RailsRumble Postmortem

I failed to launch my Rails Rumble project ConfReader. Why?

Poor scheduling

Couldn’t stay up because work is demanding in the election season, so working late would mean I’d limp through the next week of important coverage. More than that, though, was a bad mistake in scheduling a social outing. I didn’t figure in some of travel time and the friend driving wanted to spend a lot more time out, so instead of having a nice morning out I got home at 7 PM tired and in a foul mood. I was able to relax a bit and get some code done, but it cut my available time by more than half.

Too many new toys

I knew I hadn’t played with encoding video before, so I asked an expert for some tips and tinkered around breaking test videos down into short, easily-transcribed segments. Not coincidentally, this is basically the only feature that works. I started with bort to get a lot of basic functionality quickly, but I had no experience with most of the plugins it provided (and those I otherwise planned to use).

Differences between acts_as_state_machine (which I started with) and aasm (the successor that bort ships).
Translating scaffolding from erb to haml and a (still-unsolved) bug that causes it to render content twice on one page. (And I’ve even used haml before.)
I wanted users to be able to contribute anonymously or use OpenID to receive credit for their contributions without having to set up an account, and the plugins came configured for conventional user accounts.
I had to fix a templating bug, and there’s a fair amount of magic to learn to work with.
Scaffolded tests needed slow, tedious tweaks to work with resource_this. I think I like the idea of rspec more than the implementation.
Sorting out finicky path/url issues, and I couldn’t find a way to mock validates_attachment_presence so several models went unspeced..

Each of these issues ate 30-60m, and there went the time to build. Some plugins (acts_as_versioned, footnotes, random_finders) just worked great, but none was really related to core functionality. Speaking of which:

Core featureset too big

The line between nothing and application includes site graphic design, listing conferences, uploading presentation videos, splitting videos into segments, adding transcripts, viewing all of the these, editing transcripts... I had a lot of features listed as optional, but there was still a long set of base features and each uncovered another one of those frustrations.

No teammates

It would’ve helped a lot to have someone to work with. Not just because it would have taken less time to finish the core features, but for the enjoyment of teamwork and to complement my weaknesses.

All told

I’m glad I spent time I spent hanging out in #railsrumble or on the RailsRumble present.ly. Even if it didn’t directly result in items checked off the todo list, it’s been a fun community to be in, and I was glad to help folks out. I’m eager to see what other people came up with.

I didn’t enter RailsRumble to win, I entered for the excuse to create what I thought was an interesting small project. I’ll pick ConfReader back up in a little while, probably after the election. I still think it’s too good an idea not to build, but I’m a bit tired right now.