Voice based phone verification using twilio

In my previous blog post, I talked about how to do phone verification using SMS and now in this blog post I’m going to talk about how to do voice based phone verification using Twilio.


Let’s change the requirement a bit this time.

  • After the user signs up, send an SMS verification. If SMS verification goes well then use that phone number for future use.
  • But if the user’s phone number doesn’t support the SMS feature, then call on user’s phone number for the verification.
  • In the call, ask the user to press 1 from keypad to complete the verification. If that user presses the 1 key, then mark the phone number as verified.

Step 1: Make a call for phone verification

We already handled SMS verification, so let’s add call related changes in PhoneVerificationService class.

class PhoneVerificationService
  attr_reader :user, :verification_through


  def initialize options
    @user                 = User.find(options[:user_id])
    @verification_through = options[:verification_through] || VERIFICATION_THROUGH_SMS

  def process
    if verification_through == VERIFICATION_THROUGH_SMS


  def from
    #phone number given by twilio

  def to

  def body
    "Please reply with this code '#{user.phone_verification_code}'" <<
    "to verify your phone number"

  def send_sms
    Rails.logger.info "SMS: From: #{from} To: #{to} Body: \"#{body}\""

    twilio_client.account.messages.create ( from: from, to: to, body: body)

  def make_call
    Rails.logger.info "Call: From: #{from} To: #{to}"

    twilio_client.account.calls.create( from: from, to: to, url: callback_url)

  def perform_sms_verification
    rescue Twilio::REST::RequestError => e
      return make_call if e.message.include?('is not a mobile number')
      raise e.message

  def callback_url
      .phone_verifications_voice_url(host: Settings.app_host,
                                     verification_code: user.phone_verification_code)

  def twilio_client
    @twilio ||= Twilio::REST::Client.new(Settings.twilio_account_sid,

In PhoneVerificationService class we have added some major changes:

  1. We have defined one more attribute reader verification_through and in initialize method we have set it.
  2. We have created two new constants VERIFICATION_THROUGH_SMS & VERIFICATION_THROUGH_CALL.
  3. We have changed process method and now we check which verification process should be taken place based on verification_through attribute.
  4. We also have added new methods perform_sms_verification, make_call and callback_url.

Let’s go through these newly added methods.


In this method, first we try to send an SMS verification. If SMS verification fails with error message like ‘is not a mobile number’ then in the rescue block, we make a phone verification call or we raise the error.


In this method, we create an actual phone call and pass the all required info to twilio client object.


In this method, we set the callback_url which is required for Twilio for making a call. When we call the user for verification, our app needs to behave like a human and should ask to the user to press 1 to complete the verification (i.e. In the form of TwiML). This callback_url needs be to set in our app.

Step 2: Add voice action in phone verification controller

For callback_url, add route for voice action in config/routes.rb

post 'phone_verifications/voice' => 'phone_verifications#voice'

Add voice action and required code for it in PhoneVerificationsController.

class PhoneVerificationsController < ApplicationController
  skip_before_filter :verify_authenticity_token
  after_filter :set_header

  HUMAN_VOICE = 'alice'

  def voice
    verification_code = params[:verification_code]

    response = Twilio::TwiML::Response.new do |r|
      r.Gather numDigits: '1',
               action: "/phone_verifications/verify_from_voice?verification_code=#{verification_code}",
               method: 'post' do |g|

        g.Say 'Press 1 to verify your phone number.', voice: HUMAN_VOICE

    render_twiml response

  def verify_from_message
    user = get_user_for_phone_verification
    user.mark_phone_as_verified! if user

    render nothing: true


  def get_user_for_phone_verification
    phone_verification_code = params['Body'].try(:strip)
    phone_number            = params['From'].gsub('+1', '')

    condition = { phone_verification_code: phone_verification_code,
                  phone_number: phone_number }


  def set_header
    response.headers["Content-Type"] = "text/xml"

  def render_twiml(response)
    render text: response.text

In this voice method, we have set up the Twilio response. When a call is made to the user, this response will get converted into robotic human voice. render_twiml method which sets twilio response in text form is required for Twilio APIs. Set up the response header in the set_header method which gets called in after_filter method.

Step 3: Set request URL for voice phone verification in Twilio

In voice action method, we have setup the request url in the action key of Twilio response object, that also needs to be set in your Twilio account. So when, user replies back to the call query, Twilio will make a request to our app and adds its own some values as parameters to the request. Using those parameters we handle the actual phone verification in the app.

Open twilio account and under NUMBERS section/tab, click on your Twilio number. Then in Voice section, add request URL with HTTP POST method. Add URL like this.


We need Ngrok to expose local url to external world. Read more about it in my previous blog post.

Step 4: Add verify_from_voice action in phone verification controller

First add route for this action in config/routes.rb

post "phone_verifications/verify_from_voice" => "phone_verifications#verify_from_voice

Add this method, in your PhoneVerificationsController.

  def verify_from_voice
    response = Twilio::TwiML::Response.new do |r|
      if params['Digits'] == "1"
        user = get_user_for_phone_verification

        r.Say 'Thank you. Your phone number has been verified successfully.',
               voice: HUMAN_VOICE
        r.Say 'Sorry. Your phone number has not verified.',
               voice: HUMAN_VOICE

    render_twiml response

Modify private method get_user_for_phone_verification to support voice verification in PhoneVerificationsController.

  def get_user_for_phone_verification
    if params['Called'].present?
      phone_verification_code = params['verification_code']
      phone_number            = params['To']
      phone_verification_code = params['Body'].try(:strip)
      phone_number            = params['From']
    condition = { phone_verification_code: phone_verification_code,
                  phone_number: phone_number.gsub('+1', '') }


In the verify_from_voice method, we get parameters Digits, To & verification_code from Twilio request. Using these parameters, we search for user in the database. If we get the proper user then we mark user’s phone number as verified phone number.

Gotcha with after_commit callback in Rails

after_commit callback in Rails is triggered after the end of transaction.

For eg. I have a Post model for which the number of lines of the content are calculated in the after_commit callback:

class Post < ActiveRecord::Base
  after_commit :calculate_total_lines, if: -> (post) { post.previous_changes.include?(:content) }

  def calculate_total_lines
    update! total_lines: content.split("\n").length
post = Post.create! content: "Lets discuss Rails 5.\n", author: 'Prathamesh'
assert_equal 1, post.total_lines

Now lets wrap the creation of post inside a transaction block:

Post.transaction do
  post = Post.create! content: "Lets discuss Rails 5.\n", author: 'Prathamesh'
  assert_equal 1, post.total_lines

The test will fail now.

#   1) Failure:
# BugTest#test_within_transaction [after_commit_test.rb:45]:
# Expected: 1
#   Actual: nil

Why? Lets recall. after_commit callback will get executed after the end of transaction.

So until all the code inside transaction is completed, the callback is not going to get executed.

Here is a gist with complete test.

Next time you are using an after_commit callback and a transaction, make sure that code inside the transaction is not dependent on the result of the callback.

Blue border around JWPLAYER video

Latest versions of JWPlayer(6.9 onwards) adds blue border around the video when it is in focus.

JWPlayer blue border

This is because of the CSS class jwplayer-tab-focus.

The blue border around currently selected video allows to identify which instance of JWPlayer is in focus.

But with a single JWPlayer instance, it can be annoying.

To remove this blue border, we can override the default JWPlayer CSS as follows.

.jw-tab-focus:focus {
    outline: none;

To keep all the overridden CSS in once place, we can add this change in a separate file such as jwplayer_overrides.css.

Phone verification using SMS via Twilio

In this blog post, I’m going to show you how to do phone verification using SMS via Twilio. We will be using Twilio gem.


  • When a user signs up , we want to send an SMS to that user with a random string to verify user’s phone number.
  • If that user replies back with that code, then verify user’s phone number in the app. Once the phone number is verified, then we can use that phone number for future use.

Step 1: Create required columns in users table

Let’s create phone_number, phone_verification_code and phone_verified columns in the users table.

 $ bin/rails generate migration AddPhoneAttributesToUsers phone_number:string phone_verification_code:string phone_verified:boolean

Then run the migration.

Step 2: Add phone number field in registration form

Add phone_number field in the registration form.

