Get The Belt!

2007-09-11 20:00:00 -0400

Blue Railsrumble

Update 2007-10-05: voting for the rumble is closed. We didn’t win, but we had a lot of fun participating. Thanks very much to those of you who took the time to vote for us, and for throwing us some feedback, we really appreciated it!

Whew, what a weekend! We signed up for the Rails Rumble a couple of weeks ago and competed this past weekend with quite a few other folks to put together an entire Rails web application from start to finish in 48 hours. We made our final adjustments just minutes before the SVN repository was closed to any new changes; it was a bit hairy just before midnight as everyone was checking in their code and the SVN server sloooooowed down.

We’ve been really busy with PingMe over the last few weeks, so we saw the Rumble as our chance to crank out most of the code for our next big project, TagTime (and we really want that belt!). Like PingMe, TagTime solves a particular need for us as a consultancy — a time entry system that gives us extremely flexible reporting for billing, streamlining how we bill our customers and helping us to quickly get metrics we can use to make informed decisions and estimate future growth. At the end of the month we don’t want to be hacking Excel spreadsheets exported from Product X to massage them into the views we actually want. We’ve tried a lot of other apps out there that came close but none of them have quite got it right. With TagTime it’s very easy to look up, for instance, how many hours two folks on a team billed for a particular group of tags, like ‘Company X’, ‘oracle’, ‘support’ for a range of dates, or maybe last month.

From there we can do RSS feeds of the data, Excel exports, invoice printing, etc. The version of TagTime up on the Rumble site doesn’t have the export functionalities in it yet, but we did manage to get the RSS feeds in there before the Rumble closed.

Cranking out so much code in such a short amount of time could have been quite a mess, but we had a lot of success following an iterative battle plan we had drawn up before hand. Our basic approach was for one of us to handle server setup while the other began coding the models, unit tests, and building fixture data that we could work with immediately. Once we were really hammering away at the app, the creation of the fixture data early on helped us immensely (although I’d be lying if I said we stuck with testing every bit of code until the end, there just wasn’t enough time!) Careful planning and solid execution is the Zetetic method, and it served us well.

One key feature that we didn’t get to implement during the Rumble was graphing — TagTime will provide illustrative graphs for date ranges, and we’ll use some means and averages to generates graphs to help predict what our billing might be in the upcoming cycle.

All in all, we’re very happy with how it came out and we’re ready to start using it for our own billing. Everyone else will have to wait a bit while we do just a little more work to get it ready for a proper launch. In the meantime you can check out TagTime yourself over here on the Rumble site, where you can vote for us if you are so inclined. Voting for the Rails Rumble is open to anybody, so if you have a spare minute and you like our products we could really use your vote. The winners will be announced at the end of this month at the Ruby East conference, and we’ll be there, too, if you want to say hello.

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