why isn't :order working in acts_as_list

I think 'acts_as_list' assumes you have a "position" column in your
table (that it manages), and ordering is always by that column, no?

Rails is opinionated software. =)

And now that I say that, I see ...

http://api.rubyonrails.org/classes/ActiveRecord/Acts/List/ClassMethods.html#M000571

acts_as_list(options = {})

Configuration options are:

    * column - specifies the column name to use for keeping the
position integer (default: position)

There you go. (Although the example shows ":order" instead of
":column" as the option for that; might need to try both.)