Blog / One Month and Eight Arms: Starting at Unboxed Consulting and Launching tentacl.es

August 21, 2012

Karlis, Shaban, Stefan and myself (Tom) have been taken on as part of Unboxed Consulting’s third internship programme. During our first few weeks we were given an introduction to Agile and Ruby on Rails.

The first week of training involved Agile and learning “The Unboxed Way” (taught by Richard Stobart). Afterwards, Chris Patuzzo took the Ruby and Ruby on Rails course. Our newly acquired knowledge enabled us to progress to a project of our own, which allowed us to put into practice what we had recently been taught. We also had a few days covering front-end development by Rob Pataki.

I managed to pick up Ruby easily and can appreciate its elegance after working with Java and C at university. Rails, on the other hand took a little more time to grasp. However, with just a chair’s scoot away are some great developers who are more than happy to help.

As for the project, tentacl.es, it is a directory to publicly list your social network accounts and help others to find you. Currently we have had our first release which shows the adorable Terry Tentacle asking for email addresses of those who are interested in the app.

The purpose of tentacl.es is to help others find you and your social networks and other contactable details. Say, for example, I have just met somebody new and wish to keep in touch with them. As a result of my unfortunately short memory, I can remember only their name and part of their email. No matter. I plug this into tentacl.es and it will find a unique match and show me their profile. From here I will be able to see all the different social networks they have linked with their tentacl.es profile.

Behind the scenes is the first beta release after four weeks of development. This will currently only support Facebook integration, but other services (such as Twitter, LinkedIn and OpenID) will soon follow. We are using the OmniAuth gem for social platforms in conjunction with Devise for authentication. We have also been using SOLR search implemented by Sunspot, which has been the major challenge in the project. Our scrum master on this project is Chris Carter, who has been at Unboxed Consulting during his industrial placement while studying Software Engineering at Imperial College.

There have been several tools used during this project: git and Pivotal Tracker are amongst those which were new to me. I have been picking up how these tools work quite quickly, however git remains a small challenge each day after only having revision control experience with SVN. Pivotal Tracker on the other hand has been great, and certainly helps to illustrate how the project is progressing. A post by Richard showing our workflow can be seen here. We also keep track of our stories on the office wall. A photo of this can be seen below.

tentacl.es story wall

Other tools we have utilised include Balsamiq Mockups for wireframes, Campfire for developer and project chat and iChat for individual messages. I have also been using Unboxed’s wiki which provides guidance for numerous occasions, for instance how to set up a project from scratch, or how to set up the development environment on your computer.

During the past month of training and development, I have picked up many invaluable skills in the working world. As a university student, I feel that the best way to increase my knowledge in the area is to get hands on: and that’s exactly what I’ve loved about working at Unboxed Consulting. I look forward to tackling my next challenging project!

TL;DR, working at Unboxed Consulting has been great fun and developing tentacl.es has been an encouraging start for RoR development.