Read my latest article: 8 things I look for in a Ruby on Rails app (posted Thu, 06 Jul 2017 17:59:00 GMT)

RailsOnPg released

Posted by Wed, 21 Oct 2009 22:07:00 GMT

Hello fellow PostgreSQL and Ruby on Rails geeks,

Alexander Tretyakov (twitter) recently released a plugin for Ruby on Rails, which extends migrations and provides you with the ability to create.

While you can already do something like this with execute in your migrations:

execute("CREATE VIEW my_tasty_snacks AS SELECT * FROM snacks WHERE food = 'Tasty';")

With RailsOnPage, you’re provided a DSL so that you can do the following:

create_view :my_tasy_snacks do |view|
  view.select     '*'
  view.from       'snacks'
  view.conditions 'food' => 'Tasty'
end

note: I haven’t tested the above, just a hypothetical example

Anyhow, if you’re in the habit of using views, functions, or triggers with your PostgreSQL database and are using Ruby on Rails, you might give RailsOnPg a whirl.

Tracking AJAX-driven events in Ruby on Rails for Google Analytics conversion goals

Posted by Wed, 21 Oct 2009 18:09:00 GMT

Tracking your KPI’s is extremely important in your online venture. At a minimum, you should be using something like Google Analytics to track conversions in your application. Setting up goals is actually quite simple, especially if you’re just tracking that specific pages are loaded. However, if some of your conversion points occur through AJAX, you might not be capturing those activities in Google Analytics.

Lucky for you, it’s actually quite simple to update this. I thought I’d show you a fairly simple example to help you along.

On our web site, we have a mini contact form at the bottom of many of our pages. When submitted, if JavaScript is enabled, it’ll perform an Ajax request to submit the form. If you fill out the main Get in Touch form that gets processed and we redirect people to a thank you page. The URL for that is unique and we’re able to track those in Google Analytics quite easily.

However, with the Ajax-form, the URL in the browser isn’t going to change so Google Analytics isn’t going to track that conversion. So, we needed to track that properly.

To do this, we just need to call a JavaScript function that the Google Analytics code provides you.

  pageTracker._trackPageview("/contact_requests/thanks");

Let’s look at some simple code from our controller action. If the request is from JavaScript, we currently replace the form area with the content in a partial. (note: if you’re curious about the _x, read Designers, Developers and the x_ factor)

  respond_to do |format|
    format.html { redirect_to :action => :thanks }
    format.js do
      render :update do |page|
        page.replace :x_mini_contact_form_module, :partial => 'mini_contact_form_thanks'
      end
    end
  end

As you can see, the redirect will within the format.html block will lead people to our conversion point. However, the format.js block will keep the user on the current page and it’ll not trigger Google Analytics to track the conversion. To make this happen, we’ll just sprinkle in the following line of code.

  page.call 'pageTracker._trackPageview("/contact_requests/thanks");'

However, if you need to do something like this in several locations in your application, you might want to just extend the JavaScriptGenerator page. GeneratorMethods. (you could toss this in lib/, create a plugin, etc…)

  module ActionView
    module Helpers
      module PrototypeHelper
        class JavaScriptGenerator #:nodoc:
          module GeneratorMethods
            # Calls the Google Analytics pageTracker._trackPageview function with +path+.
            #
            # Examples:
            #
            #
            #  # Triggers: pageTracker._trackPageview('/contact_requests/thanks');
            #  page.track_page_view '/contact_requests/thanks'
            #
            def track_page_view(path)
             record "pageTracker._trackPageview('#{path}');"
            end
          end
        end
      end
    end
  end

This will allow us to do the following:

  page.track_page_view "/contact_requests/thanks"

  # or using a route/path
  page.track_page_view thanks_contact_requests_path

So, our updated code now looks like:

render :update do |page|
  page.replace :x_mini_contact_form_module, :partial => 'mini_contact_form_thanks'
  page.track_page_view thanks_contact_requests_path
end

With this in place, we can sprinkle similar code for our various conversion points that are Ajax-driven and Google Analytics will pick it up.

Happy tracking!

Flash Message Conductor now a Gem

Posted by Tue, 13 Oct 2009 15:30:00 GMT

We’ve been doing some early (or late… if you’re a half-full kind of person) spring cleaning on some of our projects. One of the small projects, flash_message_conductor, which we released last year as a plugin is now a gem. We’ve been moving away from using plugins in favor of gems as we like locking in specific released versions and being able to specify them in our environment.rb file is quite convenient.

To install, just run the following:


  sudo gem install flash-message-conductor --source=http://gemcutter.org
  Successfully installed flash-message-conductor-1.0.0
  1 gem installed
  Installing ri documentation for flash-message-conductor-1.0.0...
  Installing RDoc documentation for flash-message-conductor-1.0.0...

