The thoughtbot Office Was A-Rumblin'

Mike Burns

The Rails Rumble 2009 was just this weekend and the thoughtbot office was packed with competitors, including two non-thoughtbot teams! Here’s the breakdown:

Photo Bagel

A deliciously-named app written solo by Chap Ambrose, Photo Bagel hosts and tracks daily photo uploads. Getting started is as easy as emailing a photo to

Who Would Win a Fight?

Ah the age-old question: can Trogdor, the Burninator, defeat DHH, the wearer of shiny sneakers? Josh Nichols and Jason Lawrence represented Boston when they tried to solve this with their Who Would Win a Fight app.

Throughout the Rumble Josh pestered the other teams with his video camera, later posting the interviews to YouTube. Worth watching.


thoughtbot’s own Dan Croak and Fred Yates joined Ben Orenstein and Joel Oliveira to deliver Pockets. The idea is straightforward: voicemail delivered via Twitter. Mixing the Twilio and Twitter APIs they allow you to use an actual phone to leave actual voicemails, receivable by actual Twitter users. For actual people.

Their about page is pretty great too, if you ignore all the purple.

Dan explained to me just now (since he sits to my right) that the new APIs were the most challenging part, and the plethora of Twitter Ruby gems didn’t help the situation. None were just the right fit; some had their bugs, others had their limitations. They ended up modifying the existing gems in-place with the intention of patching John Nunemaker’s Twitter gem in the future.


The only pure-thoughtbot team developed Slidechop, an idea we had been kicking around for a week in the office. It’s like this: you have these gists with slidedown in them (for example, training presentations) and you want to see the rendered slidedown more easily. So Joe Ferris, Nick Quaranto, and Jon Yurek built a git-backed presentation application.

They spent Sunday adding sweet features, like multi-screened presentations (using a master/slave architecture between browsers) and smartphone-driven slideshows.

Since I sit next to Joe I asked him what the most difficult part was. He told me the sad story of slide thumbnails, which they never finished. Through some tricks with the zoom CSS attribute they figured out something on Internet Explorer, but no one uses that. They also looked into many thumbnailing services but none had both a good price and JavaScript support. Maybe that will appear in the future.

Tanks Bulldozing Dudes

Tanks Bulldozing Dudes is a fun Web game played on a Google Map.

When pressed, Tristan reported that the game was especially challenging to write because it was filled was unfamiliar technology (including Juggernaut). They spent Sunday trying to handle various Flash mis-configurations that people’s computers may have.

Heart On

Last up is the app my team worked on: Heart On. thoughtbot’s Jason Morrison, Chad Pytel, and myself joined with ex-thoughtbot Angelo Simeoni to build a Twitter bot for those too shy to talk to their crush. It can be used fully via Twitter but we also built a Web interface for it.

To provide a slightly more partial view into the world I asked Jason for his thoughts on the highs and lows. This caused an argument about whether we ever got the map working, mixed with the usual slew of innuendo that the name of our app causes.

In Conclusion

The Rails Rumble was an amazingly fun time made only more fun by the heavy population of the thoughtbot office. Be sure to join in next year!