Rails plugins and the move to gems

This week, I made my first contribution to core which made installing plugins from git repositories over ssh work. It was a pretty small, mangy little patch — nothing more than fixing a typo in the end — but it felt good giving something back to a framework that has given me so much.

Now that I’m newly freelance, I’m hoping to be able to spend more time giving back to the Rails ecosystem, and the first port of call might have to be the plugin management system. I know plugins are becoming decidedly unfashionable with a lot of smart people saying they you should be using gems instead. And with the recent additions to rails this makes even more sense and you really should be removing those plugins from your apps in favour of loading them as gem dependencies. But in some scenarios, a plugin is all that will do.

In my case, I make use of the engines plugin (another unfashionable and often misunderstood bit of rails goodness) to share common application structure between a few apps, and here the whole plugin-as-gem thing just doesn’t fit.

Having been underwhelmed with the Piston equivalents for git, I’ve found myself using ./script/plugin install again, and although this now works with git repositories, ./script/plugin update doesn’t. Can it be that hard? Time to find out…

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