We owe much of the success of our technology to our choice of platform (Ruby on Rails) and the use of open-source software. As we develop new code that we think would be valuable for other developers, we are happy to release it back to the community as open source.
Google provides an API to use their Flash-based graphing tool. It lets you plot values as a function of time. This is extremely useful for Mobile Commons, as we often want to display metrics and analytics about a given campaign. For example, we show graphs of opt-ins and opt-outs over time, so you can watch your list grow. We wrote a Rails plugin that uses this graph widget to create graphs quickly and easily in the Mobile Commons application.
Mobile Commons enables 501(c)3 organizations to collect charitable contributions via text message. The donations show up as charges on the users’ phone bills. In order to make this happen, we work with the Mobile Giving Foundation, an organization whose mission is to enable charitable giving across mobile carriers.
The Mobile Giving Foundation publishes an API that application providers such as Mobile Commons use to initiate donations and collect reporting data. We wrote a Ruby library to use with their API and we are pleased to share our code with other members of the non-profit technology community.
At Mobile Commons, our development team practices agile software development, including daily standups, code sprints, pair programming, and test-driven development. We use a great software application called Pivotal Tracker for agile project management. Tracker has an API that developers can use to add new functionality. We really wanted tighter integration between our customer service, operations, and Tracker, so we wrote a Ruby library so we could add it ourselves!
In an effort to reduce our product cycle and reduce our bugs, we wanted closely link our customer service and server operations to our project management software. For example, if one of our account managers has an email dialogue with a customer, it would be really nice to just forward that email and have it automatically make a feature request ticket. Similarly, if something goes wrong on our production servers, it’s very convenient to just forward the notification email and have it automatically create a bug report.
Data portability is an extremely important feature for any SaaS company. At Mobile Commons, we strongly believe that our customers’ data is their data and work hard to make sure that information is portable. Whether they want to run their own analytics or share data between different software applications, customers can easily export any Mobile Commons data to CSV. Because this is such a common requirement, we developed a Rails plugin to automatically make any collection of items in our application (text messages, phone calls, donations, profiles, etc.) exportable in CSV format.