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Evan Farrar

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Rails 3.1 Hackfest NYC July 23rd

Pivotal Labs NYC is happy to host a day of the Rails 3.1 hackfest from 10am-8pm on Saturday July 23rd.

Our office is located in Union Square: 841 Broadway, 8th floor.

Ample food and drink will be provided, just bring your computers and yourselves. I'll be hacking all day on documentation patches.

Read more about the hackfest on the Rails Blog

Testing Service Integrations with Bash and cURL

One of the most important parts of testing a system is "finding a seam". Testing a whole system can be a foolhardy and unproductive first step. Find your seam, and begin spreading tests in each direction from it. External services almost always present us with an excellent and obvious seam. I was inspired to take testing my services more seriously after talking to pivots Jeff and Rachel about their recent work testing and developing Facebook integration for a client, and also after hearing from Paul Dix and reading his Rails Services book. Based on the words of Jeff, Rachel and Paul, I've drawn up the following strategy for testing services:

FasterCSV, Ruby 1.8, and Character Encodings

We had a bit of a head scratcher this week at the New York City office while working on Red Rover, a social directory for engaging students with their colleges and employees with their employer. We were trying to allow a CSV to be uploaded to the application, when it mysteriously failed to parse the CSV. We narrowed it down to being caused by a certain row with strangely encoded international characters (but not every row with them was a problem):

Fuentes,Jesús,"Cribbage, Chess, and Bridge Club",Treasurer

But another row with the same character with the same encoding would import fine:

Johnson,Lúisa,Dodgeball Club,President

Sending Text Messages with Twilio

I recently got the chance to use Twilio to connect college students to other people with their interests for Red Rover (a client of Pivotal). I've done SMS integrations over email before and considered it here; MMS2R is nice for that (and free of carrier charges) but Twilio sends and receives using a real phone number. Using Pat Nakajima's sms-rb I was able to quickly send out text messages:

require 'sms-rb'
SMS.twilio_id = "DE4DB33F"
SMS.twilio_secret = "ASDFGHJK123456"
SMS.twilio_phone = "+15555555555"
SMS.text("eat more cake", :to => "+13121234567")

By configuring Twilio to hit a URL in your rails app you can also receive messages easily:

class TextMessageParrotController < ApplicationController
  def parrot
    SMS.text("*SQUAWK* #{params[:body]} *SQUAWK*", :to => params[:from])

And it's as simple as that. Don't hesitate to try out Twilio. They give you an ample amount of SMS credit when you sign up — more than enough test messages to bootstrap any sort of SMS integration in your Rails application. It's a lot of fun!

Red Rover, by the way, is looking to hire some developers. It's a great company that is passionate about engaging students with their university and each other. Their technologies at work include Rails, Solr, rspec, SMS, hadoop, and RSS. But experience with Rails, knowledge of test driven development and great communication are what they are really hoping to have. I'd love to see folks in the New York City area who can come pair with us at pivotal, but working remotely is certainly possible too. Just shoot a mail to kevin < at > if you are interested.