Twitter Activity for the American 2012 Presidential Election
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Prezbuzz is a Rails 3.0 application that tracks the twitter activity related to the candidates running for the American 2012 Presidential Election.

See LICENSE.txt for the license on PrezBuzz

To get Prezbuzz working, it needs to be deployed, initialized, and then updated on a regular basis. This README covers running it on bare hardware (e.g. your workstation) and deploying it to Stackato. Prezbuzz can initialize and update itself; this document will explain how.


You'll need Ruby (1.8.7 or 1.9.2), Rails 3.0, and rake 0.9.2 or later installed. We recommend installing a Ruby sandbox using rvm

($ bash < <(curl -s

This command might fail due to certificate issues. If so, try adding the -k flag to curl, or downloading the script separately, and handing it to bash locally.

. ~/.bashrc   # Add rvm to your path

rvm install 1.9.2 
rvm list
rvm use 1.9.2  # Or whichever is closest to the 1.9.2 you installed
gem install rails --version=3.0.0

or find out more at

Change to the directory that contains this file, and pull down any other required gems:

bundle install

To run the app locally:

The app is configured to run with mysql. To run with sqlite3 locally (during testing), change the development section in config/database.yml to the following (assuming that you have sqlite3 and the ruby adapter installed on your system):

adapter: sqlite3
database: dv/development.sqlite3
pool: 5
timeout: 5000

Initialize the database:

rake db:migrate

If you get this error message:

(in /home/ericp/lab/rails/rails3/prezbuzz-work/stackato-samples/ruby/rails3-prezbuzz)
rake aborted!
uninitialized constant Rake::DSL

...install a newer rake:

gem install rake -v=0.9.2

When you run rake db:migrate, you should see this warning:

WARNING: Global access to Rake DSL methods is deprecated.  Please include
    ...  Rake::DSL into classes and modules which use the Rake DSL methods.
WARNING: DSL method Prezbuzz::Application#task called at /home/user/opt/ruby-1.9.2-p136/lib/ruby/gems/1.9.1/gems/railties-3.0.0/lib/rails/application.rb:214:in

followed by this expected output:

==  CreateTweets: migrating ===================================================
-- create_table(:tweets)
   -> 0.0017s
-- add_index(:tweets, :publishedAt)
   -> 0.0006s
==  CreateTweets: migrated (0.0027s) ==========================================

Running Unit Tests:

The first time you run the tests, you'll need to build a test database schema:

rake db:test:prepare

Now running tests is simple:

rake test/units # Tests the models

rake test/functionals # Tests the tweets and harvester controllers

The data for the tests is given in the test/fixtures files, and a database, db/test.sqlite, is built from this data each time the tests are run. The tests modify the database as they run, but the database is left for further analysis after the tests finish running. Each time the tests are run the test database is rebuilt from the fixtures.

The easiest way to comment out a test is to rename its "test" header to "htest". For example, in tweet_test.rb, line 6, rename

test "item 1" do


htest "item 1" do

Running the Server:

Start the server:

rails server webrick

Change to another console, in the same directory, with the same environment, and start interacting with the server.

If you've modified the list of candidates, or their colors, you'll need to rebuild the CSS file:

curl 'http://localhost:3000/stylesheets/rcss?rcss=candidateBuzz' > public/stylesheets/candidateBuzz.css

Now populate the database:

ruby script/batch_harvester.rb -V update

If it's slow, keep in mind that sqlite3 is a few orders of magnitude slower than a networked database. If you don't want to see all that output, you can leave off the "-V" option.

If you change the candidates' colors, or add/remove candidates, you'll need to rebuild candidates.css, like so:

curl 'http://localhost:3000/stylesheets/rcss?rcss=candidateBuzz' > public/stylesheets/candidateBuzz.css

This will need to be done on the server as well.

Deploy to Stackato:

In the top-level directory of the project, run:

stackato push -n

Set database tables to use UTF-8

Change the default character set for MySQL tables to accomodate UTF-8 twitter data:

stackato dbshell
> ALTER TABLE tweets CONVERT TO CHARACTER SET utf8 collate utf8_unicode_ci;
> quit

Populate/Update twitter data:

If this is the first time the app is being deployed, run the following command to pull in the initial set of data:

stackato run ruby script/batch_harvester.rb update

Prezbuzz's stackato.yml file contains two cron lines which update and maintain the twitter data. The first line

0 * * * * ruby script/batch_harvester.rb update >> $HOME/../logs/update.log

loads new tweets once an hour, on the hour (we recommend changing the leading "0" to a random value between 5 and 55 to avoid swamping the twitter API). The second line

30 10 29 * * ruby script/batch_harvester.rb cull >> $HOME/../logs/cull.log

removes tweets that are at least one month old at 10:30 UTC on the 29th of each month. We have found doing this improves performance. You can run both these commands like so:

stackato run ruby script/batch_harvester.rb ...

Running '... batch_harvester.rb status` shows how many tweets are currently in the database, and gives their average age.

Test the app in a browser:

With a micro-cloud deployment of Stackato, the default URL would be:


A hosted version of the same app can be found here:

To add a new candidate

We haven't automated this step via the app UI yet. Here's what you need to do:

  1. edit db/seeds.rb to indicate what you want. This data is only used when an app is init'ed, but it's a good marker

  2. add new entries in public/stylesheets/candidateBuzz.css for body.Smith div#buzz_candidate and body.Smith #buzz_details (assuming we're adding John Smith here, and we have no other candidates named "Smith").

  3. add a 128x128 PNG image for the new candidate in public/images. If you're adding a candidate named John Smith, the image should be called Smith.png. The best place to get this is image is from the candidate's twitter profile.

  4. run

    stackato dbshell prezbuzz

    and insert the new line in the candidates table. Here's the syntax for John Smith with color magenta:

    INSERT INTO candidates (firstName, lastName, color) VALUES
      ('John', 'Smith', 'FF00FF');

    The color string is case-insensitive, but prezbuzz conventionally uses upper-case.

  5. run

     stackato ssh prezbuzz ruby script/batch_harvester.rb update`
  6. test the app