  <%= f.text_field :phone_number %>

Step 3: Send an SMS with verification code

When a user submits registration form, we need to send SMS if phone number is present. To handle this, add following code in User model.

class User < ActiveRecord::Base
  scope :unverified_phones,  -> { where(phone_verified: false) }

  before_save :set_phone_attributes, if: :phone_verification_needed?
  after_save :send_sms_for_phone_verification, if: :phone_verification_needed?

  def mark_phone_as_verified!
    update!(phone_verified: true, phone_verification_code: nil)


  def set_phone_attributes
    self.phone_verified = false
    self.phone_verification_code = generate_phone_verification_code

    # removes all white spaces, hyphens, and parenthesis
    self.phone_number.gsub!(/[\s\-\(\)]+/, '')

  def send_sms_for_phone_verification
    PhoneVerificationService.new(user_id: id).process

  def generate_phone_verification_code
     verification_code = SecureRandom.hex(3)
    end while self.class.exists?(phone_verification_code: verification_code)


  def phone_verification_needed?
    phone_number.present? && phone_number_changed?

We have added 2 major changes in the user model,

  • set_phone_attributes method is set in before_save callback.
  • send_sms_for_phone_verification method is set in after_save callback.

In set_phone_attributes method, we are setting up the phone attributes mainly sanitizing phone number and generating unique phone verification code. In send_sms_for_phone_verification method, we send SMS to the user. Creation of SMS for the phone verification message is handled in PhoneVerificationService class.

class PhoneVerificationService
  attr_reader :user

  def initialize(options)
    @user = User.find(options[:user_id])

  def process


  def from
    # Add your twilio phone number (programmable phone number)

  def to
    # +1 is a country code for USA

  def body
    "Please reply with this code '#{user.phone_verification_code}' to
    verify your phone number"

  def twilio_client
    # Pass your twilio account sid and auth token
    @twilio ||= Twilio::REST::Client.new(Settings.twilio_account_sid,

  def send_sms
    Rails.logger.info "SMS: From: #{from} To: #{to} Body: \"#{body}\""

      from: from,
      to: to,
      body: body

In PhoneVerificationService class, we have defined user as an attribute reader and in initialize method, we have set the user object to it. Now if you see process method, it does lots of stuff for us.

Lets go through each method.

  • from - In this method, we set up the twilio phone number e.g. programmable number.
  • to - In this method, we set the phone number to which we want to send an SMS.
  • body - In this method, we build text message with verification code.
  • twilio_client - It creates twilio client based on twilio account sid and auth token.
  • send_sms - And last, it sends SMS to the user.

Step 4: Set request URL for phone verification in Twilio

As of now the system has the capability to send SMS to a user. Now we need to add capability to receive the SMS and to match the verification code.

First, we need to set up a request URL in Twilio account.

Open twilio account and under NUMBERS section/tab, click on your Twilio number. Then in Messaging section, add request URL with HTTP POST method. Add URL like this.


But to make it work, we need our Rails app on the public internet. There are two options for this:

  1. Deploy Rails app to your VPS or PaaS of choice.
  2. Use a tunneling service to take the server running on your development machine and make it available at an address on the public internet.

I’m going to use Ngrok tunneling service for the purpose of this blog. You can check this blog for more about its usage.

Step 5: Create phone verification controller

We need one more controller, which will handle phone verification when request comes from Twilio. When a user replies back with a verification code, it will trigger request URL through Twilio API. To handle that request, let’s add phone verifications controller.

  $ bin/rails generate controller phone_verifications

Add new route in config/routes.rb

post "phone_verifications/verify_from_message" => "phone_verifications#verify_from_message"

Add following code to the PhoneVerificationsController.

class PhoneVerificationsController < ApplicationController
  skip_before_action :verify_authenticity_token

  def verify_from_message
    user = get_user_for_phone_verification
    user.mark_phone_as_verified! if user

    render nothing: true


  def get_user_for_phone_verification
    phone_verification_code = params['Body'].try(:strip)
    phone_number            = params['From'].gsub('+1', '')

    condition = { phone_verification_code: phone_verification_code,
                  phone_number: phone_number }


In this controller, we added skip_before_action :verify_authenticity_token, this is because we need to allow twilio request in our Rails app which is actually an outside request (e.g. not secured request). This means we have disabled CSRF detection for this controller.

Now look at the verify_from_message method, in this method we take phone verification code and phone number from params hash. Using those data, we find the user from the database. Once we get the user, then we mark user’s phone number as a verified phone number.

Finally we are set to send business level text messages to the verified phone number.

This blog has more information about how to make secure twilio requests.

Author information in jekyll blog

BigBinary’s blog is powered by jekyll. In every blog we display author’s name, author’s twitter handle, author’s github id and author’s avatar. In this blog I’m going to discuss how we collect all that information in a simple manner.

We create a directory called _data in the root folder. This directory has a single file called authors.yml which in our case looks like this.

  name: Vipul
  avatar: http://bigbinary.com/assets/team/vipul.jpg
  github: vipulnsward
  twitter: vipulnsward
  name: Neeraj Singh
  avatar: http://bigbinary.com/assets/team/neeraj.jpg
  github: neerajdotname
  twitter: neerajdotname

We do not need to do anything to load authors.yml . It is automatically loaded by jekyll.

When we create a blog then the top of the blog looks like this.

layout: post
title: How to deploy jekyll site to heroku
categories: [Ruby]
author_github: neerajdotname

Notice the last line where we have put in the author’s github id. That’s the identifier we use to pull in author’s information.

In order to display author’s name we have following code in the layout.

<span class="author-name">
  {{ site.data.authors[page.author_github].name }}

Similary to display author’s twitter handle and github id we have following code.

<a href="www.twitter.com/{{site.data.authors[page.author_github].twitter}}">
  <i class="ico-twitter"></i>
<a href="www.github.com/{{site.data.authors[page.author_github].github}}">
  <i class="ico-github"></i>

Now the blog will display the author information and all this information is nicely centralized in one single file.

How to obtain current time from a different timezone in Selenium IDE using javascript

I had encountered a problem in one of our projects where it was required to obtain the current time from a different timezone and then use it. I am in IST (Indian Standard Timezone - 5.50) and was required to get the time in EST (Eastern Standard Timezone + 5.00)

These are the set of commands I used to achieve that.

Command : storeEval
Target  : var d = new Date();
          d.setTime(new Date( (d.getTime() + (d.getTimezoneOffset() * 60000))            + (3600000 * (-5) ) ));
Value   : timeEst

Command : echo
Target  : ${timeEst}
Value   :

storeEval command is used to store the value in the variable timeEst after evaluating the javascript code.

var d = new Date(); a new date object is created.

d.getTime() method returns the number of milliseconds between midnight of January 1, 1970 and the specified date (as is present in the variable “d”).

d.getTimezoneOffset() method returns the time difference between UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) time and local time from the variable “d”, in minutes. For example, If our time zone is GMT-5.50, -330 will be returned.

Since getTime() is in milliseconds and getTimezoneOffset() is in minutes; getTimezoneOffset() is multiplied with 60000 to make it into milliseconds.

The expression 3600000 * (- 5) is required to make the time from UTC to EST. The difference between UTC and EST is -5 hours. So, to make the hours to milliseconds we need to multiply with 3600000 (60 min x 60 sec x 1000 millisec).

d.setTime() method is used to set the time of variable “d” after evaluating the expression.

With the above, the variable “d” is set with the date and time of the EST time.

d.toLocaleTimeString() method returns the time portion of a Date object as a string, using locale conventions.

The time string obtained above is stored in the variable timeEst.

echo ${timeEst}, the time string is displayed in the console.

Using est time

Selenkum javascript EST time

Using est date

Selenkum javascript EST date

2014 - Year in Community Engagement

At BigBinary our team loves to engage with the community as well as help out in different ways. We love contributing to OpenSource, speak and attend different conferences, and help out in community meetups, organizing conferences, and events like RailsGirls .

Short summary

In year 2014 we presented at following 8 conferences across 6 countries.

  • RubyConf Goa, India
  • RubyConf Philippines
  • RedDotRubyConf Singapore
  • DeccanRubyConf Pune, India
  • Madion+Ruby Wisconsin, USA
  • RubyConf Brazil
  • RubyKaigi Tokyo, Japan
  • Golden Gate Ruby Conference San Francisco, USA

Rails and Ruby Conferences

At the start of our travel, we visited RubyConfIndia 2014. The conference took place at an amazing beach resort in Goa. The two days of conference were full of fun and interactions with the best ruby people around India. During the conference our team announced launch of Ruby India to help spread ideas and experiments from the Ruby Indian Community, as well as highlight content from people.

Soon after, I visited Philippines, to conduct a workshop on “Contributing to Rails” at RubyConf Philippines. It was amazing to meet the growing Philippines community. I was happy to spend time with some amazing Rubyists, like Nick Sutterer, Zachary Scott, Konstantin Hasse, Koichi Sasada San, PJ Hagerty, Andre Arko and so on.

