Archive for the ‘ruby on rails’ Category

Create a Page Loading Animation Using Ruby on Rails and AJAX

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

I had a difficult time locating all the pieces needed to accomplish this so I’m pulling them together into one tutorial that will hopefully help more people out.

Purpose: I had a page in my Rails application which did a lot of processing before the page loaded. This could take up to a minute depending on how many items needed to be processed. Obviously, this made for a poor user experience. To correct this, I created a new page with an animated GIF and a short message explaining to the user that it could take some time to load. I then used AJAX to do the intensive processing and then overwrote the HTML in the DIV tag that displayed the animated GIF. I’ve outlined the steps I took below.

Step 1: Create Your Animated GIF

Go to to generate your animated wait image. Store the animaged GIF in your images folder.

Step 2: Add Remote_Function

You need to add the Rails remote_function code to create an AJAX call that runs when the page loads. To do this, you will need to add this code to the body tag.

<body onload="<%= remote_function(:url => { :action => :get_content_to_display } ) %>">

Step 3: Add Code to Display Animated GIF

Example: products/web_page.html.erb

<div id="display_ajax">
     <p>Please wait while your information loads.</p>
     <p><img src="/images/ajax-loader.gif" /></p>

Step 4: Create Partial to Display HTML Code

Example: products/_name-of-your-partial.html.erb

This file includes your display code.

Step 5: Create Controller to Display Ajax

Example: products_controller.rb

def get_content_to_display
     #Place code here
     render :update do |page|
          page.replace_html "display_ajax", :partial => 'name-of-your-partial'

Now when you load this page, the animated gif will run until Rails has completed your get_content_to_display action. When this done, page.replace_html will overwrite your animated GIF and display your new content.

If you have any questions, please email me, or post them in the comments below.

Using and Ruby on Rails to Shorten a URL

Monday, January 4th, 2010

If you’re building a Rails application and you need to add a URL Shortening service then you should look at philnash’s bitly gem. is dominating the crowded URL Shortening category. Its dashboard provides statistics for each shortened URL which makes it a very valuable tool.

To get started simply type:

gem install bitly

In your controller you’ll want to add:

require 'bitly'

Finally, to use the service you’ll need an API key. First create an account at and then go to the following URL to retrieve you key:

To shorten a URL:

bitly ='your-bitly-user-id','your-bitly-api-key')
page_url = bitly.shorten('')
page_url.shorten =>

The URL has been shortened and you can display or use it in your application. You can also log into your dashboard and see detailed statistics on each URL.

To display stats in your dashboard use the following code:

page_url = bitly.shorten('', :history => 1)

For other options such as expanding a URL check out the documenation on github.

How to Develop Your Own Twitter App

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Recently, I’ve been working on a new Twitter application that you can find in the Marketing for Mavens lab called ReStream. I don’t want to get into the details of that app as you can read more here. What I’d like to do is help those that have their own Twitter app ideas get started.

Thanks to those who have walked this path before me, getting your own Twitter app running is much easier than you’d think, especially if you’re already familiar with Ruby on Rails. If you’re not familiar with Rails, don’t let it hold you back. If you’ve programmed in other languages before then you can quickly pick it up.

Getting Started

To get started you will need Rails setup on your local machine. Start with and these tutorials which helped me (some are old but are still helpful).

Now that Rails is Setup

  • Go to and download jnunemaker’s Twitter application.
  • You will want to create a new folder for your Twitter application and copy all of the files and folders from this zip file you just downloaded into your new folder.
  • Open a your terminal window and go to the new folder you created for your Twitter app.
  • Install this Twitter gem. sudo gem install twitter
  • Start your server. script/server
  • Your application should now be running.
  • Open http://localhost:3000 in your browser and login to your new Twitterapp.

What’s Next

The sky’s the limit. jnunemaker has provided a fantastic foundation for any one aspiring to use Twitter’s API to build new applications. Even if your not familiar with Rails, you can look through the existing code to see how everything comes together.

If you need help or have any questions please let me know in the comment section below.

Getting Active_Scaffold to Work With Rails 2.3.2

Friday, May 15th, 2009

If you’re using Active_Scaffold and upgrading to Rails 2.3.2, here’s what worked for me.

