Our Runway

CamilleF_1-thumbWe here at RTR Tech are extremely proud to announce the launch of Our Runway. This project is the culmination of several months of work by our engineering team and represents not only an evolution of our product but also a major evolution of our technology platform. This project started as a simple hack day project by 2 of our engineers, taking our customer images from various reviews and creating a page where you could see them all in a continuous stream, with the option to click on the image to view the product they were wearing. Of all the exciting demos that came out of that hack day, this was the one that sparked the imagination of the entire company. We knew that customers who engaged with photo reviews were more likely to rent, and we all loved the fact that our dresses look so good on real women. Why wouldn't we provide our customers with the option to shop our site by these photos? Models may be the industry standard, but these happy, beautiful, real women showed us an opportunity to change that standard in a way that we believe will be revolutionary.

From a technical point of view, we knew this project would not be easy. The data for our photo reviews was stored in a hyper-normalized database schema, and we knew it wasn't flexible enough or scalable enough to power a major part of our website. To get the data into a form where we could serve it quickly required a rewriting of almost all of the aspects of that service, and we chose to move most of the data out of the old database into MongoDB, which is one of our preferred data stores for non-transactional data. We also had to join that review data with data served by our product catalog, reservation calendar, and most importantly our user service, in order to provide the "Women Like Me" functionality. Getting this aggregation working, and working fast, was a full-time job for two of our best developers over several months.

We also chose to use this project to launch a new web serving layer. Our main website runs on a heavily-modified version of Drupal, full of hacks and mysteries left by developers past. With this launch, we have a beachhead into a new web stack based on Ruby Sinatra, with a full suite of RESTful Java services owning the data and most of the heavy lifting. We designed the system to be highly cacheable, scalable, and fault-tolerant, and we're experimenting with a Heroku-based hosting solution to enable us to quickly scale up web resources as needed to handle demand. We also have our first major web presence that does not require login to access, a major step forward.

I am incredibly proud of the team and the effort they put in to take this product from conception to reality over the course of a short two and a half months. As a woman, I find that browsing Our Runway is a breath of fresh air. You never realize how little models smile until you look at page upon page of women smiling broadly and looking fabulous. As an engineer, I'm thrilled with the quality of our "Women Like Me" algorithm and the speed at which we manage to return results to our customers.

If you are interested in helping us build the next great innovation in eCommerce, we're hiring!