Those early days of Rails adoption can be painful. One quickly learns that once you step off the scaffolding, the usual laws of physics apply and you find yourself falling fast. There is no substitute for actually learning Ruby and understanding what Rails is doing behind the scenes, and, in some ways, those clever screencasts that seduce you into thinking it is All So Easy are a little disingenuous.
Salvation came in the form of many people on #rubyonrails, but mostly it was one guy, "ezmobius," who fielded question after question, both on and off of IRC. He is also frequently seen on the Ruby on Rails email list. Ezra saved my ass, and the asses of many others with a selfless willingness to help in any way he could. His work converting the Yakima Herald web site was inspirational, and his knowledge of the black art of production Rails server configuration is the stuff of legend. In fact, he is writing a book about it.
But wait, there's more! Lately, Ezra has been on fire, producing some tools that will benefit the Rails community in entirely new ways. I was especially impressed with his "DRbWorker plugin with AJAX progress bars," which lets you kick off an async process on the server while reflecting its progress in the UI. This has obvious applicability for any long running process — the converting, encoding, sending, querying, distributing of whatever — and actually brings Rails into the realm of EJB's and other architectures that maintain persistent object pools on the server side. Very, very nice.
There is much, much more at Ezra's blog, Brainspl.at, and I know that the second biggest thrill I will get at RailsConf, aside from giving my talk, will be hoisting a cold one in the company of a true Rails Hero, Ezra Zygmuntowicz!