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Nick Plante

Dr. Dobb's Bloggers

A Startup In A Weekend

October 21, 2010

This is the fourth year I've helped organize the annual weekend-long Ruby on Rails developer competition known as the Rails Rumble. Every year it gets bigger, the ideas get more ambitious, and the entries become more polished and professional. The purported purpose of the event is to show what a small team of talented techies can do under a tight time budget with their toolchain of choice, and it's a great way to demonstrate the productivity gains that the Rails ecosystem is known for. However, it's real purpose (sssshh!) is to give entrepreneurial developers an excuse to bring a new idea to life.

The Rumble is a case study that building a startup or a hobby app doesn't have to be a huge commitment. It's certainly possible to do this part, time, on the side, or hey, maybe even in a weekend (or a couple weekends). Part of what makes the web great is that we can test ideas so quickly, and then turn around and iterate, or throw everything away and start fresh. As infrastructure costs quickly approach zero and drop-in services like Chargify, Tropo, Sendgrid, SimpleGeo, Twilio, and Zencoder do more and more of the generic (but often non-trivial) plumbing pieces of our app workflow, it occurs to me that the only significant cost to bringing an idea to life is the developer effort. Fortunately (and I'm making an assumption here about the average DDJ reader), we're developers, so we don't have to pay for that.

The folks competing in an event like the Rumble -- or like Django Dash, Node Knockout, or any of the other similar innovation competitions -- have taken these things to heart. And they've once again used them to build some pretty impressive new applications. If you have a few free moments tonight, tomorrow, or Saturday, check out the list of finalists that have just been announced.

Public voting is open until Saturday evening, and we could really use DDJ readers' help in choosing the best of the best. Even if you decide not to vote, maybe it'll at least inspire you to take a weekend off from the daily routine and crank out your own 48-hour mini-app. And who knows where it might go from there?

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