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Lobsters Rails Project build status

This is the quite sad source code to the ghost town at It is a Rails codebase and uses a SQL (MariaDB in production) backend for the database.

You are free to use this code to start your own sister site because the code is available under a permissive license (3-clause BSD). We welcome bug reports and code contributions that help use improve As a volunteer project we're reluctant to take on work that's not useful to our site, so please understand if we don't want to adopt your custom feature.

Contributing bugfixes and new features

We'd love to have your help. Please see the CONTRIBUTING file for details. If you have questions, there is usually someone in our chat room who's familiar with the code.

Initial setup

Use the steps below for a local install or lobsters-ansible for our production deployment config. There's an external project docker-lobsters if you want to use Docker.

  • Install the Ruby version specified in .ruby-version

  • Checkout the lobsters git tree from Github

    $ git clone git://
    $ cd lobsters
  • Install Nodejs, needed (or other execjs) for uglifier

    Fedora: sudo yum install nodejs
    Ubuntu: sudo apt-get install nodejs
    OSX: brew install nodejs
  • Run Bundler to install/bundle gems needed by the project:

    lobsters$ bundle
    • If when installing the mysql2 gem on macOS, you see ld: library not found for -l-lpthread in the output, see this solution for a fix. You might also see ld: library not found for -lssl if you're using macOS 10.4+ and Homebrew openssl, in which case see this solution.
  • Create a MySQL (other DBs supported by ActiveRecord may work, only MySQL and MariaDB have been tested) database, username, and password and put them in a config/database.yml file. You will also want a separate database for running tests:

      adapter: mysql2
      encoding: utf8mb4
      reconnect: false
      database: lobsters_dev
      socket: /tmp/mysql.sock
      username: *dev_username*
      password: *dev_password*
      adapter: mysql2
      encoding: utf8mb4
      reconnect: false
      database: lobsters_test
      socket: /tmp/mysql.sock
      username: *test_username*
      password: *test_password*
  • Load the schema into the new database:

    lobsters$ rails db:schema:load
  • On your production server, copy config/initializers/production.rb.sample to config/initalizers/production.rb and customize it with your site's domain and name. (You don't need this on your dev machine).

  • Seed the database to create an initial administrator user, the inactive-user, and at least one tag:

    lobsters$ rails db:seed
  • On your personal computer, you can add some sample data and run the Rails server in development mode. You should be able to login to http://localhost:3000 with your new test user:

    lobsters$ rails fake_data
    lobsters$ rails server
  • Deploying the site in production requires setting up a web server and running the app in production mode. There are more tools and options available than we can describe; find a guide or an expert. The lobsters-ansible repo has our config files to crib from. Some app-specific notes:

  • Set up crontab or another scheduler to run regular jobs:

    */5 * * * *  cd /path/to/lobsters && env RAILS_ENV=production sh -c 'bundle exec ruby script/mail_new_activity; bundle exec ruby script/post_to_twitter; bundle exec ruby script/traffic_range'
  • See config/initializers/production.rb.sample for GitHub/Twitter integration help.

  • You probably want to use git-imerge to pull in changes from Lobsters to your site.


Basic moderation happens on-site, but most other administrative tasks require use of the rails console in production. Administrators can create and edit tags at /tags.