After that I and Prathamesh went to Singapore to speak at RedDotRubyConf. We spoke on Arel and ActiveRecord. “RedDorRubyConf” was our first joint talk together at a conference. Again we met a lot of awesome people like Piotr Solnica, Grzegorz Witek, Yinquan Teo, Sayanee Basu, Chinmay Pendharkar and Winston Teo Yong Wei. We also visited Marina Sand Bay and Sentosa Island.

Back in Pune, we hosted the first ever DeccanRubyConf. Our team was busy working on tasks right from building the website, inviting speakers, planning, and other arrangements. The conference had good talks and some really useful workshops. it was a fun one day conference, with attendance of over 170+ people.

The conference also saw our team announce the launch of RubyIndia Podcast, which does regular podcast interviews with notable people from the Ruby Community and Indian Community.

Prathamesh and I, then left on around a one and a half month travel, to attend and speak at multiple conferences.

We started with Madison+Ruby, in Madison, WI. After several missed flights, and a storm, we visited our first US conference after a travel of 48 hours. MadisonRuby was a conference like no other. Several topics touched the humane side of Ruby and the community. We spoke on ‘Building an own ORM using ARel’. Set in the cultural town of Madison, we immensely enjoyed the cheese-curds, farmers markets and game night arranged by the Conf team. A huge thanks to Jim and Jennifer Remsik, for hosting such an amazing event. Thanks also to Scott Ruttencutter for giving us space to work from his office and giving us a tour of the state capital.

We then visited Sao Paulo, Brazil for RubyConf Brazil and presented a talk on Building an ORM using ARel. It was a pleasure to meet Fabio Akita and the CodeMiner team. We made friends with Celso Fernandes and Paulo who were kind enough to help us around, since in Brazil primarily portuguese is spoken. We also met Rafael Franca and Carlos Antonio da Silva who have helped us a lot with Rails issue tracker.

Next Prathamesh headed to RubyKaigi, being held in Tokyo, Japan. He presented on Fixtures in Rails. He met Matz, creator of Ruby on his first day in Japan. Mostly all the core Ruby contributors attended RubyKaigi. He got to interact with Koichi Sasada San, Jonan Scheffler, Akira Matsuda, Godfrey Chan, Richard Schneeman and lot of awesome Rubyists. He also met with his JRuby Core Tom Enebo for the first time. Thanks to Yasuo Honda, Michael Reinsch for helping with Japanese food.

From Brazil, I first visited Miami, and was happy to visit The Lab Miami, WynCode and interact with Rubyists from Miami.

Before heading to San Francisco, for GoGaRuco, I was able to make a quick stop in Boston and visit AlterConf Boston. The theme of the conference was around diversity in tech and gaming industry.

My latest conference was in the amazing city on San Francisco. I presented about ‘Building an ORM’, at GoGaRuCo, which incidentally was the last ever GoGaRuCo. The conference taking place in San Francisco, saw an amazing turnout of crowd. I was able to interact with Sarah Allen, Yehuda Katz, Pat Allen, Sarah Mei, Ryan Davis. I spent most of the time along with Nathan Long, Randy Coulman, and Nathan’s friend Michael Gundlach, who is the creator of popular plugin Adblock. I also ran into Chris Eppstein, creator of compass. All around it was one of the most amazing interactions I had in a conference.

2014, was an amazing year for our team. Together we presented or were part of 8 conferences, launched RubyIndia Newsletter as well as the RubyIndia Podcast, started with 6 new video series on topics from ReactJS to Rubymotion to Selenium, published numerous blogs, and contributed to a number of OpenSource projects.

2015, starts with our team presenting at GardenCityRuby Conf. We hope to get more such chances to interact and help out the community. Onwards to a new year!

Migrating existing session cookies while upgrading to Rails 4.1 and above

Rails 4.1 introduced JSON serialization for cookies. Earlier all the cookies were serialized using Marshal library of Ruby. The marshalling of cookies can be unsafe because of the possibility of remote code execution vulnerability. So the change to :json is welcoming.

The new applications created with Rails 4.1 or 4.2 have :json as the default cookies serializer.

rake rails:update used for upgrading existing Rails apps to new versions rightly changes the serializer to :json.

Rails.application.config.action_dispatch.cookies_serializer = :json

Deserialization error

However that change can introduce an issue in the application.

Consider a scenario where the cookies are being used for session storage. Like many normal Rails apps, the current_user_id is being stored into the session.

session[:user_id] = current_user_id

Before Rails 4.1 the cookie will be handled by Marshal serializer.

cookie = Marshal.dump(current_user_id) # 42 => "\x04\bi/"
Marshal.load(cookie) # "\x04\bi/" => "42"

After the upgrade the application will try to unserialize cookies using JSON which were serialized using Marshal.

JSON.parse cookie # Earlier dumped using Marshal
# JSON::ParserError: 757: unexpected token at i/'

So the deserialization of the existing cookies will fail and users will start getting errors.

Hybrid comes to rescue

To prevent this Rails provides with a hybrid serializer. The hybrid serializer deserializes marshalled cookies and stores them in JSON format for the next use. All the new cookies will be serialized in the JSON format. This gives happy path for migrating existing marshaled cookies to new Rails versions like 4.1 and 4.2.

To use this hybrid serializer, set cookies_serializer config as :hybrid as follows:

Rails.application.config.action_dispatch.cookies_serializer = :hybrid

After this, all the existing marshalled cookies will be migrated to :json format properly and in the future upgrade of Rails, you can safely change the config from :hybrid to :json which is the default and safe value of this config.

Rails Girls Pune 2014

The second edition of RailsGirls Pune event was an amazing day spent with some equally amazing folks. The event took place on 13th of December and it saw a huge turnout of around 150+ women from various colleges and companies. It was a free event for beginners interested in learning about coding and building applications using Ruby on Rails.

BigBinary was happy to be one of the sponsors of the event.

The event was organized by Rajashree Malvade, Shifa Khan, Pooja Salpekar, Dominika Stempniewicz, and Magdalena Sitarek.

BigBinary team reached the venue, ThoughtWorks office, Pune, at about 8.30 AM. Rajashree did the introductions and Gautam Rege, and I did the kick off. Gautam introduced Ruby, along with how magical Ruby is and the importance of the event. I spent some time explaining how RailsGirls began, as well as Rails Bridge and other similar events.

RailsGirls pune kick-off

Next all instructors were grouped together. Grouping was done in such a way that advanced instructors were paired with intermediate and beginner instructors.

The talented folks from ThoughtWorks had created a fun movie explaining the three different tracks - beginner, intermediate and advanced into which the students were divided.

I, Prathamesh and Richa Trivedi took to one of the advanced track groups. We started off by pairing people to work with their partner and did a health check of everyones’ system. Many of the participants in our group had 1-2 years of professional experience in Java, .Net and so forth. This meant they were quite familiar with setting up various things on their machine and that was a great help. We started with basics of ruby- variables, loops, blocks, each, methods, classes, etc. This took about 2 hours and then we started with Rails and MVC.

Santosh paired with Dinesh and participated in intermediate track of a group of four students. They started with basics of Ruby and later started to build simple blog app using Rails and deployed apps to Heroku by the end of the day.

At about 11.30, Siddhant Chothe from TechVision, did an inspiring talk about Web Accessibility, Wiable gem, and his journey in Ruby & Rails world.

Siddhant's session

Then We did the Bentobox activity. Participants were handed a page listing various aspects of software development like infrastructure, frontend, application, storage in boxes. We read out technologies like XML, JSON, AJAX, MongoDB, etc, and asked everyone to write these on stickies and place them in appropriate boxes on the “Bentobox”. This was helpful for the participants to understand what different technologies are related to web-development and where they are used.

Then everyone broke out for lunch. Our enthusiastic lot stayed back to avoid the rush, and began with Rails development. We started by explaining basic MVC concepts and how Rails helps as a framework. We started with a simple App, and created “pages/home” static home page. This helped our group to understand rails generators, routes, controllers and views. With our first page up and running, we went for lunch.

After lunch, a session on Origami was conducted by Nima Mankar. It was a good stress buster after all of the first session’s bombardment over the participants.

Origami session

Our next objective was to build an app and deploy it to heroku. Our group started out to build “The Cat App”! We began with explaining controllers, CRUD operations, parts of URL, REST, etc. We created a Cat model, and everyone loved the beauty and simplicity of migrations and performing create, update, delete, find using ActiveRecord. We quickly moved on to building CatsController and CRUD operations on the same. We made sure we did not use scaffold, so as to explain the underlying magic, instead of scaffold hiding it away.

Richa with our group

Other part of our group

Soon everyone had a functional App, and it was fun to introduce GorbyPuff as the star of our App, whose images were displayed as cat records, which store name of the image and url to an image.

