Jan 15, 2009

Under the covers: BuyIndie

Although it's still not what I consider to be a finished website, BuyIndie had improved enough for me to go ahead and relaunch it. The previous version was pretty crusty and wasn't even close to a decent representation of what we could do. It had broken css, broken html, broken ruby code, and various outdated components. As an experiment, I thought it would be fun to list a few of the open source components we used to update the site this time around.


Out with Ferret in with Sphinx. Ferret had a ton of limitations but the most annoying was the inability for it to search for anything with special characters. Search for "Hank" and you got what you were looking for, but "Hank's" would yield nothing. Sphinx is way faster, it's more powerful, and there are several good plugins that you can use. We went with Thinking Sphinx For browsing, it's acts as attachment on steriods (also tailored).

GeoKit stays strong. When it comes to doing work with Google Maps, GeoKit is an excellent plugin. It was present in the last iteration of BuyIndie and remains in this one as well. Recently updated I believe so it's not dead by any means.

Some Technoweenie, please. Though both have been modified from their initial states, Attachment Fu and Restful Authentication make up the image and user handling parts of the site. They remain great plugins though I think in future projects I may go with some upcoming plugins such as Paperclip and Authlogic. Akismet, Redcloth and Open-ID also help with authenticating, formatting, and containing user input.

PDF Generation: If you send a list to somebody on BuyIndie, we generate a one page PDF so the recipient can easily print out the map/list and take it with them. We decided to go with Prawn for the PDF generation. Though it had some rough patches, it's now stabilized enough to make it worthwhile to use in production.

Ship It! The last time around I was on a private server.. this time I opted to go with Slicehost. So far so good there.

There's plenty of other gems mixed in, but hopefully the above gives you a small peek into what's going on under the covers!

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