CovidNearMe Tracks Cases and Has Info for Citizens / Health Workers

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In this episode of Running in Production, Scott Johnson talks about building a Covid-19 case tracking / anonymous survey / information site using Ruby on Rails. It’s all hosted on DigitalOcean using the service (it’s load balanced across 2 servers).

We talked a lot about using Jumpstart Pro, Hatchbox, working with team mates in the DOD and iterating on a project super quickly. The app’s initial release was created in less than 2 days and it’s currently serving 100,000+ visitors a day.

Topics Include

  • 1:23 – The app was initially released after 2 days of part time development
  • 2:36 – The data is pulled in from the Johns Hopkins CSV data on GitHub
  • 3:14 – Scott’s partner for this app works for the DOD (Department of Defense)
  • 3:43 – The site is much more than just an infection counter for countries
  • 4:45 – All of the crowd sourced data is anonymous and encrypted at rest
  • 5:15 – They are using FDA protocols and everything is signed off by a doctor
  • 6:00 – NY state has 15,000+ cases and it’s very hard to get tested
  • 6:47 – Scott has been using Ruby on Rails since 2007, that’s why he used Rails
  • 7:32 – Getting an MVP up and running quickly
  • 8:30 – Jumpstart Pro was used to create the base application
  • 9:06 – You can use Jumpstart Pro for more than a typical SAAS app
  • 11:12 – Jumpstart Pro gives you a base application to build upon using Rails best practices
  • 11:54 – Jumpstart Pro uses TailwindCSS and it looks nice out of the box
  • 12:28 – Websockets are not being used, they are trying to keep things simple
  • 13:19 – A rake task uses the Mechanize gem to grab the data from GitHub on a cron job
  • 13:47 – How do the Coronavirus numbers compare to Worldometers?
  • 14:44 – Doctor validated crowd sourced reports will help provide per county infection rates
  • 15:39 – A few notable gems that were helpful for building this app
  • 16:28 – Hatchbox is used to deploy the application ($99 / month for the cluster edition)
  • 16:43 – Simple Analytics is used for basic analytics ($19 / month)
  • 16:59 – Honey Badger is used for error reporting (~$20 / month)
  • 17:08 – Google Suite is used for email and other business things
  • 17:12 – is used for pair programming sessions on MacOS systems ($25 / month)
  • 18:17 – All in all after server costs ($100 / month) , it’s about $300 / month for everything
  • 18:35 – Not all side projects are close to free, these tools cost money
  • 19:02 – Why not just throw it all on a single $20 / month DigitalOcean server?
  • 19:50 – The Rails core team puts the burden of deployment on each developer
  • 20:22 – Hatchbox helped remove some of the pain of managing servers yourself
  • 21:40 – 650+ commits in about 10 days of development, so iteration speed is fast
  • 21:52 – ~11,000 lines of code, most of which are separate from Jumpstart Pro
  • 22:21 – Jumpstart is a base application to work off of, it’s not a gem you install
  • 24:10 – Docker is not being used in development or production
  • 25:17 – Something funky in happening with Rails 6 and code reloading in development
  • 26:43 – Jumpstart uses Webpacker and Yarn
  • 26:52 – PostgreSQL, Redis and Sidekiq are being used
  • 27:03 – Sidekiq is used to move encrypted data from server 1 to server 2
  • 29:06 – Having a partner in the DOD / FDA helped keep Scott on track with data security
  • 29:24 – Hosting is being moved to Google Cloud for storing more sensitive information
  • 29:56 – What exactly is clustered mode with Hatchbox?
  • 30:58 – It took about 30 minutes to deploy everything to GCP thanks to Hatchbox
  • 31:48 – Most side projects fall apart when it comes time to deploy things
  • 33:20 – How Hatchbox manages project isolation since you can deploy multiple apps
  • 34:22 – This Covid-19 site has 2 web servers that are load balanced to serve traffic
  • 34:49 – Currently Hatchbox doesn’t appear to handle rolling restarts
  • 35:41 – Hatchbox sets up nginx as the load balancer and also uses Let’s Encrypt (SSL certs)
  • 36:06 – How code gets from development to production
  • 37:33 – Creating a deploy script to help remove human errors from deploying
  • 39:30 – The risk wizard feature was rolled out quickly to determine your risk factor
  • 40:16 – The current situation in Italy is a tragedy
  • 41:26 – Data is backed up daily but most of it can be recreated from source files
  • 42:28 – Hatchbox and Jumpstart don’t help you out with backing up your data
  • 43:07 – Deployment is hard with Ruby on Rails
  • 44:45 – Basecamp, Shopify, GitHub and others all deploy things much differently
  • 45:06 – Hatchbox helps, but it’s expensive and does lack some useful features
  • 45:47 – There’s always Heroku, but that’s also expensive with a opaque pricing model
  • 46:49 – Uptime Robot is being used for free notification if the site goes down
  • 47:36 – It would be cool if Hatchbox hooked into each hosting provider’s monitoring APIs
  • 48:58 – Dealing with secrets in development and production using environment variables
  • 49:33 – Scott is the primary developer of this project
  • 49:58 – A really brilliant way to handle internationalization by leveraging restaurants
  • 52:23 – Best tips? Get your workflows right and then automate them with scripts
  • 54:02 – Also, focus on keeping all of your URL shortcuts in 1 place for easy access
  • 54:51 – Should these URLs be in your admin back-end? Maybe, maybe not
  • 55:28 – Testing is important but it doesn’t always need to be classical tests
  • 56:09 – Rubocop isn’t being used, but it’s a good tool once properly configured
  • 58:29 – Scott’s code is very organic and not perfect but he ships working things quickly
  • 59:08 – Scott is a prolific blogger and most posts are based on what he’s learning at the time
  • 1:01:39 – Learn more about Scott by reading his blog and following him on Twitter / GitHub, there’s also his other projects at and
📄 References
⚙️ Tech Stack
🛠 Libraries Used

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Mar 30, 2020

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