We then setup the Apps on heroku and were ready for the next part- Showcase. It was amazing to see so many groups complete the Apps and come up with fun, interesting and quirky ideas. One student created Boyfriend Expense (Kharcha) Management App.

App showcase

The day ended on a high note amid high enthusiasm from all the participants. We finished the workshop with a huge cake for everyone.

Overall, it was well-organized, fun, enthusiastic and a day well spent.

Thanks to Rajshree, Shifa, Pooja, Dominika and Magdalena for organizing such an awesome event. Both Pune edition events, have shown great interest, and it has left us all looking forward for the next one!

DRYing up Rails Views with View Carriers and Services

Anyone who has done any Rails development knows that views gets complicated very fast. Lately we’ve been experimenting with Carriers ( also called view services ) to clean up views.

There are many already solutions already existing to this problem like Draper Gem , or Cells from Trailblazer architecture.

We wanted to start with simplest solution by making use of simple ruby objects that takes care of business logic away from views.

A complex view

Consider this user model

class User
  def super_admin?
    self.role == 'super_admin'

  def manager?
    self.role == 'manager'

Here we have a view that displays appropriate profile link and changes css class based on the role of the user.

<% if @user.super_admin? %>
  <%= link_to 'All Profiles', profiles_path %>
<% elsif @user.manager? %>
  <%= link_to 'Manager Profile', manager_profile_path %>
<% end %>

<h3 class="<%= if @user.manager?
               elsif @user.super_admin?
               end %>">

   Hello, <%= @user.name %>

Extracting logic to Rails helper

In the above case we can extract the logic from the view to a helper.

After the extraction the code might look like this

# app/helpers/users_helper.rb

module UsersHelper

  def class_for_user user
    if @user.manager?
    elsif @user.super_admin?


Now the view is much simpler.

<h3 class="<%= class_for_user(@user) %>">
   Hello, <%= @user.name %>

Why not to use Rails helpers?

Above solution worked. However in a large Rails application it will start creating problems.

UsersHelper is a module and it is mixed into ApplicationHelper. So if the Rails project has large number of helpers then all of them are mixed into the ApplicationHelper and sometimes there is a name collision. For example let’s say that there is another helper called ShowingHelper and this helper also has method class_for_user. Now ApplicationHelper is mixing in both modules UsersHelper and ShowingHelper. One of those methods will be overridden and we would not even know about it.

Another issue is that all the helpers are modules not classes. Because they are not classes it becomes difficult to refactor helpers later. If a module has 5 methods and if we refactor two of the methods into two separate methods then we end up with seven methods. Now out of those seven methods in the helper only five of them should be public and the rest two should be private. However since all the helpers are modules it is very hard to see which of them are public and which of them are private.

And lastly writing tests for helpers is possible but testing a module directly feel weird since most of the time we test a class.


Lets take a look at how we can extract the view logic using carriers.

class UserCarrier
  attr_reader :user

  def initialize user
    @user = user

  def user_message_style_class
    if user.manager?
    elsif user.super_admin?

In our controller

  class UserController < ApplicationController
    def show
      @user = User.find(params[:id])
      @user_carrier = UserCarrier.new @user

Now the view looks like this

<% if @user.super_admin? %>
  <%= link_to 'All Profiles', profiles_path %>
<% elsif @user.manager?%>
  <%= link_to 'Manager Profile', manager_profile_path %>
<% end %>

<h3 class="<%= @user_carrier.user_message_style_class %>">
  Hello, <%= @user.name %>

No html markup in the carriers

Even though carriers are used for presentation we stay away from having any html markup in our carriers. That is because once we open the door to having html markups in our carriers then carriers quickly get complicated and it becomes harder to test them.

Since carriers are plain ruby objects, there is no link_to and other helper methods usually. And we keep carriers that way. We do not do include ActionView::Helpers::UrlHelper because the job of the carrier is to present the data that can be used in link_to and complement the usage of link_to.

We believe that link_to belongs to the ERB file. However if we really need to have an abstraction over it then we can create a regular Rails helper method. We minimize usage of Rails helper, we do not avoid it altogether.

Overcoming Double Dots

Many times in our view we end up doing

  Email Preference for Tuesday: <%= @user.email_preferences.tuesday_preference %>

This is a violation of Law of Demeter . We call it “don’t use Double Dots”. Meaning don’t do @article.publisher.full_name.

Its just a matter of time before views code looks like this

  <%= @article.publisher.active.not_overdue.try(:full_name) %>

Since carriers encapsulate objects into classes, we can overcome this “double dots” issue by delegating behavior to appropriate object.

class UserCarrier
  attr_reader :user :email_preferences

  delegate :tuesday_preference, to: :email_preferences

  def initialize user
    @user = user
    @email_preferences = user.email_preferences


After that refactoring we end up with cleaner views like.

  Email Preference for Tuesday: <%= @user_carrier.tuesday_preference %>

Note that “Double dot” is allowed at other parts of the code. We do not allow it in views.


Since the carriers are simple ruby objects it’s easy to test them.

require 'test_helper'

class UserCarrierTest < ActiveSupport::TestCase
  fixture :users

  def setup
    manager = users(:manager)
    @user_carrier = UserCarrier.new manager

  def test_css_class_returned_for_manager
    assert_equal 'hidden', @user_carrier.user_message_style_class



Carriers allow us to encapsulate complex business logic in simple ruby objects.

This helps us achieve clearer separation of concern, clean up our views and avoid skewed and complex views. Our views are free of “double dots” and we end up with simple tests which are easy to maintain.

We decided to call it a “carrier” and not “presenter” because the word “presenter” is overloaded and has many meanings.

We at BigBinary take a similar approach for extracting code from a fat controller or a fat model. You can find out more about it here.

Make Outbound Calls From the Browser to Phone using Twilio and Rails

In this blog post we will see how to make outbound phone calls from the browser to a phone using Twilio . We will make use of the Twilio-JS library and Twilio-Ruby gem.

The Rails App we will be creating, is based on the Twilio Client Quick-start tutorial. That Twilio tutorial makes use of Sinatra. We will see how we can achieve this in a Rails application.

Step 1 - Setup Twilio Credentials and TwiML App

We need to setup twilio credentials. We can find account ID and auth token from our account information.

When the call is made using browser then the phone that is receiving the call has to see a number from which the call is coming. So now we need to setup a Twilio verified number. This number will be used to place the outgoing calls from. How to setup a verified number can be found here.

When our app make a call from the browser using twilio-js client, Twilio first creates a new call connection from our Browser to Twilio. It then sends a request back to our server to get information about what to do next. We can respond by asking twilio to call a number, say something to the person after a call is connected, record a call etc.

Sending of this instructions is controlled by setting up a TwiML application. This application provides information about the end point on our server, where twilio should send the request to fetch instructions. TwiML is a set of instructions, that we can use to tell Twilio what to do in different cases like when an outbound phone call is made or when an inbound SMS message is received.

Given below is an example that will say a short message How are you today? in a call.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
    <Say voice="woman">How are you today?</Say>

The TwiML app can be created here. Once the app is configured then we will get appsid.

We need to configure following information in our Rails Application:

  verified_number: <%= ENV['TWILIO_VERIFIED_NUMBER']%>
  account_sid: <%= ENV['TWILIO_ACCOUNT_SID'] %>
  auth_token: <%= ENV['TWILIO_AUTH_TOKEN'] %>
  call_app_sid: <%= ENV['TWILIO_CALL_APP_SID'] %>

Step 2 - Generate capability token to be used by twilio-js

After we have the config setup, we will proceed to create the capability token. This token will be generated using the ruby gem, and passed to the javascript SDK. The token helps the twilio-js client determine, what permissions the application has like making calls, accepting calls, sending SMS, etc.

We define a TwilioTokenGeneratorService for this purpose.

class TwilioTokenGeneratorService

  def process
    capability = twilio_capability()


  def twilio_capability
    capability ||= Twilio::Util::Capability.new Settings.twilio.account_sid, Settings.twilio.auth_token
    capability.allow_client_outgoing Settings.twilio.call_app_sid


As you can see, we first define a new Twilio::Util::Capability instance and pass credentials to it. We then call allow_client_outgoing method and pass the client Sid to it. This is the identifier for the TwiML application we have previously created on Twilio. Calling allow_client_outgoing gives permission to the client to make outbound calls from Twilio. Finally we call the generate method to create a token from the capability object.

Step 3 - Define view elements and pass token to it

The generated token will now be passed to the Twilio JS client for connecting with Twilio. In our App we define CallsController, and index action in this controller. This action takes care of setting the capability token. Our index view consists of two buttons- to place and hangup a call, a number input field, call logs, and data field to pass capability token to the javascript bindings. We import the Twilio-JS library in the view. The css styling being used is from the Twilio example.

