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Ruby Developers Offended by $2,800 Ruby Class

ga web education 3 Ruby Developers Offended by $2,800 Ruby Class

(generalassemb.ly)

Art.sy’s Daniel Doubrovkine and Pivotal Labs’s Dimitri Roche are teaching a six-week class on Ruby on Rails at General Assembly for $2,800. When Mr. Doubrovkine took to the NYC-rb mailing list to advertise, he was surprised by the pushback. “I don’t want to put you down or sound like a jerk but any programmer should be able to learn Rails without paying $2,800,” wrote Rubyist Kfir Shay. “Documentation is excellent, free online resources are plenty, community is strong etc.”

“Funny, we’re doing the same thing, except virtual, and for a nominal fee of $100 (which includes course textbook – Rails Tutorial PDF),” wrote Rubyist Chris Lee, pointing to http://railstutors.com.

“Sorry boys but this is a complete ripoff no matter who is paying or how you slice it. If you are going to be ‘shamelessly advertising’ on the list then it’s __fair_play if you get some blowback from the list,” wrote Rubyist Akshay Kumar, who outlined a self-taught curriculum with books that cost less than $100.

In general, hackers prefer hands-on education–just start building things–to classroom learning. New York Tech Meetup’s Nate Westheimer taught himself Ruby by locking himself in the academic equivalent of a “sweat lodge” with a few books; Yipit’s Vin Vacanti taught himself to code by building Yipit. There are scads of free resources on the internet for learning lightweight languages like Ruby and Javascript, and sites like Forrst and Github let programmers share their projects and learn from each other.

In defense of the original post, Rubyists pointed out that it would be ideal for developers at large corporations that could foot the bill–and that classroom learning is advantageous if the instructor is good enough and takes responsibility that the students get their money’s worth.

The debate became increasingly heated, with Rubyists on both sides. One user, Dave Newton, wrote: “In any case, I’m done–nyc.rb is pretty much ruined for me, before my first in-person meetup, before I had a chance to contribute back.”

Mr. Doubrovkine eventually hung his head. “Everyone, I am sorry I started this thread. I should know better,” he said. The NYC-rb mailing list, like all internet-based forums, is known to erupt into fights every so often.

More broadly, Betabeat has been hearing some gripes about the price of classes at General Assembly. In a town of free to $10 meetups, General Assembly is running classes that cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. GA’s founders are targeting big corporations who might want their employees to sharpen their skills and can afford to sign large checks, but it is clearly rubbing some members of the local tech community the wrong way.

Follow Adrianne Jeffries on Twitter or via RSS. ajeffries@observer.com

Comments

  1. If you are running a capitalist enterprise that charges premium prices for services, and you start posting ads to a community group for your services, expect plenty of blowback. The nyc.rb group is much more of a social enterprise than a marketplace. Business offerings that compete with already-effective community offerings are going to be very unappreciated in that environment.

    Taken from another angle, the idea of a formal course with deeply-involved instructors would normally be the domain of local universities. I think $2,800 is competitive with any pricing that NYU is offering for a serious program… and I’m sure these guys are offering a better course than any of the local schools.

    But it’s still snake oil. What if you take the course and still can’t perform or qualify for meaningful professional work afterward? There are no assurances. It’s bartending school all over again. For $500, it would be a pricey risk. For $2,800 – plus the cost of a comp sci degree that most of us have already – you’re a fool unless there’s a $200k job on the other side. Plus, it only perpetuates the unreasonable demand for people to work using completely new tools all the time, when there are thousands of developers out there who can implement the same code patterns in established languages with less of a learning curve. (Rails is now part of the establishment, but I can already see people making efforts to unseat it as the programming tool of the moment) Two months of rent for a night course to learn an immature development tool whose employment market might collapse in the next 24-36 months? Sounds like a product targeted toward people with more money than sense.

    1. Why don’t you go and teach a class for much cheaper then? Maybe rent a room and board and do the class for free out of your own pocket.

      Let us know when and where, since you seem to know how much it should cost. Cheers, looking forward to it.

      1. In the nyc.rb thread, someone respectfully mentioned that such a course exists in NYC for $100.

        I don’t teach it, though. Does that mean you win?

