Now that the cat is out of the bag, I can share some recent news with you. Earlier today, we announced that Blue Box Group had acquired Rails Boxcar, our kickass deployment solution for Ruby on Rails applications.
Our team has been offering hosting services for over six years. When I made the decision to start providing Rails hosting over four years ago, it was something that I thought the community needed to validate that Ruby on Rails was a viable solution for building web applications. At the time, there was only one or two companies offering pre-configured solutions. The good ole days. :-)
Over the course of the past 4+ years, we’ve helped deploy and host well over a thousand web applications built with Ruby on Rails. Perhaps we even hosted your site at one point or another. We definitely had a lot of fun and learned a lot from our experience.
Fast-forward four years, the community now has several great solutions and options for hosting their Ruby on Rails applications. Knowing this, we began to look over the plethora of services that we offer and felt that we had been spreading ourselves too thinly. We were faced with the big question of: Should we focus our energy on trying to innovate in this competitive space or should we find a community-respected vendor to pass the torch to?
Rails Boxcar is a product that we are extremely proud of and believe the acquisition by Blue Box Group will be great for our existing customers. The acquisition is going to benefit our customers as they’ll be able to interface with a team with more resources. A team that also aims to innovate in this space and believes that Rails Boxcar will help them do that.
As a byproduct of this deal, our team has an opportunity to focus our collective energy on designing and developing web applications, which has also been a central part of what we do for as long as we’ve been in business. We plan to speed up our efforts on a handful web-based products that we’ve been internally developing and hope to release in the near future.
I had the pleasure of getting to talk thoroughly with the team at Blue Box Group and really feel like they’ll be able to focus their energy on maintaining and innovating within the Ruby on Rails hosting world.. definitely more than we could over the coming years. In the end, the acquisition is going to benefit our customers the most as they’ll be able to interface with a larger team that is innovating in this space.
If you’re interested in learning more about the acquisition, please read the press release.
From our perspective, this is a win-win-win situation for everyone involved. Expect to see some more news from us in the near future… and if you’re looking for a design and development team, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.
Wow, 2007 has gone by really fast. I’ve been fairly busy wrapping up projects and getting ready to start new ones at Planet Argon. I’m sure that when many of you start a new project… you look back at what you’ve learned from previous ones. Even throughout iterations in a project, we try our best to have retrospectives to be sure that we’re all learning from what has and hasn’t worked. A few weeks ago, I decided to drop a note to the members of the Business of Rails community to ask people to share some of their lessons from the year. My goal was to get people to share their experiences from over the year with other members of the community and see where the dialogue takes us into 2008.
As expected… I got some great responses, which I encourage you to read for yourself. You might even participate in the conversation(s) and share your experiences. We’d love to hear them.
Side note… I’d like to thank all of you who have participated in the Business of Rails community over the year. It was an idea that came to me during RailsConf 2007 after I participated on a panel with other business leaders in the Ruby on Rails community. We now have over 800 members on the mailing list! I’ve learned a lot from the community and hope more of you decide to join. :-)
As I mentioned in my last review, I wouldn’t be updating on a weekly basis, which is a shame because there are so many fascinating discussions going on that might benefit you if you’re running a business that uses and/or relies on the Ruby on Rails framework. I’d like to highlight some of the discussions that have been taking place over the past month or so.
First off… wow! As of this morning, there are 650 members!
Some Recent Discussions
Obtaining Ruby Gigs
Johan Pretorius started a discussion with the following…
“I’ve been lurking on the group for a while now, the time has come to participate … What strategy would you recommend for somebody that wants to break into the Ruby (on Rails) market?”
On a related topic, Jose Hurtado started a discussion asking for tips on how to get a reputation in the Ruby on Rails community for you business.
Some of the responses included:
- Start a portfolio
- Contribute to Open Source projects
- Contribute to Rails through Documentation
- Subcontract through well-known developers
- Start a blog
- Write a book
Read the entire thread and please share any other ideas that you have on this topic with Johan, Jose, and rest of the list. :-)
Taking a full-time job, what about your freelance clients?
Oren writes, “I got a full-time job offer as employee (and not on as a contractor). My current client might need some help on the weekends in the next month, so I might still do contract work. Can I keep my corporation (corp S) while working full time?”
Starting your own business might sound like an amazing thing to do, but it often comes with a lot of consequences and struggles, which I’m definitely not been immune to.
Michael M. writes, ”...added to having to create a company, perform customer support, continue to grow the features, marketing, and the loads of other things I haven’t thought of yet…is there any hope that one person can pull this off while still working at my current job ( with hopes of going it alone when I’m sure it can fly ), and giving time to my family, with very little up front costs. I’ve been reading quite a bit about bootstrapping lately, but to really make the time has been very difficult.”
There were several thoughtful responses where well-known members of the Ruby on Rails community, such as Joe O’Brien Ben Curtis shared through personal experiences.
Joe O’Brien wrote, “I wanted to mainly chime in on the family part. Something that has taken a year for me to figure out how to balance. I would not have been able to do any of it, had it not been for my wife’s full support. I have three kids, all of whom I love spending time with, so figuring out a way to balance it all has been very tricky. Up front though, my wife and I knew this would not be your typical job. It helped that I used to travel and now do not, but it has still been an adjustment.”
If you’ve been running your own Rails business, please consider responding to this thread and sharing your experience.
Join the Community
As mentioned, this is just a small sample of some of the great discussions taking place on the Rails Business mailing list. If you’re an aspiring Rails freelancer or business owner, be sure to join the community and share your experiences and learn from other members of the community that are willing to share theirs.