<div id="twilioToken" data-token="<%= @twilio_token %>"></div>

<button id="caller" class="call">Call</button>
<button id="hangup" class="hangup">Hangup</button>

<input type="text" id="phoneNumber" placeholder="Enter a phone number to call"/>

<div id="log">Loading pigeons...</div>

<script type="text/javascript" src="//static.twilio.com/libs/twiliojs/1.2/twilio.min.js"></script>

Step 4 - Define coffeescript bindings to handle TwilioDevice connection to Twilio

Next we setup coffeescript bindings to handle initialization of TwilioDevice and making use of entered number to place calls Twilio. We are taking care of various events like connect, disconnect, ready, etc. on TwilioDevice instance. More information about TwilioDevice usage can be found here.

class TwilioDevice
  constructor: ->

  initTwilioDeviceBindings: ->
    twilio_token = $('#twilioToken').data('token')
    twilio_device = Twilio.Device

    # Create the Client with a Capability Token
    twilio_device.setup(twilio_token, {debug: true});

    #/* Let us know when the client is ready. */
    twilio_device.ready ->

    #/* Report any errors on the screen */
    twilio_device.error (error) ->
      $("#log").text("Error: " + error.message)

    #/* Log a message when a call connects. */
    twilio_device.connect (conn) ->
      $("#log").text("Successfully established call")

    #/* Log a message when a call disconnects. */
    twilio_device.disconnect (conn) ->
      $("#log").text("Call ended")

  initFormBindings: ->
    $('#caller').bind "click", (event) ->
      params = {"phone_number": $('#phoneNumber').val()}

    $('#hangup').bind "click", (event) ->

$ ->
  new TwilioDevice()

If we now load this page, we should be able to see our app saying its ready to take calls.

Twilio Rails App Ready

Step 5 - Define TwiML Response Generator Service

The final step before we place calls from our App is to handle callbacks from Twilio and return TwiML response. For this we are going to define TwilioCallTwiMLGeneratorService which takes care of generating this response. More information about how we need to define the response and individual fields can be found from Twilio’s docs.

What we need to define is a response as below:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
  <Dial callerId="+15005550000">

We are making use of two elements here - Dial, which makes Twilio place a call using defined callerId value, as the number from which the call is made, which is displayed on the callee’s phone. Note that this is the same verified number that we had specified before. Then we specify Number which is the number, to which we want to place the call to. This number is passed first by the javascript client to Twilio, and then back to our application by Twilio, which we use to generate the response as above.

We define our TwilioCallTwiMLGeneratorService to take in a phone number as parameter. It creates an instance of Twilio::TwiML::Response and tapping on this instance we provide Dial element with a :callerId value, and the Number to place the call to. We validate the number before passing it back, and return an error if the number is invalid.

class TwilioCallTwiMLGeneratorService
  attr_reader :phone_number
  VALID_PHONE_NUMBER_REGEX = /^[\d\+\-\(\) ]+$/ # Matches valid phone numbers acceptable to Twilio

  def initialize phone_number
    @phone_number = phone_number

  def process
    Twilio::TwiML::Response.new do |r|
      if VALID_PHONE_NUMBER_REGEX.match(phone_number)
        r.Dial :callerId => Settings.twilio.verified_number do |d| # callerId is number from which call is made.
          d.Number(CGI::escapeHTML phone_number) # The number to call
        r.Error("Invalid number!")


Step 6 - Send TwiML response on Twilio callback

We are now set to define twilio’s callback handler. This will be handled by the create_call action in CallsController. Twilio will be sending this endpoint a POST request along with some information specified here. We make use of phone_number being passed to us by Twilio and pass it along to the TwilioCallTwiMLGeneratorService, which return us with valid TwiML response. Since TwiML is a flavor of XML, we make using render xml to return the response.

def create_call
  response_to_twilio_callback = TwilioCallTwiMLGeneratorService.new(call_params[:phone_number]).process
  render xml: response_to_twilio_callback

def call_params

As create_call endpoint will be used by Twilio API, we need to skip authenticity token check for this action.

class CallsController < ApplicationController
  skip_before_action :verify_authenticity_token, only: [:create_call]

Finally we need to specify the callback url in our TwiML App on Twilio. For testing this locally, we can make use of a service like https://ngrok.com/, to expose this endpoint.

Twilio TwiML App setting

Our service is now ready to place calls. The complete Rails application code that we have created can be found here.

Happy calling everyone!

Tricks and Tips for using Fixtures effectively in Rails

Recently I gave a talk at RubyKaigi 2014 about Rails fixtures. In this blog post I will be discussing some of the tips and tricks for using fixtures effectively.

You can also the see the video of this talk here.

Don’t use ids.. unless required

In fixtures, we can specify id of a fixture.

  id: 1
  email: john@example.com

I would recommend not to specify the id. Rails generates the id automatically if we don’t explicitly specify it. Moreover there are a few more advantages of not specifying the id.

Stable ids for every fixture.

Rails will generate the id based on key name. It will ensure that the id is unique for every fixture. It can also generate ids for uuid primary keys.

Labeled references for associations like belongs_to, has_many.

Lets say we have a users table. And a user has many cars.

Car ferrari belongs to john. So we have mentioned user_id as 1.

  name: ferrari
  make: 2014
  user_id: 1

When I’m looking at cars.yml I see user_id as 1. But now I to lookup to see which user has id as 1.

Here is another implementation.

  name: john
  email: john@example.com

  name: ferrari
  make: 2014
  user: john

Notice that I no longer specify user_id for John. I have mentioned name. And now I can reference that name in cars.yml to mention that ferrari belongs to john.

How to set a value to nil from fixture

Let’s say that I have a boolean column which is false by default. But for an edge case, I want it to be nil. I can obviously mutate the data generated by fixture before testing. However I can achieve this in fixtures also.

Specify null to make the value nil

require 'yaml'
YAML.load "--- \n:private: null\n")
=> {:private=>nil}

As you can see above if the value is null then YAML will treat it as nil.

  name: john
  email: john@example.com
  private: null

Leave the value blank to make the value nil

require 'yaml'
YAML.load "--- \n:private: \n")
=> {:private=>nil}

As you can see above if the value is blank then YAML will treat it as nil.

  name: john
  email: john@example.com

When model name and table name does not match

Generally in Rails, the model name and table name follow a strict convention. Post model will have table name posts. Using this convention, the fixture file for Post models is obviously fixtures/posts.yml.

But sometimes models do not match directly with the table name. This could be because of legacy reason or because of namespacing of models. In such cases automatic detection of fixture files becomes difficult.

Rails provides set_fixture_class method for this purpose. This is a class method which accepts a hash where key should be name of the fixture or relative path to fixture file and value should be model class.

I can use this method inside test_helper.rb in any class inheriting from ActiveSupport::TestCase.

# test_helper.rb
class ActiveSupport::TestCase

  # table name is "morning_appts". It is being mapped to model "MorningAppointment".
  self.set_fixture_class morning_appts: MorningAppointment

  # in this case fixture is namespaced
  self.set_fixture_class '/legacy/users' => User

  # in this case the model is namespaced.
  self.set_fixture_class outdoor_games: Legacy::OutdoorGame

values interpolation using $LABEL

Rails provides many ways to keep our fixtures DRY. Label interpolation is one of them. It allows the use of key of fixture as a value in the fixture. For example:

  name: john
  email: john@example.com


  name: $LABEL
  email: john@example.com

$LABEL is not a global variable here. Its just a placeholder. $LABEL is replaced by the key of the fixture. And as discussed earlier the key of the fixture in this case is john. So $LABLE has value john.

Before this PR, I could only use this feature if the value is exactly $LABEL. So if the email is john@example.com I could not use the $LABEL@example.com. But after this PR, I can $LABEL anywhere in the string, and Rails will replace it with the key.

So the earlier example becomes:

  name: $LABEL
  email: $LABEL@example.com

YAML defaults

I use YAML defaults in database.yml for drying it up and keeping common configuration at one place.

defaults: &defaults
  adapter: postgresql
  encoding: utf8
  pool: 5
  host: localhost

  <<: *defaults
  database: wheel_development

  <<: *defaults
  database: wheel_test

  <<: *defaults
  database: wheel_production

I can use it for drying up fixtures too for extracting common part in our fixtures.

  company: BigBinary
  website: bigbinary.com
  blog: blog.bigbinary.com

  name: John Smith
  email: john@bigbinary.com

  name: Prathamesh Sonpatki
  email: prathamesh@bigbinary.com

Note the usage of key DEFAULTS for defining default fixture. Rails will automatically ignore any fixture with key DEFAULTS.

