I've built a large application in CakePHP (and had plenty of PHP experience before that). For most things, it worked well. Last week, I started doing RoR again (after a couple of years), and it beats the hell out of any other ecosystem for webdevelopment. Ruby is (for me) a much better language than PHP. I've done a lot of Haskell, too, and Haskell is even a better language than Ruby, but doesn't have the same amount of web developers.
What's nice about Ruby is that there is a huge ecosystem. Ruby on Rails is already very complete (especially compared to PHP). There are a lot of plugins for Rails that add the functionality you want. For example: adding image uploads (including thumbnail generation) was about 15 minutes of work, adding comments to my models too, and voting on models/comments was also done by installing a plugin. In PHP, there's a lot of code available, but most of it doesn't integrate automatically with other code.
I think that the amount of smart people that are working on a language/framework is very important. In Haskell, for example, there are not too many people working on web frameworks, and there's still a lot missing or broken. In PHP, there are a lot of people working on the language/frameworks, but a lot of the smart developers have moved to other tools, such as Rails/Django/etc. Therefore, I would just follow them and use a framework like Rails.
(A slight warning: this is all very subjective, this post is not based on any objective facts)
I don't know. A lot of the smart PHP developers are still there. Maybe people using PHP moved on, but PHP devs are still strong.
As for PHP code, pear is still widely used for code distribution. Combined with pecl, and you have two resources for code distribution depending on how the code is integrated (PHP or C). And don't confuse pear as a library. It's a distribution method. For example, PHPUnit is installed via pear.
To answer your question: I used thumbs_up for voting, acts_as_commentable for comments, clearance for authentication and paperclip for file uploads.
I found thumbs_up before I knew of ruby-toolbox: I went to the acts_as_voteable github page, clicked on "Network" and scrolled to the right as far as possible. Most rubyists are very active on github, and a lot of the packages are forked.
Thank you :) I was looking for something that integrates rating (not voting) and commenting in one package. I found this https://github.com/grimen/is_reviewable through the toolbox. But last commit is from 2009. Hopefully someone has forked it or I will have to fix it