CueVox wins Twilio "Anything Goes, With a Twist!" Developer Contest

October 25, 2010
Written by
John Sheehan
Opinions expressed by Twilio contributors are their own

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Mackram Raydan
As one of our most popular use cases, we get a lot of contest entries for reminder services. However, we rarely get one written in Common Lisp. Mackram Raydan has changed that. Mackram is the founder of Cuevox, a simple appointment reminder for businesses. Mackram is also the winner of our “Anything Goes, With a Twist!” contest. Congratulations Mackram! You’ve won $100 in Twilio credit and a $250 Amazon gift card.

So how does one go about building a Twilio app with Common Lisp? We asked Mackram about his experiences.

What was in the inspiration for Cuevox?

MR: I wanted a startup but had little capital and very little chance of funding in the region of the world that I live in. So I set out to find an idea that I could build and sell. I wanted something whose value was immediately seen, something that either struck as a need or not. So I tried to focus on things that can have direct monetary impact. More importantly to me back then was my hope to depend on face-to-face communication and friends to make the first test pilots. Given that I wanted something that did required a spread out technology that anyone could test. Which is really why I focused on having something linked with Twilio because you’re linked with the telephone. So about 9 months ago when I missed my appointment with a friend I thought it I wish I had a way to remind me. Then later that week when I was in a clinic without an appointment I realized that it had value to these kind of businesses so I set out.

Currently things are in final beta as I finalize the payment processing for my clients. I am talking to several clients trying to build some general momentum around the idea so that people would start signing up.

How did you build Cuevox?

MR: Well the thing is I am in love with a programming language called Common Lisp. It is pretty obscure even though in age it is pretty old. Personally I did not find it until about 2 years ago but it just fit my mind and I wanted to write in it. Doing my own product was the perfect opportunity. I did not have to justify its syntax or argue about whether libraries exist or not, or need other developers. So using Common Lisp (SBCL version to be exact) and MySQL and lots of jQuery I built Cuevox. The experience has both been enlightening and sometimes very annoying. The most interesting thing was the speed by which I could add functionality and weave complexity into my functions without having to really worry about it. The annoying things were maneuvering around the gaps in documentation between the interaction of lisp and the database. By the end of it though I spend more time now in Common Lisp then I ever did and I practically live inside Emacs (since that is what I use to develop LISP: emacs+slime)

The experience started out beautiful, turned horrible and then beautiful again. To make things easy for me I wrote a quick library to work with Twilio pretty much like your libraries. Getting Lisp to talk with Twilio services was a breeze. It took about an hour from start to the stage I have the library in today and by the end of it I could send out an SMS which was very cool. The horror happened much later though when I tried to make phone calls. The errors were cryptic to me I just could not get around them. Lisp would send the xml to Twilio but for some reason Twilio did not accept it as valid TwiML. Later of course I realized the errors were silly. Since I wrote the whole thing in Lisp and only at the lowest levels change to xml, it did not cross my mind that Twilio was case sensitive to the attributes names while I simply sent everything as lower case it letters. I tell you I truly felt a duh moment.

How did you get started with Twilio?

MR: Cuevox was the first project I ever did in Twilio. I think I had “stumbledupon” Twilio and it stuck in my head until I found the idea of Cuevox and that is when I started.

We’re smack dab in the middle of our Twilio + PayPal contest. The entry deadline is Sunday October 31st at 11:59pm PT. The best integration of Twilio and PayPal’s Adapative Payments API could win $100 in Twilio credit, a $250 Amazon gift card AND a $200 Visa gift card, courtesy of PayPal. Payments is an integral part of any application and using PayPal’s API you can create powerful payment solutions for your customers.

Also, a reminder that we’ll be hanging out at the hackathon this Tuesday and Wednesday at PayPalX Innovate. Participants in the hackathon will have a chance to win some great prizes in addition to qualifying for our developer contest if they integrate Twilio as well.