For the second project of Nearsoft Labs we decided to accept the challenge of ride Ruby on Rails. So we came up with this idea called Pawnil, which stands for "PAWNed Items List". This was about a web page that listed all of the items that pawn shops are selling, so you don't have to go to their place and check for yourself.
It sounded like a good idea at first. There are many e-commerce out there with different scopes. eBay's specializes on bids for things people want to get rid of. Amazon, on the other hand, is the centralization of many small and medium businesses. Then we have Craigslist, which mainly aims for local sells of used stuff, like a virtual flea market.
Pawnil was going to be about listing items that pawn shops were selling. The best of this was that it was almost done from the begining. There are tons of examples and templates (almost on every programming language) for e-commerce sites.
We decided to build it with Ruby on Rails because we never used it before, and this was a good chance. We started with a little research and we were very surprised to know ROR truly worked like magic. In two weeks we had a minumin valuable product, ready to ship to the pawn shops to start filling it up with their items, all for free. I said it was ready, not that we actually did it.
By then, we started to contact a few pawn shops to see if they wanted to participate. All of them said that they were willing to contribute, but that selling wasn't really a problem for them. They mentioned that items don't even last a couple of days in the display, and that clients liked to go and watch more than one item.
But not everything was lost. We validated, we noticed it was worthless, and we learn some rails on the way there, but more important: we stumbled. And that's very good when you're at research, because it means you just found a real need.
The problem we found was on the first stage of this project, before we even could say we had started. We found that setting up the ruby+rails development environment was needlessly complex. So this leaded up to a new project, intended to attack this issue. It's about an installation script that will give you all you need to start developing in ROR. And guess what? It comes with a sample app called Pawnil.