7 Feb Date_middle

Rakkit

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Rakkit

Here at PANDR we have a philosophy of balance. However, it's not quite your normal work/life balance we like to play upon, although this is important.

As well as working on client projects, you know, the ones that pay the bills, we also think it's very important to stay on top of our game by encouraging creative thinking within the studio; not only from the design side of things, but technically as well. Any spare time, as small as it might be, is dedicated to working on personal and in house team projects.

On 23rd December we launched the latest in our line of home brew projects: Rakkit (@RakkitMusic).

Rakkit is a system for listening to the latest music from your favourite websites, artists and labels. Rakkit enables this by simply aggregating music files posted by record labels, artists, music blogs, review websites and other such sources on the Internet.

You might be thinking: "well this isn't very original, i know a number of sites doing this already!", we know! However, our impetuous for building Rakkit came from the frustrations born out of using other systems such as the Hype Machine, Elbow, Spotify and iTunes. Frustrations with these other sites were primarily interface based, so the aim of Rakkit was to provide a clean, accessible user interface that facilitates music listening without getting in the way. It's been a fantastic journey for both our design and development team.

Rob our lead designer has been through at least four iterations of the site before we were happy with it's current incarnation and, i, myself have learnt a lot of tricks and skills in terms of: performance enhancement in Rails apps and streaming of audio via HTML5. Not to mention the skills and experience we have picked up in shipping a product like this.

Rakkit is currently in Private Beta at the moment. We have a small testing group of about 40 people right now; some of whom have provided valuable feedback with regards to the overall service, interface and usability. We are working closely with these people to steadily improve the site whilst slowly inviting more and more people to use the system everyday.

If you would like to help us test then don't hesitate to get your name on our VIP guest list over on the Rakkit website.

The Tech

Rakkit was built using Rails 3.1, HTML5 and a sprinkling of CSS3. We are making significant use of the Delayed Job queuing system for continuous monitoring of content providers.

We are also dabbling in the concept of a decoupled application that is supported by a number of satellite processes for data related tasks too. This allows us to sit back in the knowledge that any issues with these processes will not directly affect the application itself and potentially result in downtime.

We use Rakkit for at least 8 hours a day as our studio jukebox so we're quite aware of what pitfalls it has, what improvements can be made and annoyances that the system may have but the great thing is we are actively developing the system to keep on top of these items. You can check the Changelog on our Rakkit Blog to keep up to date with our work.

Where's it going?

We are moving towards Phase 2 of what we want Rakkit to do in terms of functionality. Some of the key areas we are actively working on include:

  • Continuous music playing despite navigation around the website - This is being implemented using the fancy new HTML5 History API.
  • Sharing of tracks via a user inbox.
  • Improvement of data collection across the Internet.
  • Performance enhancements to provide uninterrupted music listening.

Exposure

We are regular attendees of the "Norwich Startups, Web & App Developers, Entrepreneurs" Meetup group in Norfolk and were lucky enough to be invited by Juliana Meyer, the host, to present Rakkit to the rest of the group.

Fortunately the presentation went well and the product was well received too. Once again we gained some valuable feedback and will be working to integrate some of the suggested changes.

Not only was this a great opportunity for us to dust off our presentation skills but also to gauge public reactions on whats largely been an in house system until recently. Thanks for inviting us Juliana.

Hold tight…

So hold tight while we continue developing Rakkit and making it even more fun to use. If you have any suggestions or are simply desperate to get stuck into it then leave a comment and we'll see what we can.

Further photos…

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