Great subject. Good teacher. Really old-world presentation. I'm really interested in this class and my only objection to it is the death-by-PowerPoint part of it. The screen casts are useful. The idea of supplying a pre-loaded VM was quite resourceful. I like the teaching.

I didn't do well on the first assignment as I went in cold without knowing Ruby. I expect that I'll improve as the course moves along.

asked 08 Mar '12, 13:56

robrambusch's gravatar image

robrambusch ♦

Hi Rob, the truth is we agree with you about the "death by ppt". we tried to get a tablet-like setup (similar to Prof. Ng's) working with our on-campus webcast capture infrastructure, but we couldn't get it to work with our infrastructure and ran out of time. We fully expect to re-record the lectures next time around using that technology, which we think will make them more engaging. (We get sick of PPT too!) thanks for your feedback Armando
(08 Mar '12, 15:12) Armando Fox Armando%20Fox's gravatar image
Hello Armando, One more minor note. Try if you will be able to record again the soundtrack to screencasts. During recording constant loud clicking, probably recorded too close to the microphone.
(12 Mar '12, 05:59) stoune stoune's gravatar image

We hear your feedback about the video/presentation issues (stuff cut off, inconsistent video quality, noninteractive PPT-centric presentation) and we expect to fix those next time around. Lack of time and mistaken assumptions about the technical characteristics of our on-campus capture infrastructure caused these problems, which we regret.

Regarding the pace of material - we tried to be pretty clear that this class is not intended for people new to programming (though it IS intended for those who have programming experience but are new to SaaS). At Berkeley most people in the class are seniors, and many of them still find the pace challenging. Ruby is not a great first language, and as others have pointed out, topics like metaprogramming and closures are subtle, and are absent from many other widely-used languages, which is why we focus on them rather than starting from "hello world".

In short, we assume you already have significant experience with OOP, basic control structures, recursion, etc., and we focus on what's different when you come to Ruby and SaaS. In particular, if you're considering both this class and CS 101, you're probably going to be either very bored in CS 101 or very lost in this course; they target totally different audiences.

Yes, there is a lot you have to learn on your own outside of lecture. The book is intended to help with that, in addition to other resources we suggested. Later today I'll be posting the first "SaaS TV" interview with Edward Hieatt of Pivotal Labs, whose comments may shed some light on this issue.


answered 08 Mar '12, 15:21

Armando%20Fox's gravatar image

Armando Fox

@Armando Fox - "Regarding the pace of material ..." Ruby will be something like the tenth programming language I learn (just guessing) and I have a reasonable amount of exposure to "OOP, basic control structures, recursion". I'm not complaining about the material or the pace, I'd like it to be as "hardcore" as I can manage to learn. If it turns out to be over my head, I'll just back off, learn Ruby, and try again. I'm really enjoying the course.
(08 Mar '12, 16:16) robrambusch ♦ robrambusch's gravatar image
@Armando Fox IMHO one of the best things about SaaS has been your thoughtful and direct communication (including your blog posts before class start and your presence in the forums). Thank you!
(08 Mar '12, 17:47) rseiter ♦ rseiter's gravatar image
Despite the above mentioned production issues and other rough edges around the forum site, I was enjoying the course as well. Unfortunately, a work-related travel commitment has landed smack-dab in the middle of the schedule, so I have chosen to drop the course for now. I had submitted the first question on the homework when I made my decision, then I stopped any further submissions as I realized I didn't want to received any GitHub or AWS vouchers. Interestingly, I received these today... but I will destroy the email and not use them. I hope the course is put on again in future and if it fits my schedule, I'll likely participate. I know that I can silently stop participating, but does anyone know if the prof's want any feedback on when / why people are dropping the course?
(08 Mar '12, 18:03) egoots egoots's gravatar image
Yes, we do :-) especially if it gives us useful feedback that can improve the course in the future. It looks like in your case it was other commitments beyond your control. Note that Coursera has said they'll keep the autograders running indefinitely, so people can still submit homeworks/quizzes and get them graded even if not on the same schedule as everyone else. Sorry to lose you but we understand work related travel commitments all too well...
(08 Mar '12, 18:21) Armando Fox Armando%20Fox's gravatar image
Thanks @Armando Fox. Good to know about the autograders continued running schedule. I really appreciate your and David's efforts in putting on this course. Good luck with the remainder of it.
(08 Mar '12, 18:57) egoots egoots's gravatar image
Based on the contents of the first two weeks, I think the course is great except for the frustrating video experience. Actually like many others, I'm also new to Ruby, but I'm not quite bothered by the pace of the class. Instead I find it very challenging and inspiring. At first you might be annoyed by the seemingly inadequate guidance, but when you finally nailed the programming assignments after all the trials and errors, you would find that the learning experience is extremely rewarding and totally worthwhile. Although we are not even halfway through the course(but you gotta admit it's a rather short one), I'm already looking forward to the sequel. Any clue as to when it will go live? BTW, I really like the idea of "SaaS TV", it is awesome! Thank you for introducing cool stuff into the class! And I'm kinda hoping we can see more of the likes of this in other Coursera courses too.
(09 Mar '12, 09:41) rialmat rialmat's gravatar image

