Lowdown - our Rails Rumble '09 Application

by Sean Cribbs

The Walkthrough

The Problem and the Pitch

In April (2009), Paul and I started working very intensely with Cucumber. Our immediate reaction to the process was that it became clearer how to communicate features between each other and our clients, while still having something that directly relates to the code in the application; that is, your feature stories become living functional specifications. The downside was, it was hard initially to get the client to:

  1. See the value of writing feature stories
  2. Get involved in writing feature stories
  3. Understand the cost of implementing a story

While our app Lowdown doesn’t help with #1 directly, it does help with #2 and #3. It also puts the stories directly in front of the client, which is hard when they’re in plain text files in your source control. With Lowdown you can collaborate on the feature stories and discuss costs per-feature and per-milestone. We feel that prominently displaying the cost of each feature encourages the client to focus on the ones that are most important to them and deliver the best value, while sidelining “nice-to-have” or “personal-mission” features of lesser value.

Rails Rumble reflections

It was really exciting to do the Rails Rumble for the first time. These are some things that I feel contributed to our relative success:

Things that didn’t make it

These are a list of things that didn’t make it into the competition-ready app that we would have liked:

Going forward

The most interesting thing, besides the advance praise for our app despite its most glaring warts, is that this will likely become a small business. Most of the team intends to keep using and working on Lowdown in the future, and we want others to find it useful as well.

Here’s to new ventures and successful collaborations. Cheers!

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