If we use any other key then a record with that key will also get inserted in the database.

Database specific tricks

Fixtures bypass the normal Active Record object creation process. After reading them from YAML file, they are inserted into database directly using insert query. So they skip callbacks and validations check. This also has an interesting side-effect which can be used for drying up fixtures.

Suppose we have fixture with timestamp:

  name: John Smith
  email: john@example.com
  last_active_at: <%= Time.now %>

If I are using PostgreSQL, I can replace the last_active_at value with now:

  name: John Smith
  email: john@example.com
  last_active_at: now

now is not a keyword here. It is just a string. The actual query looks like this:

("name", "email", "last_active_at", "id")
('John Smith', 'john@example.com', 'now',1144934)

So the value for last_active_at is still just now when the query is executed.

The magic starts as PostgreSQL starts reading the values. now is a shorthand for the current timestamp . As soon as Postgres reads it, it replaces now with the current timestamp and the column last_active_at gets populated with current timestamp.

I can also use the now() function instead of just now.

This function is available in PostgreSQL as well as MySQL. So the usage of now() works in both of these databases.

Selenium IDE - How I improved performance by reducing running time from 58 minutes to 15 minutes of selenium test

I wrote a bunch of selenium tests using Selenium IDE for a project. The selenium tests have proven to be very useful. However the tests take around 58 minutes to complete the full run.

Here are the specific steps I took which brought the running time to under 15 minutes.

Set to run at the maximum speed

Command Target Value
setSpeed 0

setSpeed command takes Target value in milliseconds. By setting the value to zero, I set the speed to maximum and the tests indeed ran fast. However, now I had lots of tests failing which were previously passing.

What happened.

In our tests real firefox browser is fired up and real elements are clicked. The application does make round trip to the rails server hosted on heroku.

By setting the selenium tests to the maximum speed the selenium tests started asserting for elements on the page even before the pages were fully loaded by the browser.

I needed sets of instructions using which I could tell selenium how long to wait for before asserting for elements.

Selenium provides a wonderful suite of commands which helped me fine tune the test run. Here I’m discussing some of those commands.


This command is used to tell selenium to wait until the specified element is visible on the page.

In the below mentioned case, the Selenium IDE will wait until the element css=#text-a is visible on the page.

Command Target Value
waitForVisible css=#text-a


This command is used to tell selenium to wait until a particular text is visible in the specified element.

In the case mentioned below, Selenium IDE will wait until the text violet is displayed in the element css=#text-a.

Command Target Value
waitForText css=#text-a violet

The difference between waitForVisible and waitForText is that waitForVisible waits until the specified element is visible on the page while waitForText waits until a particular text is visible in the specified element on the page.


This command is used to tell Selenium to wait until the specified element is displayed on the page.

In the below mentioned case, the Selenium IDE will wait until the element css=a.button is displayed on the page.

Command Target Value
waitForElementPresent css=a.button

waitForVisible and waitForElementPresent seem very similar. It seems both of these commands do the same thing. There is a subtle difference though.

waitForVisible waits until the specified element is visible. Visibility of an element is manipulated by the settings of CSS properties. For example using display none; one can make an element not be visible at all.

In contrast the command waitForElementPresent waits until the specified element is present on the page in the form of html markup. This command does not give consideration to css settings.


This command is used to tell Selenium to wait until the page is refreshed and the targeted element is displayed on the web page.

In the example mentioned below, the Selenium IDE will wait until the page is refreshed and the targeted element css=span.button is displayed on the page.

Command Target Value
refreshAndWait css=span.button


This command is used to tell selenium to wait until a particular button is clicked for submitting the form and the page starts reloading. The subsequent commands are paused until, the page is reloaded after the element is clicked on the page.

In the case mentioned below, Selenium IDE will wait until the page is reloaded after the specified element css=input#edit is clicked.

Command Target Value
clickAndWait css=input#edit

Selenium IDE commands used above and more are available at Selenium documentation .

DeccanRubyConf 2014. Hou De!


I attended it, enjoyed it and took part as a volunteer in Pune’s first RubyConf - DeccanRubyConf 2014. As Hou De (let it be) name said, event went in the same way.

The day before conference, in the morning Vipul (one of the event organizers) and I picked up our guest speaker Koichi Sasada from the Pune Airport. Koichi is a Ruby core member and works for Heroku. We welcomed him and went to Hyatt Regency hotel where the event is taking place. Our guest checked into hotel and then we decided to go for a lunch at Malaka Spice restaurant.

We reached there and Koichi told us that he wanted non-spicy food (Safe food). We ordered non spicy food, but food was still too spicy for Koichi. However we enjoyed the food and had very good discussion about the Ruby internals, concurrency-parallelism, debugging in Ruby, Japanese culture and the Indian culture.

koichi & vipul

After lunch, we dropped Koichi off at the hotel and we left for our home.

Next morning was the event day and I woke up early and went to the event place. As part of volunteering team, I and other volunteers had tasks like giving pens, badges, stickers, T-shirts and coupon for night party to the attendees.

Attendees had started to come in slowly. Some attendees asked me about T-shirt size as I wore one of the conference T-shirts and from my T-shirt’s size they decided their T-shirt size. It was a great experience meeting with different kind of people from around the India.

Keynote by Koichi kicked the event off and he talked about Ruby 2.1 features like,

  • Required keyword parameter,
  • Rational number literal,
  • def returns symbol of method name
  • Runtime new features (String#scrub, Binding#local_time and etc.)

Then he talked about performance improvements, Ruby 2.2 and how to speed up Ruby Interpreter . Click here for more details about his talk.



In between the talks, some new attendees had come for the conference who had not registered for the conference. They told me that they thought it’s a regular Pune’s local Ruby Meetup. There was some miss-understandings but they seemed interested in attending the event. I contacted Gautam as he was one of the organizers and told him about the issue.

Attendees kept coming till the afternoon.

After Koichi’s talk, two sections had opened. One for talks and other for the workshops. TDD workshop was conducted by Sidu Ponnappa. I saw lots of attendees in this workshop and heard that it went very well.


The next talk was on Requiem for a dream by Arnab Deka. He talked about various tips and tricks including using “Higher order functions and Concurrency” in Ruby and other programming languages like Clojure and Elixir.

After that, Rishi Jain talked about Game Development - The Ruby Way. He discussed how to build a game in Ruby using Gosu library . It was a very useful session for game developers. You can find out more about it here

Next talk was on Programming Ruby in Marathi by Ratnadeep Deshmane & his friend Aniket Awati. This was one of the best talks of the event. The way they used the similar words from Marathi for Ruby’s keywords and the examples made this talk remarkable. Their presentation style was nice too. Almost all attendees enjoyed this talk and they laughed a lot.

After this talk there was tea break for 15 minutes. Staffs from the Hyatt hotel were very helpful. There were serving tea and coffees to the attendees and overall did a good job of ensuring the the event cruised along smoothly. This is in sharp contrast to the service RubyConfIndia received from Lalit Resort.

After tea break, I didn’t get chance to attend other talks as attendees were still coming in and I was assisting them. But I heard almost all talks went very well.

In meantime, I was passing through main passage and I saw lighting talks board and decided to give lighting talk on my Ruby gem. Lighting talks is a short presentation that you can give about your achievement. You can also share your ideas and promote your library or any other projects.

Then we all had our lunch, lunch was good with lots of varieties with dessert.

After lunch I went for workshop on Deliver projects 30% faster, know your CSS by Aakash Dharmadhikari. Wanted to attend it fully, but some of the attendees had difficulties in internet connection, so I left the room to look into it.

Lightning talks were going to start so I took sometime to prepare for my presentation.

In the lighting talks, girls from Rails Girls Summer of Code, talked about their project and their progress on it. After that Prathamesh talked about RubyIndia.org and asked people to subscribe the newsletter. After that I gave talk on my Ruby gem RubySimpleSearch and you can find more on it here. The next speaker Rahul Mahale from Nashik asked people to help him in growing Ruby community in Nashik. All other lighting talks went very well.


After lighting talks, there was closing keynote On Solving Problems by Baishampayan Ghose. This talk made us think about how we write application in our daily routine. He talked about the architecture and he also explained the future is a function of past future = f(past). He also suggested that we should first understand the problem thoroughly and we should build the software. Talk was very informative and went very well.

After that Gautam came on to the stage and congratulated all the sponsors, organizers and volunteers. He also told that this event got large number of girls attendees than he had ever seen in any other conference.

After this event, there was party in Irish Village hotel. Me and my friends, we all went to the party. Party was superb and we all enjoyed it.