      2. Foljs says:

        No, Einstein, they mentioned that they do it ONLINE for $100.

        Which is not the same at all.

        And it’s not like $2800 is that expensive. People in the Ruby community pay top dollar to go to bullshit Ruby/Rails conferences all the time, despite the talks/slides being available shortly afterwards, and not much of interest being presented there.

      3. Those people attending conferences have money to burn and are interested in networking for startups. It’s perhaps not money wisely spent, either.

        $2,800 is very expensive for a lot of people. Especially those who are looking for work. The tech scene is unfortunately now filled with people who come from wealth and fortunate backgrounds, and therefore have distorted perspectives about target audiences, pricing, and affordability. They wouldn’t know what it’s like to live on a low income with little in savings. They are dilettantish and pursue things that are terribly cost-inefficient, like hand-welded steel bicycles for over $3,000 and Blueprint Cleanses and what not. 

        Do keep in mind that this whole pretense about “learning Rails” for career advancement is flimsy, and not just because there isn’t a staffing guarantee on the other side. This is a hobby pursuit for a lot of people. People want to learn how to code their side projects, not drop their career and medical insurance for an unfunded startup project. And this is how coding is pitched to people in non-coding jobs: You can tinker with creating dynamic websites in your spare time. (That’s a great reason to learn Rails) To that extent, GA is asking $2,800 for a hobby class. I don’t think that’s a sane investment unless you have money to burn. I don’t think a lot of people think that’s a sane investment. And I think BetaBeat is running this story because that is the bottom line for a lot of people.

        Is there a way to offer a hobbyist’s intro class to Rails at a more economical cost? I believe so. Even a private tutor wouldn’t cost $2,800. 

        On the other hand, would it be a great thing if anyone of above-average intelligence could just take a Rails class for six weeks and have a GOOD job on the other side of that? Yes, and that would be worth $2,800. But that is NOT how a programming career or the job market works for most people. 

  2. I agree that this shouldn’t have been posted to a community group, but people should be able to charge what they want for their services. If people don’t want to buy it they don’t have to. If everything was purely about cost and not some other intrinsic value, no one would spend $3000 a month to live in a shoebox in Manhattan. The market will decide whether the class succeeds or fails.

    As for “what if you take the course and still can’t perform or qualify for meaningful professional work afterwards…”, what about college? Medical school? Any other professional education? Nothing in life comes with a guarantee, unfortunately. You do what you can with the knowledge you have.

    With that said, I am a non technical person that works with lot’s of developers and I learned to develop a simply application in Ruby based solely off of what I learned on the internet. It didn’t do much but connect to a Twitter API, but if I kept at it I am sure that I could figure out more. Some people learn differently, and if a classroom works for them perhaps it’s worth it.

    Guess we will find out what happens if this class fills up!

    1. Anonymous says:

      It already has. Check back for post tomorrow.

      1. Anonymous says:

        I’d be surprised if it didn’t. There is absolutely zero correlation between the class filling up and the value provided. There are enough idiots out there willing to pay for this junk. Any programmer worth their salt should easily be able to pick this up. Most of these certification courses are junk and personally speaking we would never hire someone who had the bad judgement to fork 2800$ of his or his employer’s money on this garbage. This is akin hiring the Devry / CCNA guys to do your production networking. You deserve to get burnt. I would take a smart guy who can learn and adapt over these clowns any day. Having worked with many of them I can tell you first hand there is definitely a huge difference in pedigree.

      2. Anonymous says:

        We’ll have to ask the graduates of the class.

    2. Paris Sinclair says:

      I don’t think anybody said it should be illegal to charge that much, the issue is if they should spam a list with their ad when the service is being offered at a ridiculous rate.

      Just as people should be able to charge what they want, people should be able to say they suck, too.

      A consulting firm is not really in the position to compete with the sort of education that a medical school provides. Honestly it is about the same level as an unaccredited technical school.

      1. Foljs says:

        “the issue is if they should spam a list with their ad when the service is being offered at a ridiculous rate.”

        That doesn’t make any sense. Do you imply that if the service was offered cheaply, it would be OK for them to spam the list?