  1. Update Rails to 2.3.2 (sudo gem update)
  2. Update Active_Scaffold to the latest version (script/plugin install –force git://
  3. Install render_component plugin (script/plugin install git:// -r rails-edge)
  4. Start your application

Here are the resources which helped me:

Good luck!

Filtering Active_Scaffold in Rails Using Drop Down Box

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

We use active_scaffold throughout the Marketing for Mavens application and love it. There are several instances where we wanted to filter the generated tables based on a selected item in a drop down box. Since we couldn’t find this process documented any where on the web, I’ve decided to highlight what we did to get this working.

First you’ll want to start with you drop down box. We used Rails observe_field to generate an onselect JavaScript action when an item was selected from the drop down box.


<%= observe_field   :widget_widget_type_id,                       
        # The field to observe
:with => "'widget_type_id=' + escape(value)",                    
        # The input to validate :o n  => "onselect",                                               
        # The frequency in seconds to watch for changes
:url  => {:action => 'filter_widget', :controller => 'widgets' }, 
        # The action to call when changes occur
:update => :filter_widget
        # Name of the <div> to update

<div id="filter_widget"><%= render :active_scaffold => 'widgets',
   :constraints => {:company_id =>}, :condition => @condition %></div>

You will notice we created a <div> tag to hold the generated table. This is important because the filter will replace this code after the user selects an item from the drop down box, effectively filtering your results.

Now we need to update the widgets controller to handle the new “filter_widget” action.


def filter_widget
  @conditions = "widget_type_id=#{params[:widget_type_id]}"
  render :inline => "<%= render :active_scaffold => 'widgets',
     :constraints => {:company_id => #{}}, :conditions => @conditions %>"

def conditions_for_collection

condition_for_collection creates the initial conditions for the table. After a selection is made from the drop down, filter_widget is called and the <div> in the INDEX.HTML.ERB file is replaced with the new code. Now your table is filter accordingly.

When implementing this code you may receive an “ActionController::InvalidAuthenticityToken” error message. One fix for this is to use the following code in your controller.

protect_from_forgery :o nly => [:create, :update, :destroy]

This may make your application vulnerable to hackers so research the side effects before implementing to make sure it’s right for your environment.

A Huge Thank You to the Rails Community

Friday, June 27th, 2008

On Monday, the Marketing for Mavens web application will be going live as a limited beta. The past 4 months have been filled with development work that couldn’t have been accomplished without the help of the Ruby on Rails community. I’d like to thank everyone who has helped out along the way and those that have created some wonderful resources for speeding development time and finding the answers to various questions. In no particular order, these resources have been a life saver:

I’d also like to thank James at MarginLeft for his help with JSON integration in Rails.

And for those interested in all of the resources I’ve compiled for Ruby on Rails, they’re available on my link.

Quick Update: Performance Improvements

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

This week I have been able to make several changes to the Rails and JavaScript code to gain some significant speed improvements when serving up promotions. This has resulted in eliminating some delays that were needed to ensure IE and Safari displayed the HTML code without returning JavaScript errors. I’m currently testing these changes on the Marketing for Mavens web site.

Quick Update: Setting up Ruby on Rails

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

The plan for this evening is to have Ruby on Rails up and running so I can migrate everything from the local test environment over to the hosting company. If all goes well, the plan is to have Marketing for Mavens up and running in the wild next week. I’m really looking forward to fully testing this application in an environment where I can start to collect some real data.

There are still some issues that need to be addressed and some features to be added before the beta is launched. The some of these features are:

  • Reporting: We’re going to be collecting a lot of data which you’ll find valuable to share with your colleagues. Of course, none of this is of any use to you unless there is some way to get it out of the database.
  • Additional Tracking: There is almost an endless amount of information that we could track and store but you have other web analytics tools for this. We want to make sure we’re only providing you with the data that you need to make quick business decisions and that we can use to distribute your content.
  • Recording non-HTML Links: Right now, tracking is only occurring on page load. We need to add the ability to record clicks on PDF’s, ZIP’s, etc. These are very important assets that need to be tracked since you can gain more information about a person’s needs based on data sheet download then you can from most web pages.