JP Boily

Founder of Metrics Watch

Jack of all trade SaaS consultant (but mostly code, analytics & marketing)

October 17, 2012

Rails Rumble and Wizenews: idea and fails

October 17, 2012 - JP -  

As you might know, I worked with three guys on a hackaton last weekend: Rails Rumble. We had 48 hours to build an app. We had a lot of fun! That was my first real hackaton and most probably not the last one. Let's see how we did.

The idea

What I had in mind (when I was alone in the team) was:

  • import your Google Reader feeds
  • read your news (huh!)
  • be able to vote and comment on news, those votes and comments being public and seen by everyone for a single news item
  • have a "trending" section

That was not the initial plan, but a stripped version of the full idea. What we ended up building is something buggy, not really usable for me right now and missing the key features I want. Let's be honest!

The long-term idea would be to have a news aggregator smart enough to show me the news that I am interested in, the most popular, but also the most commented. A place where I could comment, vote up & down news too. It would make it easier to point to what's "important" for a user based on what topic he reads about. That could be in all feeds (public feeds) or filtered by the user's own feeds and categories. We could add a lot of stuff to that, but let's stop just here for now.

Where we failed

I think we failed at a few things, let's see where.

First, we wanted to create something that is way too big for a 48 hours time span, especially since we were not working full-time: we all slept full nights and some people in the team had other things planned before they joined the team. I did take time to take lunch with my wife, short lunches, but still. We did that for fun anyway, so that was fine.

We failed at planning. I knew that before because we had almost no time to plan, but it was worst than expected. I should have taken some time to test a few gems to make sure they were working as advertised, at least a few obscure ones.

Clearly, there is a ton of stuff missing. We need some real design and a smooth flow for the user. We failed hard at welcoming users: we didn't welcome them and explain them what is Wizenews. First, you should sign in if you are a Google Reader user!.

We also had a couple of last minute bugs too.

Fun & hope

All that said, I think we learned a lot (not that much technically) and we had a lot of fun building this incomplete prototype of what could become an awesome news aggregator.

We will continue to work on Wizenews and see where ta goes. You can try it now. If you do, we'll contact you as soon as we put something more usable online! :)