Registration Oct 6 — 12 Competition Oct 18 — 19 Judging Oct 20 — 24

Partnering with 5by5's Ruby on Rails Podcast

Sep 04, 2014

We’re extremely excited to announce that we’ve partnered with 5by5’s Ruby on Rails Podcast, to bring you a whole heaping ton of shows with past winners, future winners, and co-runners of the Rails Rumble. We’d like to thank Sean Devine, the slick speaking, silver tongued genius, behind the Ruby on Rails Podcast, for making this possible. That man can talk!

The first show from the series is up and it’s a behind the scenes interview with the co-runners of the Rails Rumble, Tom and Nick Mango. Stream it from their site, or subscribe and download it on iTunes or RSS.

Thanks again to Sean and 5by5!

Tips for Competing Solo

Aug 19, 2014

In our continuing tradition of asking past winners to write something about what it takes to build a winning app in 48 hours, we’ve asked Kelli Shaver, the 2013 Solo Winner, to give us some insight on competing solo. Gather ‘round!

A few days ago, Nick contacted me and asked if I would write an article about what it’s like to complete in Rails Rumble when going solo, if I had any tips I could offer, and what sorts of insights I had gained about going it alone for a 48hr programming competition. I’ve been participating in Rails Rumble for many years, both individually and on teams. For last year’s Rumble, I created Itemize (, which won the solo entry category and competing solo definitely has a different feel than participating as part of a larger team.

Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years that I hope will be helpful for all participants, but especially for solo competitors.

Be Laser Focused

You’re one person and you only have 48 hours. Accept the fact now that you won’t be able to turn out an app of the same scale as a 4-person team. That’s perfectly OK. No one expects you to build the next Facebook in one weekend. Instead, focus on perfecting a singular idea and really driving home the execution. Your goal should be a small app that does one thing very well.

Of course, to be this focused, you need an idea that’s simple and easy to communicate. I started making lists of ideas quite a while before the competition. About a month before time to code, I went through that list and narrowed down the ideas. If I couldn’t explain what I wanted the app to do in one sentence, it wasn’t a good fit. Sure, maybe the idea would have been simple, but if I couldn’t communicate it concisely, I couldn’t build it in 48 hours. In the end, “simple invoicing for small jobs” won out over “an app that allows you to upload video files and images for….”

Plan for Atomic Features

Start planning the features you want to include in your app as early as possible. The more time you have to plan and prepare, the better. Once you have your features outlined, take a good hard look at the list.

But don’t start cutting out features! Instead, start a whole new list and add in only the core features you need as you get to them. Plan to build your app in layers, with the most vital pieces first and rest only as you have time.

The goal here is to layer on functionality so that you could theoretically stop after the addition of any feature and have a functional, polished application - even if the feature set is limited. This will let you stop development at any time without having to worry about broken links, half-baked functionality, or unfinished pages. Maybe you didn’t get to implement Feature X that you really wanted to include, but the beauty of this approach is that no one else will know that Feature X was ever in the cards.

Use Open Source Sensibly

We all know how useful open source libraries, gems, and plug-ins can be, but when you’re working alone and only have two days to build your app from concept to completion, this is especially important. While you’re doing all of that planning, take some time to track down and compile a list of the gems, libraries, and resources you can leverage to build your app.

Remember, you can’t write any code ahead of time or re-use code you’ve written previously, but you can certainly take some time beforehand to learn how to use a gem, or test out an API, or read documentation. It’s best not to go into the competition relying heavily on a library you’ve never used before and are unfamiliar with. do your research ahead of time and develop a plan for how you will use open source code in your application.

Your Health Is Important

It’s tempting to go into a 48 hour competition with plans of not sleeping and consuming large quantities of Mt. Dew and Funyuns to fuel your 2-day codeathon. I’ll admit, when I first started Rails Rumble, I could do that, but these days, it’s simply not an option.

Schedule sufficient sleep into your weekend. When I built Itemize, I probably only spent 34-36 of those 48 hours programming. The result was a much better application and a much more enjoyable experience on my part. Frustration due to over-tiredness can ruin the entire weekend.

Diet also has a big impact on mental and physical health. These days, I stock up on water, fruit, nuts, raw vegetables, and foods that I know won’t make me feel sluggish, tired, or uncomfortable. Save the pizza and beer for a Sunday night celebration of having made it through the weekend.

Get Involved in the Community

When soloing your build, it’s easy to feel isolated and far removed from the other competitors and what’s going on throughout the rest of the Rumble. There will be a lot of time over the weekend where you will need to be head-down in code, but whenever possible, poke your head up and look around.

Each year, the IRC channel is filled with people popping in to ask for help, encourage each other, and just joke around and have a good time between frantic periods of coding. Being a part of this really makes you feel connected to the community and it’s honestly one of the best things about the entire weekend. I’ve made some great connections and friends through the Rails Rumble IRC channel over the years.

Yes, we’re competing against each other, but there’s also a sort of shared camaraderie among a group of like-minded developers getting together to enjoy their craft and have fun building something they love over the course of a weekend. Take time to allow yourself to be a part of that.