As always, have fun!
It’s been about six weeks since the last Rails Business “Weekly” Review on here, so perhaps it’s worth changing the name to cut me some slack on not being consistent. ;-)
Since the last post, we’ve gone from around 400 members to 555 as of this morning. We’ve had 562 messages as well, so there hasn’t been a shortage of discussions taking place. I’d like to take a few moments to highlight some of the discussions that have taken place and encourage you all to consider participating, if you’re not already.
Licensing and Client Agreements
Tim Case writes,
“My client sent me this agreement drawn up from their lawyer that included the following:
(c) the Contractor shall not bundle with or incorporate into any Work Product any third-party products, ideas, processes, software, codes, data, techniques, names, images, or other items or properties without the express, written prior approval of the Company;”
Tim then goes on to ask how his applies to using Ruby on Rails, which as a MIT license and how other consultancies are handling these types of situations. Follow the discussion…
Gustin writes, “Does anyone have any escrow experience, legal and cost? I am dealing with a client that got burned bad and we are reducing their fear with escrow on the first two iterations.”
Project Planning tools
Mike Pence writes, “So, I used to use MS Project for the composition of those dreaded Gantt charts, but it has been a few years since I had to be so formal. Anything new and exciting – and more robust than Basecamp – happening in the world of project planning software?”
Not long after, Jim Mulholland started a new thread on the same topic and brought up the open source application, redMine. Follow this discussion…
Ruby on Rails versus .NET
Michael Breen asked a big question on the list, which has sparked an going discussion about the benefits of using Rails versus .NET (and other platforms).
“A couple of months ago I decided to stop actively pursuing .NET gigs to focus on Rails. Several of my existing .NET clients have learned of this through the grapevine and have contacted me to discuss.”
Three things Tim’s learned from Freelancing Rails
Tim Case shared his experience of freelancing with Ruby on Rails and highlights three things that he’s learned.
- The non-code business aspect of Freelancing is demanding.
- It takes 10 hours to bill 6 to 8.
- Figuring out your rate is hard.
Client issue tracking and documentation
Jeff Judge writes, “Hello all! I was curious to here how people are handling client issue tracking and documentation.”
Several applications were mentioned for handling issue tracking and the general consensus was that there was still a lot to be desired that current options didn’t provide. Be sure to follow the discussions…
Join the Community
These were just a small handfull of the discussions that have taken place over the past several weeks. If you’re an aspiring Rails freelancer or business owner, be sure to join the community and share your experiences and learn from other members of the community that are willing to share theirs.
Until next time, have fun!
This past week (give or take a few days), the Rails Business group has covered a lot of topics, that might be of interest to you, should you be running a business and using Ruby on Rails. Many of the members of the new group are independent contractors and have been very open in sharing their experiences of working for themselves. I’d like to take a moment to highlight a few conversations and tips that were covered this past week.
Mike Pence started a conversation about health coverage…
“Has anyone else found the medical insurance issue to be a show stopper for them? Are you one doctor visit and diagnosis away from financial ruin? I can tell you firsthand that wishful thinking won’t pay those bills…”
This started a discussion about how people are able to work on their own and maintain health coverage, which is definitely not something that should be considered lightly. Read more…
Another great question was raised by Mike Breen.
“I’m going to start work on my first project that will require me to travel. How should I handle the expenses? Do I build the costs into the contract price or do I submit the expenses to the client for reimbursements? Or does this vary from client to client based on the company policy?”
The responses included links to IRS sites and sections of other peoples’ contracts. Read more...
Hosting Client Repositories
Where do you host your client’s source code repositories? Are you managing it all yourself on your own servers or using a service?
The discussion (so far) has lead us to evaluate our own solution for this at PLANET ARGON. It appears that everyone has different concerns about how they want to manage client code during the development cycle.
For example, do you allow your client access to
trunk/ if they aren’t all paid up yet?
Also, it seems like there are a bunch of new commercial options coming out (and are built on Rails). Read more...
Naming Your Business
Jared Haworth writes,
“For those of you who are working as ‘independent developers,’ have you found that it makes more sense to simply do business under your own name, for example “Jared Haworth L.L.C.,” or to come up with a clever business name instead, such as “Code Fusion Studios”?”
This was a good conversation to follow and definitely raised a lot of great questions and things to consider in response to the original message. Read more...
- Magazines, what business magazines do you read?
- Where do you find gigs?
Join the Community!
The community is still only a few weeks old and we’re already approach 350 members! It’s been a great learning about other peoples’ experiences… as well as sharing what I’ve learned since I started PLANET ARGON (and how the name came to be).
If you hadn’t had a chance to join, stop by and introduce yourself!
It’s been a week since I announced the new Ruby on Rails meets the business world group. Already, the group attracted over 300 members from around the globe... from Argentina, Boston, Australia, Florida, Seattle, Portland!, the Netherlands, and South Africa.
We’ve already seen some great topics come up… from:
- Project estimates
- Fixed bids versus time and materials
- Handling code ownership with client contracts
- Incorporating (LLC, S CORP?)
- Managing money/accounting
I expect that many of these topics will resurface and there has been a lot of valuable information passed around. It’s exciting to see that so many people not only want to use Ruby on Rails as a platform of choice for their business ventures, but they’re also willing to share their personal experiences and knowledge to help others move into this space.
If you’re running a business that focuses on Ruby on Rails or just considering it, you should stop by and introduce yourself.
update: membership grew from 200 to over 300 in the past day!
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