You’ll then just need to include the following in your config/environment.rb file.

Rails::Initializer.run do |config|
  # ...
  config.gem 'flash-message-conductor', :lib => 'flash_message_conductor', :source => "http://gemcutter.org"
end

You can take a peak at the README for usage examples.

We’ll be packaging up a handful of our various plugins that we reuse on projects and moving them to gems. Stay tuned… :-)

Planting the seeds

Posted by Sat, 05 Sep 2009 13:00:00 GMT

Yesterday, the Rails team released 2.3.4, which includes standardized way for loading seed data into your application so that you didn’t have to clutter your database migrations.

I noticed a few comments on some blogs where people were asking how to use this new feature, so here is a quick runthrough a few ways that you can use it.

Populating Seed Data Approaches

The db/seeds.rb file is your playground. We’ve been evolving our seed file on a new project and it’s been great at allowing us to populate a really large data. Here are a few approaches that we’ve taken to diversify our data so that when we’re working on UI, we can have some diversified content.

Basic example

Any code that add to db/seeds.rb is going to executed when you run rake db:seed. You can do something as simple as:

# db/seeds.rb

Article.create(:title => 'My article title', :body => 'Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit')

Just create database records like you would in your Rails application or in script/console. Simple enough, right? Let’s play with a few other approaches that we’ve begun to use.

Use the names of real people

We’re using the Octopi gem to connect to github, collect all the names of people that follow me there, and using their names to seed our development database.

@robby_on_github = Octopi::User.find('robbyrussell')

# add a bunch of semi-real users
@robby_on_github.followers.each do |follower|
  github_person = Octopi::User.find(follower)
  next if github_person.name.nil?

  # split their name in half... good enough (like the goonies)
  first_name = github_person.name.split(' ')[0]
  last_name = github_person.name.split(' ')[1]
  new_person = Person.create(:first_name => first_name, :last_name => last_name, :email => Faker::Internet.email,
                             :password => 'secret', :password_confirmation => 'secret',
                             :github_username => follower, :website_url => github_person.blog)
  # ...
end

We do this with a few sources (twitter, github, etc..) to pull in the names of real people. If you want to be part of my seed data, you might consider following me on Github. ;-)

Use Faker for Fake data

You may have noticed in the previous code sample, that I used Faker in that code. We are using this a bunch in our seed data file. With Faker, you can generate a ton of fake data really easy.

person.links.create(:title => Faker::Lorem.words(rand(7)+1).join(' ').capitalize,
                    :url => "http://#{Faker::Internet.domain_name}/",
                    :description => Faker::Lorem.sentences(rand(4)+1).join(' '))

We might toss something like that into a method so that we can do the following:

@people = Person.find(:all)

500.times do
  generate_link_for(@people.sort_by{rand}[0])
end

...and we’ll get 500 links added randomly across all of the people we added to our system. You can get fairly creative here.

For example, we might even wanted random amounts of comments added to our links.

def generate_link_for(person)
  link = person.links.create(:title => Faker::Lorem.words(rand(7)+1).join(' ').capitalize,
                             :url => "http://#{Faker::Internet.domain_name}/",
                             :description => Faker::Lorem.sentences(rand(4)+1).join(' '))

  # let's randomly add some comments...
  if link.valid?
    rand(5).times do
      link.comments.create(:person_id => @people.sort_by{rand}[0].id,
                           :body => Faker::Lorem.paragraph(rand(3)+1))
    end
  end
end

It’s not beautiful, but it gets the job done. It makes navigating around the application really easy so that we aren’t having to constantly input new data all the time. As mentioned, it really helps when we’re working on the UI.

Your ideas?

We’re trying a handful of various approaches to seed our database. If you have some fun ways of populating your development database with data, we’d love to hear about it.

Ch-ch-ch-changes at Planet Argon

Posted by Wed, 12 Aug 2009 23:31:00 GMT

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.

Slides from my Rails Underground 2009 talk

Posted by Fri, 24 Jul 2009 15:37:00 GMT

Hello from London!

Am currently enjoying the talks at Rails Underground 2009 in London and had the pleasure to be one of the first speakers at the conference. My talk covered a collection of what our team considers best practices. Best practices that aid in the successful launch of a web application and covered a few Rails-specific topics as well.

I’ll be sharing some posts in the coming week(s) that’ll expand on some of these topics as promised to the audience.

Since I covered a wide range of topics, I decided to share my slides online. They won’t provide as much context (as I’m not speaking as you’ll look at them), but they might hint at some of the topics that I covered. There was a guy video taping the talks… so I assume that a video of my talk will be posted online in the near future.

Until then… here are the slides

Older posts: 1 2 3 4 5 ... 13