I hope this gives you some insight into some of the unique qualities of doing Rails Rumble solo and how to get the most out of the weekend. Above all, remember that the goal of the competition is to celebrate the community and to have fun.

If you’d like some great general tips on building an app in 48 hours, check out last year’s great article by Darcy Laycock.

Good luck!

Bio: Kelli Shaver has been participating in Rails Rumble since 2007. She is the lead developer at and co-hosts a weekly tech podcast with Jonathan Stark, who she’ll be teaming up with for this year’s competition. You can find her on twitter @kellishaver.

`heroku create 2014-rails-rumble`

Jul 23, 2014

The most important goal for the future of the Rails Rumble is to give everyone the opportunity to build the best entry they can. So today we’re extremely happy to announce that we’ve partnered with the one and only Heroku to bring you the most amazing and accessible Rails Rumble ever!

The 2014 Rails Rumble will take place on the weekend of October 18th & 19th.

  • Registration: Oct. 6th - 12th
  • Competition: Oct. 18th - 19th

If you aren’t familiar with Heroku, they provide services and tools that let you focus on building apps, without worrying about infrastructure. You can have your app deployed in minutes and easily scale it to support millions of users. Give them a try by heading over to their site and creating a free account.

(In super cool announcer voice) But wait, there’s more!

Heroku Add-Ons

Many of our sponsors this year will be available during the competition, free of charge, using Heroku’s ridiculously powerful add-on system.

Over the coming months, we’ll be announcing even more sponsors (in addition to Heroku, GitHub, Codebase, Sirportly, Deploy, and Sprintly - Thanks!), so if you have a product or service that’d you’d like smart, young, intelligent, thoughtful, developers and designers, from around the world to check out, please let us know.

Re-Revamped Judging

While we’re continually amazed by the number of Rails Rumble entries each year, we’ve been struggling with new ways to keep judging fair and easy, but still improve the Top 10 Winners list. After listening to your feedback, we’re very happy to announce that the judging for this year’s Rumble will be in the hands of the community. If you ship an app, you’re going to be considered a judge!

Additionally, this year each team will see exactly how many points they get, privately in their team’s dashboard. We’ll also be improving the entry browsing interface to include more tools and filters, that let you more easily see which apps you’ve visited, and which apps you’ve yet to try.

Job Board

The last thing we’d like to announce is the Rails Rumble Job Board. If you’re looking for a job, or have an opening and want to support the Rails Rumble, please consider checking it out.


To stay up to date on everything happening with the rumble, you can follow @railsrumble on Twitter, subscribe to our RSS feed, or sign up for our newsletter.

We’re extremely excited about this year’s Rails Rumble and can’t wait to see what amazing things you all build on Heroku. See you soon!

- @tsmango

The 2013 Winners Have Been Announced!

Oct 25, 2013

The winners of 2013 Rails Rumble have been announced, so go check them out!

Winners will be receiving a number of awesome prizes from our sponsors, like gift certificates and free access to services (thanks, sponsors)!

Teams, you should now feel free to deploy any updates you have waiting in the wings. We’ll email you soon with a quick survey and details regarding your Linode server and GitHub repository (you’ll have both until the November 10th). And if you’re in the Top 10, or won the Best Solo or Public Favorite awards, you’ll also be hearing from us with details on how to get your prizes.

Thanks to all the expert judges, participants, and public voters, for taking part in the 2013 Rumble!

- @tsmango

Let The Judging Commence!

Oct 21, 2013

The judging portion of the 2013 Rails Rumble has officially started! Please take some time over the next three days (judging ends on October 24th at 23:59 UTC), to browse through the 200+ completed entries and pick your favorites. When you’re done finding the ones you like the best, go to the favorites section and get it down to your top ten, put them in order, and click the “finalize” button to lock in your picks!

Note: Competitors and public judges aren’t required to lock in their picks, but if they do, their top ten will appear on their profile page after the winners are announced.

As a public judge or competitor, you’ll be making your picks alongside our incredible panel of expert judges. Expert judges will be deciding the top 1 through 10 winners and who’ll be getting the “Best Solo” prize. Public judges and competitors will be determining who gets the “Public Favorite” prize.

Oh, you didn’t realize there were prizes? Well, there are. A ton!

Lastly, we urge you to leave feedback for the competitors. What did you love about their app? What didn’t you love? How can they make it better? How brilliant was their app? Competitors love feedback, so send it their way! And remember, treat everyone with the respect that they deserve. This is a hard competition!

Winners will be announced on October 25th, after we finish counting up the votes. See you then!

- @tsmango

Teams - You've Made It!

Oct 20, 2013

Congratulations, teams! You’ve made it to the end of the competition portion of the 2013 Rails Rumble!


  • Mark all verification steps in your team’s dashboard as completed to qualify for judging.
  • Do not deploy any new code or make any modifications to your server’s deploy directory or config files of any kind or you’ll be disqualified.

