Caley Woods Wins Our Twilio/DotCloud Contest With SOSMS

Last week, we held a developer contest with our friends at DotCloud. The requirements were simple: build something interesting using Twilio and deploy it on DotCloud. We had some great entries, but in the end both companies felt that Caley Woods’ SOSMS was the winner. Here’s what Caley had to say about his entry:

SOSMS was born after the May 22nd, 2011 EF5 tornado that tore apart Joplin, Missouri. I watched the news reports come in that afternoon and was stunned, I wanted to help and if I’d had any medical training beyond first aid and CPR I would’ve jumped in the car and drove down immediately (I’ve since been looking at taking a first responders training course). A few days afterwards I still wanted to help and began thinking about what could be done to alleviate the issues people had experienced going through this.

One big thing I heard was that the cell networks were very very spotty, you could send a message or two but you couldn’t get phone calls to go through and everything was congested. So I came up with SOSMS, the idea is that you sign up for an account ahead of time and define your contact group. Your contact group are likely friends and family whom you want notified in the event that you check-in with the app.

So if you add 6 contacts and check-in (by texting Safe to the number) SOSMS will notify your contacts via SMS that something has happened but you’re OK. This means your single text message can notify multiple people. During an event such as what happened in Joplin, this is invaluable that one message can have such an impact.

As a “tribute” to those in Joplin, I managed to buy the only (417) area code phone number from Joplin that was available.

How are things going?

Well, “launching” late last night on Dotcloud in a pretty barebones state I don’t really know yet. I’m only handling SMS notification to contacts right now but I have plans to expand this soon. It’s not even to a point yet where I’d call it an MVP but I believe that getting it deployed and iterating on feedback from testers will help drive the direction it should go.

Future plans?

I plan on updating the github readme soon to reflect what I feel is the current roadmap but here’s some of it:

  • Add voice support for contact notification (code is in there just need to tweak and hook it up)
  • Add email support for contact notification
  • Add welcome emails to users
  • Add notification emails that go out when someone adds you as a contact
  • Work on the design, I’m far from a designer. I think the site looks passable for now but could really use some love
  • I’m going TDD from here on out. I have a few (as in 2) tests right now. This needs greatly expanded on and I want tests to drive the design from this point on. All of the above items will be implemented using tests.

What tech are you using to build/support it?

  • Ruby 1.9.2
  • Rails 3.0.9
  • MySQL
  • Dotcloud Hosting
  • Haml/flutie/rdiscount
  • Testing with Rspec/Guard/Capybara/factory_girl

How did you get started developing with Twilio?

So back in November or so of 2010 I saw the prolific video of John Britton live coding at NY Tech Meetup and I was introduced to Twilio through that video. I wasn’t what I would classify as a developer then (maybe not even now?) so I just sort of put Twilio in the back of my head as something I’d like to use eventually.

After getting this idea for SOSMS I turned to Twilio immediately to handle all the telephony. I’ve only picked up web/web app development since the first of this year. I had some previous experience scripting and doing tiny utilities in C# but in February I jumped into a beginning rails class taught at Peer 2 Peer University (John Britton’s current endeavor) and I’ve been hacking away since then (shoutout to Andy Lindeman the instructor of the course).

So this should be proof positive that Twilio is simple when someone with next to zero web development skills 6 months ago can pickup some tools and integrate Twilio into something useful.