I drop the course after the second week, the feeling of wasting my time was too strong, so I decided to focus on CS101 (even if it's more a fun way to learn Python) and CS373, using the rest of my time to learn android programming.

I hope that in the future Udacity offer a SaaS course.


answered 08 Mar '12, 14:06

AINeko's gravatar image


I'm so close to that decision. SaaS was number one on my priority list and now I can hardly find words to describe how disappointed I am. Lessons are dictations what you have to learn if you already don't know. OK, I understand that some knowledge is prereq, but there are a bunch of things and lot of folks are new in Ruby, so they had to do more than poor quality clips from Berkeley class. It's gonna be extremely time consuming if the course continue like this. I did first assignment but I'm not sure if I even look at the second one.
(08 Mar '12, 14:48) Kaplan Kaplan's gravatar image

I would not mind the old world presentation so much if it was done well. Between the right side of the slides being cut off in the video and the intermittent functioning of the streaming I'm becoming pretty frustrated with the videos (at least they supply slide PDFs and downloadable lectures though). I like the thoroughness with which they have set up an environment for us to use (and documented it in the book and on the web). The first assignment seemed like a good way to do programming assignemnts. I am curious how the submission/grading will work as our apps move onto the web.

About the first assignment, I have experience with a variety of programming languages (including CLU which they discuss in chapter 3 ;-) and would note that metaprogramming is a sophisticated concept which is uncommon in languages so often not understood. If you've figured it out you've done something both non-trivial and useful.


answered 08 Mar '12, 14:10

rseiter's gravatar image

rseiter ♦

My only complaint is very harsh 50% penalty for due submissions. althoguh my raw score is 500/500, that I submitted 3 hours late my mistake!, it is reduced to 250/500 :(. I wish this penalty was more forgiving, as the ML class's 20% rate. I am already a RoR developer, and I read quite a lot of resources. I applaude those who can digest these many topics in such a short time.

And my only concern is the usage of Cucumber! We are already bogged down with many accidential complexities during these courses. Why do yiu prefer Cucumber, when there is Already a ruby based and very common acceptence testing library, Capybara! I am sure many people will think of dropping this course when they encounter rapec and cucumber , along with ruby itself, to learn SAAS fundamentals.


