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Instalover wins Tropo Challenge at Rails Rumble

Posted on October 27, 2010 by Adam Kalsey

As part of last weekend’s Rails Rumble, Tropo offered a special challenge. Build the best example of real-time communications and we’d send you a Sonos S5 Music system for every member of your team.

We chose Instalover as the winner of the Tropo prize. Their application lets users sign up for and receive instant blind dates over SMS. It’s a fun use of Tropo, allowing users to anonymously contact each other over SMS. You even sign up for and control the service through SMS.

Besides Instalover, we were excited to see that with the hundreds of teams entering Rails Rumble, three of the finalists chosen by their judges were using Tropo. One of those even took home second place in the Rumble.

We asked the developers behind Instalover a little about how they built it, where the idea came from, and what the future holds.

Where did the idea of Instalover come from?

Chad: We wanted to create a spontaneous, adventurous way for people to go on dates. Most online dating sites require that you write out a profile, upload photos, respond to messages, figure out plans with potential dates, and so on. We wanted to git rid of all that hassle and just bring it back to the simplest possible idea: I want to meet someone right now.

Mike: A long, late night of failed Rumble ideas mixed with desperate loneliness. We then mixed that with some conversations with friends to realize that texting was the best medium for this.

We wanted to get people off the screens and onto the street.

Jason: Like Mike and Chad said, we wanted something different from typical Rumble apps (read: programmer-oriented web tools). We wanted to encourage spontaneity and adventure. As the web matures and becomes a more integral part of our lives, we’re seeing it move off the desktop and onto mobile devices. SMS interfaces can feel natural and casual, and a text-based dating app nestles the act of finding a date right alongside your other conversations with friends.

Rails Rumble required you to complete your app in just 48 hours. How much of that time was spent on Tropo?

Mike: Maybe half the time was spent playing with the Tropo API, experimenting with what was possible, writing a Sinatra app to simulate it for automated testing, and discovering new ideas based on the API docs.

What did you like best about using Tropo?

Mike: The IRC support was great before we had figured everything out, and afterward the fact that it’s just HTTP endpoints was a major benefit.

Other than Ruby and Tropo, what other tools went into the creation of Instalover?

Mike: We used the excellent Suspenders gem to get our app up and running quickly and without worry. Cucumber, Capybara, ShamRack, and Sinatra helped with the testing. Grooveshark provided the music to love by.

What are the future plans for Instalover?

Chad: We’ve been discussing various ideas for future improvement since we began work on the project. People are naturally skeptical toward blind date services, so we’re thinking about ways to remove psychological barriers to using the site, whether it’s having membership be on a referral basis, or by setting up double dates. We think there are obvious ways to monetize the service as well, by working with local businesses. We’re excited to see where we can go with it.

Mike: De-creepifying it, or over-creepifying it. We’ll go either way.

Jason: We want to focus on a core experience of having a fun, safe time going on blind dates. We’re planning to listen to feedback as it comes in for Boston, our launch city, and then grow into other places as we become more confident that we’re providing a great service.

All the ads for dating sites include people who met using their site and got married. You’ve been live for a week. Any marriages yet?

Jason: No marriages, but we have had people actually go on dates, which is a pretty exciting milestone for a brand-new startup!

Chad: We think it’s best if people take some time to get to know each other before making that decision.

Mike: Divorces are pending.

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