Thanks to all sponsors and organizers who made this event fun and enjoyable.

You can checkout more pictures of the conference from here.

Note: Photos are copyrighted by respective photo owners.

Flash access changes due to new serialization mechanism in Rails 4.1

Prior to upgrading to Rails 4.1 we had a helper to display flash messages and to add css class to the message based on flash type. Here is the code.

module FlashHelper
  ALERT_TYPES = [:success, :info, :warning, :danger]

  def bootstrap_flash
    flash_messages = []
    flash.each do |type, message|
      next if message.blank?

      type = :success if type == :notice
      type = :danger  if type == :alert
      type = :danger  if type == :error

      next unless ALERT_TYPES.include?(type)

      Array(message).each do |msg|
        text = content_tag(:div, msg.html_safe, :class => "alert fade in alert-#{type} ")
        flash_messages << text if msg

After upgrading to Rails 4.1, we started using the new Cookies serializer. Following code was added to an initializer.

  Rails.application.config.action_dispatch.cookies_serializer = :json

Soon after this our flash helper started misbehaving and all flash messages disappeared from the application.

JSON Cookies Serializer

Before we move ahead, a word on the new JSON Cookies Serializer. Applications created before Rails 4.1 uses Marshal to serialize cookie values into the signed and encrypted cookie jars.

Commits like this and this made it possible to have Cookies serializer and defaulted from Marshal Serializer to a secure Serializer using JSON.

The JSON Serializer works on JSON objects. Thus objects like Date and Time will be stored as strings. Hash keys will be stored as strings.

JSON serializer makes the application much safer since it is safer to pass around strings compare to passing around arbitrary values which is what was happens when values are marshalled and passed around.

Coming back to our problem, change Stringify the incoming hash in FlashHash coupled with above serialization changes meant that even if we put a symbol as a key in the flash we have to retrieve it as “string” since the keys are internally being converted into strings.

The difference is clearly illustrated below.

flash["string"] = "a string"
flash[:symbol] = "a symbol"

# Rails < 4.1
flash.keys # => ["string", :symbol]

# Rails >= 4.1
flash.keys # => ["string", "symbol"]


Now that we know the root cause of the problem the fix was simple. Instead of relying on symbols use “string” to access value from flash.

module BootstrapFlashHelper
  ALERT_TYPES = ['success', 'info', 'warning', 'danger']

  def bootstrap_flash
    flash_messages = []
    flash.each do |type, message|
      compare_type = type.to_s # Notice the stringifying of keys here, to make this work even with symbols.
      next if message.blank?

      compare_type = 'success' if compare_type == 'notice'
      compare_type = 'danger'  if compare_type == 'alert'
      compare_type = 'danger'  if compare_type == 'error'

      next unless ALERT_TYPES.include?(compare_type)

      Array(message).each do |msg|
        text = content_tag(:div, msg.html_safe, :class => "alert fade in alert-#{compare_type} ")
        flash_messages << text if msg

Issue with Delayed Job lifecyle and Postgres Errors

Recently in one of our projects, we experienced some strange errors from Delayed::Job. Delayed::Job workers started successfully, but when they were starting to lock the jobs, workers failed with PG::Error: no connection to server or PG::Error: FATAL: invalid frontend message type 60errors.

After some search, we found there had been such issues already experienced by others .

We started isolating the problem and digging through the recent changes we had made to the project. Since the last release the only significant modification had been made to internationalization. We had started using I18n-active_record .

# config/initializers/locale.rb

require 'i18n/backend/active_record'
Translation  = I18n::Backend::ActiveRecord::Translation

if (ActiveRecord::Base.connected? && Translation.table_exists?) ||

  I18n.backend = I18n::Backend::ActiveRecord.new
  I18n::Backend::ActiveRecord.send(:include, I18n::Backend::Memoize)
  I18n::Backend::ActiveRecord.send(:include, I18n::Backend::Flatten)
  I18n::Backend::Simple.send(:include, I18n::Backend::Memoize)
  I18n::Backend::Simple.send(:include, I18n::Backend::Pluralization)
  I18n.backend = I18n::Backend::Chain.new(I18n::Backend::Simple.new, I18n.backend)


for Delayed Job we had extra check as

def in_delayed_job_process?
  executable_name = File.basename $0
  arguments = $*
  rake_args_regex = /\Ajobs:/
  (executable_name == 'delayed_job') || (executable_name == 'rake' && arguments.find{ |v| v =~ rake_args_regex })

After some serious searching and digging through both Delayed::Job source code and how we were using to setup its config, we started noticing some issues.

The first thing we found was that the problem did not turn up when delayed job workers were started using rake jobs:work task.

After looking at DelayedJob internals we found that the main difference between a rake task and a binstub was in the fork method that was invoked in the binstub version. The binstub version was being executed seamlessly using Daemons#run_process method and had a slightly different lifecycle of execution.

DelayedJob lifecycle

Let’s take a look into DelayedJob internals before proceeding. DelayedJob has systems of the hooks that can be used by plugin-writers and in our applications. All this events functionality is hidden in Delayed::Lifecycle class. Each worker has its own instance of that class.

So, which events exactly do we have here?

Job-related events:


Worker-related events:


You can setup callbacks to be run on before, after or around events simply using Delayed::Worker.lifecycle.before, Delayed::Worker.lifecycle.after and Delayed::Worker.lifecycle.around methods.

The Solution

Let’s move on to our problem. It turned out that delayed job active record gem was closing all database connections in before_fork hook and reestablishing them in after_fork hook. It was clear that I18n-active-record did not play well with this, causing the issue at hand.

We looked into DelayedJob lifecycle and chose before :execute hook, which was executed after all DelayedJob ActiveRecord backend connections manipulations.

Finally the locales initializer for delayed_job workers was changed to match as below:

require 'i18n/backend/active_record'
Translation  = I18n::Backend::ActiveRecord::Translation

Delayed::Worker.lifecycle.before :execute do
  if (ActiveRecord::Base.connected? && Translation.table_exists?) || in_delayed_job_process?
    I18n.backend = I18n::Backend::ActiveRecord.new

    I18n::Backend::ActiveRecord.send(:include, I18n::Backend::Memoize)
    I18n::Backend::ActiveRecord.send(:include, I18n::Backend::Flatten)
    I18n::Backend::Simple.send(:include, I18n::Backend::Memoize)
    I18n::Backend::Simple.send(:include, I18n::Backend::Pluralization)

    I18n.backend = I18n::Backend::Chain.new(I18n::Backend::Simple.new, I18n.backend)

This helped us to mitigate the connection errors, and connections stopped dying abruptly.

RedDotRubyConf 2014


I and Vipul recently gave a talk at RedDotRubyConf on ActiveRecord can’t do it? Arel can!. It was our first trip to Singapore and we enjoyed the conference as well as Singapore a lot.

RDRC2014 was awesome.

Day 1

We reached the venue in time for Koichi’s keynote on Ruby.Inspect. He talked about various things related to development of Ruby including Ruby team at Heroku, recent releases of Ruby and new syntax introduced in Ruby 2.1. He also talked about performance improvements including Generational GC - RGenGC and upcoming features in Ruby 2.2.

After that in second part of the talk, he talked about inspection tools available in Ruby. It was a deep technical part for me and something to learn about. The message he gave from the talk was to become low level engineer.

Second talk of the conf was from T.J. Schuck about solving one of the hardest problems. Storing and retrieving passwords in a secure way. He talked about how increasing improvements in hardware pose a challenge as even if you use proper algorithm it can be cracked with high computing machines. It was interesting to know about internals of storing passwords. I had never cared too much about it :)

After the coffee break, Brandon Keepers from Github gave talk on Tending Your Open Source Garden. Github is still on Rails 2.3 and Brandon is working on bringing it up to new version. His talk was a great advice for those who want to contribute to open source and community. I think this talk resonated well with the audience as most of the crowd was new and interested in open source contributions.

Gautam Rege from Josh Software gave talk on Dark Side of Ruby. We had attended this talk at GCRC so we left the hall after some time and did our one last practice. But i heard the feedback was very well for this talk.

After the lunch, Keith Pitt talked about Guide to Continuous Deployment with Rails. He talked about keeping everything related to deployment from CI to migrations in sync. One of the interesting thing that i came to know from this talk was how to enable zero downtime deployments on Heroku using preboot feature.

Benjamin Tan gave talk on Ruby + Elixir: Polyglotting FTW! after that. He talked about Elixir. This talk was about looking beyond Ruby and adding another tool to our skills. Benjamin also gave some demos including the last one in which he used sidekiq with Elixir. The actual work was done by Elixir workers. I will definitely give a shot to Elixir in the coming days.

