Rails, which seems to have popularized it) it looks like crap (it is only scaffolding though). Of course, most who make that complaint also recognize that it is only a starting point from which you should build.

Django has been generating (what I feel is) production-quality "admin" scaffolding since I first heard about it. It looks clean and professional. Compare that to the bare-bones you get by default in Rails, and you're left wondering, "why didn't they do that?" Well, as it happens, it has been done. In particular, there are at least 4 such products for use with Rails: Rails AutoAdmin (which professes to be "heavily inspired by the Django administration system"), ActiveScaffold (which is just entering RC2 status), Hobo, and Streamlined (whose site is down for me at the moment).

My interest lies in the second complaint though - that writing it to a live file (rather than dynamically figuring it out - which I've been calling "synthesis," as opposed to generation) means you can't get the benefits of upgrades to the scaffolding engine (and, it is not following DRY!). But, if you just use the default scaffolding, what happens if it doesn't come out just right (assuming you've even passed the notUgly test in the first place)? Well, thats a big part of what I'm trying to solve with cfrails, by using a DSL that provides tweakability to the scaffolding, without requiring you to write to a file (though, if the tweaks won't work, you are always welcome to go to a file with HTML and the like). The interesting part for me about the RoR plugins above, therefore, is that it appears (I haven't checked them out yet) that at least Hobo contains a DSL, called DRYML, to help along those lines.

I'll be having a closer look at those when free time becomes a bit less scarce. What do you think? Is it the holy grail, or can there be very useful "scaffolding"?

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I wouldn't have much of a business without it :->

Posted by Peter Bell on May 01, 2007 at 04:11 PM UTC - 5 hrs

Peter, have you taken the approach of tweaking through script, or have you done more generating to live files, but with UIs that look good and change them?

(My guess it a bit of both) Which do you find more rewarding, and why? (I smell a blog post coming on) =)

Posted by Sam on May 02, 2007 at 06:58 AM UTC - 5 hrs

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