  3. Akshay Kumar says:

    It’s Akshay not Ashkay ;- ).

    1. Anonymous says:

      Ugh, sorry! Fixed.

  4. Anon says:

    It’s a Rails class not a Ruby class. Must be a really slow news day. And doing a follow up story about how the class fills up would be just sad. If you want to be real journalist start doing some homework. Pretty pathetic all around. I am sure the GA PR machinery would just love that. Do something useful like some proper research on GA. This is not the only crap they churn out. Here’s a hint, follow the f**ing money. I personally think GA is great idea, great energy, great way to meet folks and network. But you are an alleged journalist, do some damn research and maybe someone will take you seriously.

    1. Anonymous says:

      If there is something you’d like to see us research, email tips at betabeat. 

  5. David Switch says:

    Its a free market if people will pay it let them teach.

  6. HappyHappyHappy says:

    How derivative. This article and the NYC.rb thread it relates are, IMO, unrepresentative of the Ruby community in New York and elsewhere. So a couple of guys–yes, they are guys–on a mailing list get all butthurt when a Ruby (and Rails) class in New York is advertised on NYC.rb’s mailing list. Quick, rush to the presses, this must be news. It’s not.

    The real news is that the Ruby community has grown so large that otherwise unremarkable members of the community post messages to a mailing list and controversy ensues. Wait, is that news? I almost caught myself thinking there was something newsworthy here.

    Despite the community’s growth, companies are having a really hard time hiring programmers with Ruby (or Python/JavaScript/Fortran/C#… you name it) skills. So there’s a market opportunity for people (maybe even, *gasp*, non-hackers) to receive a hands-on, multi-week class from expert programmers, which might be paid by a company that cares about education and training.Nothing to see here. You can go about your business. Move along.

    1. Anonymous says:

      I’ve been hearing sticker shock complaints about the prices of classes at General Assembly ever since they rolled out their first certification program. Questions about how much education should cost are not unique to the Ruby community.

      1. HappyHappyHappy says:

        Could it be that this is an elaborate PR move by General Assembly and Betabeat to draw attention to its classes?

        Step 1: Post incendiary article with pull quotes from a few “offended Ruby developers,” and imply that this feeling is widespread in the community.Step 2: Wait as more prominent Rubyists react with predictable dismissiveness of the controversy, providing both an explanation for the necessity of classes and a justification of their price.
        Step 3: ProfitStep 4: Repeat?PS This is pure tongue-in-cheek speculation for the enjoyment of your readers, aka “reporting.”

      2. Anonymous says:

        Nah.

  7. “In general, hackers prefer hands-on education–just start building things–to classroom learning.”

    Wrong. Some prefer to learn on their own, while others benefit greatly from being instructed by an expert. The reason why most don’t take courses is that there is a shortage of qualified experts with the ability to teach. This is why instructor-led learning can be expensive, and it’s been the case since the dawn of the profession.

    1. Anonymous says:

      This may be too anecdotal to make a sweeping statement about, but in my experience this credo is almost militant. 

  8. Doubrovkine… Dragon born…

  9. Anonymous says:

    Here’s the update: http://www.betabeat.com/2011/12/28/that-2800-ruby-class-that-had-nyc-rb-in-a-huff-its-already-sold-out/

  10. Anyone who would pay $2,800 for a Ruby class does not have enough programming experience to become a good Ruby programmer anyways. Either you have enough general programming experience to find the resources on your own (pragprog, railscasts, rubyonrails.org, etc.) or you need to get that experience before you dive into Rails.

  11. Michael T. says:

    As someone who actually attended one of the General Assembly classes, I can tell you that’s it was absolutely worth it for the right person.

    It’s valuable if:
    1. You are crunched for time and need to get concentrated information (including being able to get questions immediately answered rather than spending 30+ minutes trying to find it in the documentation)
    2. You are more motivated when working in a team than alone
    3. You want to have fellow new programmers to bounce ideas off of and network with

    There’s more value beyond that too, but those are the highlights. If you don’t understand it, that’s OK. Don’t do it, and laugh all the way to the bank. Just remember that everyone is different!