I think that there is a lot to be said for what Rails has to offer. I love Python and use it daily, but have yet to find anything as integrated, easy to use, and clear as Rails. I am not a big Ruby fan (too much like perl after an "extreme makeover"), but have been using Rails to develop some personal web apps because its so much more pleasant than digging through scant documentation, figuring out how to integrate packages, and reconciling all the bits and pieces available for Python.
I actually think the Rails approach is the best way (and more Pythonic than Python web frameworks in a way), rather than the approach that both Python and Java use. In Python and Java, there are tons of packages available for doing templating, persistence, controllers, etc. These packages are written by different people, with different terminology, and different styles. Sure, its more "flexible" but its a lot less convenient. With Rails there is only one way, and what's more Pythonic than that? Isn't Python supposed to be the "there's only one way to do it" language! This is why I love Python more as a language than Ruby, but Rails really got it right in terms of framework. When it comes to frameworks, consistency, simplicity, and integration are the most important things! Why don't people understand that?
Python bloggers have been talking a lot about how we can do all the things Rails does in Python using WebWare, CherryPy, Quixote, Kid, PSP, mod_python, SqlObject, PyDO, Zope, Plone, etc, etc, etc... but THATS NOT THE POINT! You can do all the Rails things (well, many of them) in Java too... but the problem is that its a pain in the ass. Granted, its less of a pain in the ass in Python than in Java, but still not nearly as pleasant and integrated as in Rails.
Rails makes writing web apps fun again. I can't say that for any of the combinations (permutations?) of Python packages available. And, no, I don't think that the "Subway" approach is right... it would be wiser to start from scratch to get the best integration, or at least fork the "starting point" packages (CherryPy, etc) so that you can make things more consistent and tightly integrated from the get-go.
Has anyone done any study into what exactly is so tightly integrated that a platform can't just piece existing components together using Adapters and similar approaches?
Building the ORM scaffold stuff doesn't seem to require rewriting anything from scratch. If you build the table first, then SQLObject can keep the fields in order (the only irritation I have when using SQLObject to create the tables), and the platform can use Adapters to build a FunFormKit-based system to edit/create the objects, and simple list/view things too. In other words, the developer only need do what the Rails developer does: create a model and a controller. The rest magically springs to life.
What _does_ require stronger integration, especially to the point of rewriting the existing components?
In part integration saves you a lot of little jobs. But later the integration might not be a big win, as your particular application goes further from the assumptions the integration makes. But, that still leaves you with a base to start with, and a convention -- if the integration serves no purpose except to codify application layout and object composition, that's still a valuable thing.
Hmm... I've noticed the column ordering problem in SQLObject as well. It would be good to keep track of the chronological order in which the Col objects were created, then sort on that. That should give the ordering you want.
As far as adapters, that's certainly how they are intended to be used. I've had mixed results using them; I might just be using them incorrectly, but I might again blame it on a lack of codifying best practices ;)
I think this is the biggest factor in Rails' ease of use:
These packages [python] are written by different people, with different terminology, and different styles.
It's like reading a work of fiction (assuming continous, sensible story line) written by multiple authors. They might all get the job done very well on their own, but it just doesn't hold together as well or have the same "flow". Or like when you see a horrible Hollywood flick that has clearly been rewritten and worked over by a committee, losing any strong vision or voice it had.
Then there's the whole personality of the languages and communities using them, but that's a fire I dare not step into...