After that we gave our talk on Arel. I was a bit nervous as it was my first talk. But it went well. We finished a bit early than expected. But there was tea break after our talk :). We got some good feedback from the attendees and especially beginners who had not used Arel before. Our slides are here

After the tea break, lightning talks started. First talk was by Hiroshi Shibata about how anyone can contribute to Ruby to make it better. He talked about how to submit issues, feature requests using Redmine. After that William Notowidagdo gave talk on Building REST API using Grape. With Rails and Rails API gem it has become easy to generate an API. But we have grape also as a lightweight tool. Sayani Basu talked about how to make a podcast with Jekyll and other tools in 5 minutes.

We are planning to start a podcast here in India about Ruby community so it was good to know about it.

Update: Checkout our podcast .

After these awesome lightning talks, the last session of Day 1 started. There were talks on Fluentd and Domain driven design. Both were good to know as something outside of daily routine. Konstantin Haase’s last talk of the day was **Meta** talk. He talked on abstraction and how it happens in our mind. Our mind affects what we see, like we see magenta color. Similarly abstraction happens in mind. I had to concentrate a lot in this talk to understand it. But it was worth it.

Andddd that ended the first day of the conf. It was exciting and we were looking forward to second day.

Day 2

Day 2 started with Brian Helmkamp’s talk on Docker. We missed the initial part of the talk. He talked about basics of Docker, how to deploying in container environment. He also discussed about deploying a Rails app using docker and how it makes very easy to deploy different parts of the system using docker very easily.

Zachary Scott gave next talk introducing Ruby Core team and how it works, how it collaborates, developer meetings, how anyone can contribute to MRI. We also had a Friday hug in this talk :) This talk combined with Hiroshi’s lightning talk on the first day was great insight into CRuby development.

After the break, Pioter Solnica gave an excellent talk on Convenience vs Simplicity. He talked about convenience offered by ActiveRecord may not be simple to understand. The things such as input conversion, validation are convenient to use as a developer but not necessarily simple to understand. He also discussed presenters, immutable data structures, Adamantium for creating immutable objects in Ruby. In the second part of the talk, he talked about relations and how they can be used in composing queries. He explained this idea using Ruby Object Mapper. It uses Axiom as underlying relational algebra instead of Arel. Its an interesting project to checkout.

After that our very own Anil Wadghule talked on Solid Design Principles in Ruby. His emphasis was on following designs than patterns. He also showed code examples and refactored them after applying principles. His talk was good insight into understanding what are these Solid principles and how they can be applied in real life.

We skipped the session after lunch and roamed around talking with people. We had an interesting discussion about hiring Ruby on Rails developers, interview processes etc.

Then lightning talks started. Sheng-Loong-Su talked first on using Algorithms for Trading. He talked about collecting data using feeder, preparing trading signals using strategy and making decision based on trading signals. One of the best talks of day 2 was by Grzegorz Witek on how he is traveling the world without getting burned out and still happily programming. He talked about his experiences in different countries being a Nomadic Programmer. It was one of the best inspirational talks according to me. The last lightning talk was about Using Vagrant for setting up Dev environment by Shuwei and Arathi.

Nicholas Simmons talked on experience of building a Single page web app and back again to normal app. He gave real life metrics from Shopify and showed problems faced with single page apps, batman.js and how moving back to a normal app helped them.

Then chocolate man from Belgium, Christophe Philemotte, gave talk on Safety Nets: Learn to code with confidence. His talk was about how we can prevent code in long term using testing, static analysis using tools such as flog, flay, rubocop for removing duplication, reducing complexity, fixing warnings. He also talked about importance of code review. His code is present here. He also gave us excellent chocolates from Belgium.

And the last keynote by Aaron Patterson. As always, it was full of everything - tech stuff, jokes, puns.

He talked on how he is making performance improvements in Active Record, link generations. He showed some graphs with performance of various database adapters tested on Rails versions ranging from 2.3 to 4 to master. He urged everyone to report performance issues to the core team so that they are addressed quickly. This is the app used for doing performance testing by him.

And that ended talks at RDRC. We had an awesome after party where we discussed with lots of people about Ruby, Rails as well as other stuff. We would like to thank Winston for inviting us to RedDotRubyConf.

Checkout some of the pictures from the conference here by Nestor.

I am already looking at RDRC 2015.

Six Year Old Optional / Keyword Arguments bug

I recently conducted a workshop about Contributing to Open-Source at first-ever Rubyconf Philippines. In its introductory talk, I spoke about how Aaron Patterson, fixed a 6 year old bug about Optional Arguments, that existed in Rails.

Bug in ruby

Let’s try a small program.

class Lab

  def day
    puts 'invoked'

  def run
    day = day


puts Lab.new.run

What do you think would be printed on your terminal when you run the above program.

If you are using ruby 2.1 or below then you will see nothing. Why is that ? That’s because of a bug in ruby.

This is bug number 9593 in ruby issue tracker.

In the statement day = day the left hand side variable assignment is stopping the call to method day. So the method day is never invoked.

Another variation of the same bug

class Lab

  def day
    puts 'invoked'

  def run( day: day)


puts Lab.new.run

In the above case we are using the keyword argument feature added in Ruby 2.0 . If you are unfamiliar with keyword arguments feature of ruby then checkout this excellent video by Peter Cooper.

In this case again the same behavior is exhibited. The method day is never invoked.

How this bug affects Rails community

You might be thinking that I would never write code like that. Why would you have a variable name same as method name.

Well Rails had this bug because rails has code like this.

def has_cached_counter?(reflection = reflection)

In this case method reflection never got called and the variable reflection was always assigned nil.

Fixing the bug

Nobu fixed this bug in ruby 2.2.0. By the way Nobu is also known as “ruby patch-monster” because of amount of patches he applies to ruby.

So this bug is fixed in ruby 2.2.0. What about the people who are not using ruby 2.2.0.

The simple solution is not to omit the parameter. If we change the above code to

def has_cached_counter?(reflection = reflection())

then we are explicitly invoking the method reflection and the variable reflection will be assigned the output of method reflection.

And this is how Aaron Patterson fixed six years old bug.

How to deploy jekyll site to heroku

jekyll is an excellent tool for creating static pages and blogs. Our BigBinary blog is based on jekyll. Deploying our blog to heroku took longer than I had expected. I am outlining what I did to deploy BigBinary blog to heroku.

Add exclude vendor to _config.yml

Open _config.yml and add following line at the very bottom.

exclude: ['vendor']

Add Procfile

Create a new file called Procfile at the root of the project with following content.

web: bundle exec jekyll build && bundle exec thin start -p$PORT -V
console: echo console
rake: echo rake

Add Gemfile

Add Gemfile at the root of the project.

source 'https://rubygems.org'

gem 'jekyll', '2.4.0'
gem 'rake'
gem 'foreman'
gem 'thin'
gem 'rack-contrib'

Add config.ru

Add config.ru at the root of the project with following content.

require 'rack/contrib/try_static'

use Rack::TryStatic,
    :root => "_site",
    :urls => %w[/],
    :try => ['.html', 'index.html', '/index.html']

run lambda { |env|
  return [404, {'Content-Type' => 'text/html'}, ['Not Found']]

Test on local machine first

Test locally by executing bundle exec jekyll serve.

Push code to heroku

Now run bundle install and add the Gemfile.lock to the repository and push the repository to heroku.

How to add additional directories to test

In a project we needed to write different parsers for different services. Rather than putting all those parsers in app/models or in lib we created a new directory. We put all the parsers in app/parsers .

We put all the tests for these parsers in test/parsers directory.

We can run tests parsers individually by executing rake test test/parsers/email_parser_test.rb. However when we run rake then tests in test/parsers are not picked up.

We added following code to Rakefile to make rake pickup tests in test/parsers.

# Adding test/parsers directory to rake test.
namespace :test do
  desc "Test tests/parsers/* code"
  Rails::TestTask.new(parsers: 'test:prepare') do |t|
    t.pattern = 'test/parsers/**/*_test.rb'

Rake::Task['test:run'].enhance ["test:parsers"]

Now when we run rake or rake test then tests under test/parsers are also picked up.

Above code adds a rake task rake test:parsers which would run all tests under test/parsers directory.

We can see this task by execute rake -T test.

$ rake -T test
rake test         # Runs test:units, test:functionals, test:integration together
rake test:all     # Run tests quickly by merging all types and not resetting db
rake test:all:db  # Run tests quickly, but also reset db
rake test:parsers # Test tests/parsers/* code
rake test:recent  # Run tests for {:recent=>["test:deprecated", "test:prepare"]} / Deprecated; Test recent changes