Draw a Crowd, by Brittany Martin


Contextual Camouflage is an open-source gallery art installation built in RoR that guides visitors to anonymously report mental health disorders that affect themselves or their relationships. After users submit a disorder, they have the option to include anecdotes and demographic data for intervention researchers. The data is molded into an interactive real-time display using ActionCable. Come see how code can double as art and an educational tool.



  • Hackathon origin (v1)
    • Forming the team
      • 3 Rails developers, 2 Frontend developers, 2 Designers
      • Hackathon timeline
      • Judging criteria
    • Choosing a nonprofit partner
      • Longevity
      • Motivation
    • Moving the project forward
      • Reducing the team
      • Deciding if pursuing grants was worth it
      • Open-sourcing the code
  • Production implementation (v2)
    • User Personas
      • User with mental disorder
      • Relation with mental disorder
      • Neighbor in the community installation
      • Nonprofit partner
      • Researcher
      • Anonymous troll
    • Mockups
    • Quick demo of the user experience
      • Submitting a disorder
      • Viewing Resources
    • Quick demo of the admin experience
      • Setting up a new installation
      • Extracting data for users
    • Utilizing the project for experimentation
      • Jump on new tools and versions
      • Integrate these skills back into day jobs
  • Core tools
    • Rails 5.1
      • ActionCable!
    • Geocoder
      • Approximate locality from IP address on mobile
      • Tag users with cookies, prevent abuse
    • RailsAdmin
      • Safe transfer of data to researchers
    • Materialize
    • Leaflet
    • Heroku
    • Github Projects
  • Gallery installation
    • Spring 2018 Exhibition
      • Getting buy-in from Community staff from local non-profit
    • Results from the trial installation
    • Future installation schedule
      • Pairing with real life performance artist readings
      • Plans to expand it into conferences and different cities

Intended Audience
All attendees, especially ones interested in using ActionCable in production, working on a product post-hackathon or displaying their work in a creative way.

Inspire developers to work on their own Rails art piece or be interested in contributing to ours.


I've spent the last year working on this art installation and am incredibly excited to debut it in an exhibition and to speak about it at Railsconf. It is important to my team and nonprofit partner that we built a tool to help erase the stigma around mental illness. CC gave us a chance to put ActionCable in Production and use Materialize over Bootstrap so we could confidently transfer those skills to our paid work.

I learned a lot about volunteering my time and motivating others when there isn't money involved (similar to working on open-source). I struggled with areas including documentation, scheduling and accountability. I have a lot of lessons and insights to share.

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