I should probably clarify that they were intimidated not by Ruby on Rails or Ruby off the Rails, but rather by a perception that the software is monolithic. I think many people these days expect Web applications to be structured as modular microservices. That is the case with the Rails port, if you consider things like iD and leaflet-routing-machine to be modules. But a common desired use case is to collaborate on a map without features like GPS trace management, diary posts, and image exports.
It’s the breadth of this project that dissuades more casual folks from wanting to maintain their own instance. Maybe that’s fair – maybe openstreetmap-website needs to focus on serving OSM and similarly ambitious community projects. My takeaway from these conversations is that there also needs to be an answer for the long tail of smaller projects, just as in all fairness we couldn’t admonish people for mapping historical features until OpenHistoricalMap became viable.
From this perspective, a true reimagining of the Rails port would consider the broader landscape of what people want to do with geodata, come up with a solution that’s a joy to use, and all the while look for opportunities to better serve an OSM-like project within that framework. That’s a much bigger project than a more literal port of the Rails port’s core functionality with extra bells and whistles, but at the same time, there are fewer obstacles to finding users and getting deployed in some form. And – imagine this – it could be a collaboration among complementary projects rather than something competitive or adversarial.