In about 24 hours, we’ll be opening the three day long judging portion of the competition. At that time, we’ll be revealing this year’s expert judges and you’ll be able to pick and finalize your own favorite entries, which will decide the public favorite award. We also strongly encourage you to leave feedback for other teams. Everyone put in a ton of hard work this weekend, so please take some time over the next few days, while you’re recuperating, to take a look at the other entries and let them know how they did.

As always, please email with any questions you may have.

Now go get some rest, you deserve it!

- @tsmango

It's Almost That Time!

Oct 18, 2013

There are only 6 hours left until the competition starts, so if you’re not ready to rumble, you best get ready!

And if you haven’t noticed, you can now see your Linode and GitHub access details from your team’s dashboard. Just visit, sign in via GitHub, click your account button at the top left, and then click “Team Dashboard”.

Please note that your Linode server can’t be booted until the competition starts and you aren’t allowed to push to your GitHub repository until then either.

Also note that you won’t have access to your GitHub repository yet, but you will have access once the competition starts. Again, don’t push to your repository until the competition starts. Also, don’t rename your repository or remove the post commit hook we’ve added.

You are welcome to sign into Linode and configure your server with a StackScript before the competition starts. To see our optional Rails Rumble StackScripts, check here.

Remember: We strongly urge you to not require account sign-ups or social media sign-ins for visitors to try your application. If you require user accounts, please use a Guest User Record style system instead.

May the odds be ever in your favor!

- @tsmango

Linode - Get Up & Running With StackScripts for 2013

Oct 16, 2013

Linode, our wonderful infrastructure sponsor that’ll be providing every team with a server during this year’s Rails Rumble, has a great feature called StackScripts. Simply said, StackScripts let you get a server up and running faster than fast. A StackScript can be as little as installing Ruby, or something much more involved that sets up and configures everything you need to run an app.

This year, we’re happy to announce that we’ve worked closely with Linode to produce a single, flexible StackScript that Rails Rumble competitors may optionally use for the competition.

The “2013 Rails Rumble - Official” StackScript

For the full instructions on how to use this StackScript, please check the wiki.

This StackScript will install and configure a number of basic standard packages, as well as Ruby 2, MySQL (Optional), Apache + Passenger (Optional), Git, and Memcached. It will also configure SSH deploy keys (that should be added to your GitHub repository’s deploy keys area), a deployment location, and a database.yml, for your Rails app.

When MySQL, Apache, and Passenger are optionally installed, this StackScript can be used in conjunction with a specific Capistrano deployment recipe, which we’ve provided in the complete instructions.

However, you may choose to not install MySQL, Apache, and Passenger, in which case all of the base packages and Ruby will still be installed and the various SSH keys necessary for deployments and the Rails Rumble verification system will be properly setup.

Either way, check out the complete instructions and decide if this is the StackScript for you!

Going Stack-less

The above StackScript is totally optional. You’re welcome to pick from any of Linode’s available distributions, roll up your sleeves and configure your server on your own. You can even use the 2012 StackScripts we released or a StackScript released by others, like this one by CookiesHQ. The only thing we ask is that you remember to add our public key so the Rails Rumble verification system can do its thing. You can do this by sshing into your server and running the following command as root:

mkdir -p ~/.ssh && curl >> ~/.ssh/authorized_keys && chmod 0644 ~/.ssh/authorized_keys

Linode Access & Configuration

Roughly 6 to 12 hours or so before the competition starts, we’ll make your Linode access details available in your team’s dashboard (sign into, click your account button on the top left, then click “Team Dashboard”). We’ll also email you to let you know those are available. Prior to the competition, you’re welcome to sign into Linode with the credentials we provide and configure your server using their management interface. However, you won’t be able to boot your server until the competition starts on October 19th at 00:00 UTC. To configure your Linode with one of our pre-made StackScripts above, check out these instructions.

GitHub Access & Deploy Keys

GitHub, our other awesome infrastructure sponsor, has a great feature called Organizations. Organizations is how we’ll be providing your team access to its private Rails Rumble repository. When the competition begins, you’ll have access to our Organization on GitHub’s site and your team’s repository will appear there — like magic! When the time comes, just sign into GitHub and click the account switching menu on the top left, then click into your team’s repository to get started.

There are a few rules regarding your GitHub repository:

  • Don’t push to your repository before the competition starts.
  • Don’t rename your repository.
  • Don’t remove our post-commit hook.

The StackScripts above will pre-generate a deploy key in /root/.ssh and configure your /root/.ssh/config to use that deploy key for You should add the public key at /root/.ssh/ to your GitHub repository’s Settings / Deploy Keys area once you get access to your GitHub repository.

It’s Almost Time!

We’ve very close to the start of the 2013 Rails Rumble and know how excited everyone is to get going. And while we hope that your team’s planning is already complete and that you’ll be spending the next 60 hours centering your chi, we suspect you’ll be drinking way too much coffee and sketching endlessly on your whiteboards. It’s normal, don’t worry!

So, keep your eyes open for our emails and remember to make sure your teammates have accepted your invitations before the competition starts. Good luck!

- @tsmango

Looking for older posts? Why not browse the archive?