Success Story: Big Room Consulting

We like to spotlight our thoughtbot training students’ work.

Big Room

In this installment, we’re checking in with Mike Breen, a local Bostonian. Mike took one of our very first Boston classes.

Since last year, he has been doing Rails consulting as an owner of Big Room Technology.

Big Room

Since last October I launched a family of products for Directory of Expert Witnesses, Directory of Independent Medical Examiners, and Directory of File Review Consultants,

… converted multiple ol’ school ASP apps to a single Rails app,

… helped launch IAC-EZ with Lark Farm, Inc.,

… worked with Auburn Quad and now I’m working on their non-profit wing Grassroots Giving Group,

… and helping out with the RailsBridge. I lead up the Builders. We help non-profits build or rehab Rails sites. thoughtbot developer Jason Morrison and the Personal Genome Project signed up recently.

Rails is a productivity enhancer

As if that wasn’t enough, Mike also volunteered his time to run the inaugural Rails BugMash, which saw over 300 commits to Rails.

The next BugMash is this weekend, September 25th-27th.

Our own Tristan “Bucky” Dunn finished in the top 5 last time around. You can mash more bugs than Bucky, can’t you?


We’re always pleased to see the great work that our alumni have produced.

We think you can strengthen your — title: “Suspenders” tags: rails

author: Dan Croak

Introducing Suspenders, the thoughtbot Rails template.


To create a new project, checkout the github repository and run:

./script/create_project projectname

This will create a project in ../projectname. You should then follow the instructions on GitHub to upload that project there. This script creates an entirely new git repository, and is not meant to be used against an existing repo.

Changes to the template can be easily pulled it into your project via:

rake git:pull:suspenders

This is funny, because you’re pulling your suspenders.


Suspenders was created for use at thoughtbot as a baseline application setup, with reasonable default plugins that the majority (if not all) of our applications used, as well as best-practice configuration options.

Thanks to various Boston.rb people and rails rumble people for attempting to use suspenders this past weekend and giving it it’s first non-thoughtbot-internal usage.

Suspenders currently includes Rails 2.1.1






  • time_formats.rb (Two time formats are available by default, :short_date and :long_date)
  • action_mailer_configs.rb (We use SMTP by default in all applications)
  • hoptoad.rb (Get your API key at
  • requires.rb (automatically requires everything in:)
  • lib/
  • lib/extensions
  • test/mocks/RAILS_ENV (Removed in Rails 2, we decided to keep it)

Rake Tasks

Rake tasks are contained in the limerick_rake gem.

  • bootstrap (Provides rake tasks for loading data into the database. These are used for an initial application dataset needed for production.)
  • capistrano (Standard capistrano deployment tasks)


The basic test setup uses Test::Unit, Shoulda, factory_girl, and mocha, and includes some standard shoulda macros that we’ve used on various projects.

Factory Girl is a fixture replacement library, following the factory pattern. Place your factories in test/factories.rb. The fixture directory has been removed, as fixtures are not used.

Shoulda is a pragmatic testing framework for TDD and BDD built on top of Test::Unit. A number of additional testing macros are provided in test/shoulda_macros:


Deployment is done using capistrano, and deploys to a mongrel cluster, running under Apache.

Rake tasks are provided for managing git branches which the different environments pull from for deploy.

To push the git master to git staging branch run:

rake git:push:staging

To push the git staging branch to production branch run:

rake git:push:production

Setup your deployment environment by running:

cap ENVIRONMENT deploy:setup

You’ll be prompted for the environment’s database password

Deploy to the desired environment by running:

cap ENVIRONMENT deploy

The default environment for deploy is staging, to deploy to staging, just run:

cap deploy


The official Suspenders mascot is Suspenders Boy.

suspenders boy with Rails skills through hands-on workshops in an intimate setting with thoughtbot developers.

Early Bird tickets are now available for October and December classes.

Previous spotlights on our students’ work include open source libraries Klang & strongbox and beautifully designed Rails app (with 100% test coverage!) yiloveit.