answered 08 Mar '12, 15:35

comptrol's gravatar image


Others have also expressed concern about the 50% penalty. We'll revisit that and may decide to change it. We understand that people have lots of other obligations as well. Regarding Cucumber and Capybara, we make a deliberate choice to use Cucumber because part of the goal is explaining how to have a dialogue with a nontechnical customer to reach agreement on what the app should do. Cucumber stories are close enough to plain English (or other languages, since it's internationalized!) that those stories can support this kind of communication. In contrast, Capybara is great for developers, but most nontechnical customers probably would not be comfortable reading Ruby code that uses Capybara. In other words: Capybara is for integration testing; Cucumber is for both integration testing and communication with nontechnical customers. Regarding whether people have to learn RSpec and Cucumber in order to learn SaaS fundamentals - if you talk to successful SaaS companies, they will tell you that communicating with customers and having a strong testing discipline are part of the fundamentals, which is why we decided to teach them in the order we did. In our view, teaching SaaS WITHOUT emphasizing these elements is doing students a disservice. Hope that clarifies why we made the choices we did! Armando
(08 Mar '12, 16:17) Armando Fox Armando%20Fox's gravatar image
Absolutely! I wasn't expecting such a long answer. Thanks a lot!
(08 Mar '12, 16:57) comptrol comptrol's gravatar image

I agree - the video lectures are just awful. I'm glad the slides are available for download. But my biggest n00b problem is that I was lost on how to actually DO the programming assignments. I haven't used Linux much before, and though I setup the VM and it looks great, I couldn't find any info about how to go about setting up and doing Ruby assignments on the VM. So I ended up trudging my way thru Emacs and Vim, and manually compiling it on the command line using IRB. I noticed Aptana Studio, tried it but it seemed bloated and so abandoned.

Dear profs, what would be the snappiest dev setup in the VM for the assignments? Also I imagined we would be learning how to integrate and deploy with quick iterations using Git, Heroku etc. So far I have .rb files strewn all over, written in Emacs, compiled manually.

Don't mean to complaint so much, I just expected a bit more guidance.

Thanks for your great work


answered 08 Mar '12, 16:33

man-with-the-silver-gun's gravatar image


The name of the course, SaaS, sounds like an uninteresting / boring subject to me. But the assignment are hard and challenging. That give me a very good impression. I always have a bad feeling that online classes are too inferior their counter-part on-campus classes. That they lower the bar to attract more people. Evidently it is not the case for SaaS class. I really enjoy the thrill of attacking your challenging homework/assignment. Thank you very much.


answered 09 Mar '12, 09:12

avxV's gravatar image


There are 2 kind of assignment, the one for verify if you have understand the topics of the lesson, and the one to "challenge" the student. I prefer the first, but the ideal assignment IMHO is the one with some exercise to verify and one to challenge the student. About SaaS assignment (HW1) for me the main difficult is that I have to learn Ruby (and I haven't time), the algorithm to solve the problem are not so difficult. I find CS373's homework are more challenging
(09 Mar '12, 09:39) AINeko AINeko's gravatar image

I will partially drop SaaS, at least assignements. Although I've been programming in various languages for years, learn Ruby while doing the assignments is beyond me, for now (too perlish). Especially since I'm in another 5 courses. I'll keep watching and trying to learn lessons, and a next time when I know Ruby will try again.


answered 13 Mar '12, 05:07

tulkas72's gravatar image


I am finding SaaS a bit overwhelming as well. Learning all the new tools/languages (Ruby, HAML, Rails, Git, Heroku) is taking more time/effort than I would like. The upside is there is no way I would be learning them that quickly without the class, book, and forum. About learning Ruby, for purely syntactic elements I like this comparison of PHP, Perl, Python, and Ruby: (also see sheet 2). In another thread there has been discussion of learning metaprogramming in Ruby.
(13 Mar '12, 12:19) rseiter ♦ rseiter's gravatar image

The ruby portion turns out to be much more difficult than the rails portion and testing frameworks (for which knowledge of stuff like meta-programming isn't really required). Quite underwhelmed as I just completed the second to the last assignment on BDD (granted I already completed Hartl's tutorial prior to this course and have been getting by with the limited knowledge of Ruby and substantial knowledge of Rails/Rspec I picked up from there)


answered 15 Mar '12, 21:29

prusswan's gravatar image


edited 15 Mar '12, 21:30

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