Where are the Rails infrastructure support firms?

By Derek Bullet_white Posted in Development, Business Bullet_white Comments Comments

There are no formal documents to sign if you and your spouse decide to have children. You don’t have to sit through an accreditation class. There is no credit check. You don’t need a high school diploma. Procreation can even happen accidentally.

A baby is a lot like a Rails application: the problem is caring for it, not creating it.

Five years ago, the typical Rails stack was just a couple of pieces: Apache/Mongrel, Rails, and MySQL. While Rails is remarkably similar to its original form even today, the stack around it is dramatically more diverse. We’re deploying to automated infrastructures, using NoSQL databases, messaging systems, queuing systems, and more. With the increased complexity of web applications, I’m surprised we’re not seeing companies dedicated to 24/7 infrastructure support: it doesn’t matter where your app is hosted, they manage it.

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Apple's Hidden Genius

By Derek Bullet_white Comments Comments

James Duncan Davidson on support at the Apple Store:

…one of the secrets of Apple’s product design in the last decade has been the use of the data that these stores generate…it’s the data that’s generated at the Genius bar that fascinates me. This data, in aggregate, can tell Apple a lot about what machines break, how they break, and after how long in a much more direct way than what would come out of a third party service center.

While it’s speculation, it’s reassuring to think that much of Apple’s product polish comes from a close connection to customers and not just the vision of Steve Jobs/Jonathan Ive.

At Scout, we care a lot about this connection. However, most customers don’t provide feedback. To combat this, I’ll review the activity of our new customers each week. I’ll email them if I see a problem and make a note of any issues. Over time, taking care of these unreported issues adds up to a polished Scout experience.


Your Launch is Not an Event

By Andre Bullet_white Comments Comments

photo credit: Steven Depolo

Most entrepreneurial articles portray the product launch as an event. Sometimes the launch “event” goes well, sometimes it doesn’t. I think talking about the launch “event” misrepresents how most successful product launches actually work.

Your launch isn’t an event. Launching is a series of small validations, feedback from alpha and beta users, tweaks, course corrections, and more validations.

You don’t launch so much as become known to more people—people who’s reaction you can already predict based on the iterative feedback you’ve been getting all along.

Your launch isn’t an event, it’s a process.

Damage Being Done

The more we talk about launch as an event, the more we reinforce the notion that it’s a watershed moment. We’re doing damage to new entrepreneurs by setting unrealistic expectations. I would love to see fewer blog posts and Hacker News discussions about Techcrunch coverage on launch day—that’s just not what it’s about.

You Might be the Exception

Yes, you might be an unusual case. You may build something in secret, hone it to perfection, unveil it with a flurry of press releases and Techcrunch coverage, and be propelled to success and profitability.

But I wouldn’t bet on it.


Here's to the unsung developer heros

By Derek Bullet_white Posted in Development Bullet_white Comments Comments

We’re fascinated with complexity. Write an article about the enormously high throughput/disk space/concurrency your application pushes and people will read it. You’ll speak at conferences. People will follow you.

It’s fun talking about a complex system, but it can be tiring caring for one. I love Woz’s focus on efficiency when starting Apple:

It’s can you, Steve Wozniak, design the same computer – maybe it’s a Varian 620i – can you design it on paper with fewer chips than last month? Can you design it with 79 chips instead of 80 chips?

Here’s to the oft-ignored, seldom blogged-about, patch-commiting developer doing the dirty work, making the tools we already use more efficient a line at a time.


Why we don't schedule deployments during off-hours

By Derek Bullet_white Posted in Development Bullet_white Comments Comments

Years back, before Scout, I used to schedule deployments outside the regular workday. I didn’t give it much thought – it was what my consulting clients were used to. However, we changed that practice with Scout.

Many web applications, including Scout, have customers around the world. There isn’t a perfect time for a deployment. With that in mind, we started scheduling deployments when it’s best for us.

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5 Pillars of Rails Cluster Monitoring

By Derek Bullet_white Posted in Development Bullet_white Comments Comments

Photo by mollypop

My how you’ve grown! A couple of years ago your little Rails app was on a single server. Now you’re on a whole cluster – you’ve got web servers, database servers, HAProxy servers, and more. I’m so proud of you!

Monitoring your Rails cluster has gotten more difficult though, huh? When it comes to monitoring a cluster of servers, there are lots of options with overlapping features. Some products are open source, some aren’t. Some are hosted, some aren’t. At Scout, we’re very happy with our monitoring stack. We know a bit about monitoring, so what are we using under the hood to monitor our Rails/Sinatra cluster?

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