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This page documents the ongoing work on the Dropbox RO Connector app (known as ROBox) as part of the work on Prototype 1


Dropbox provides a powerful, well known and ready made environment for working with Research Objects (ROs). It is one of many possible environments we can integrate with, but one that we can use to quickly build a prototype around to then elicit user feedback and requirements and evolve the architecture.

For the first prototype, we intend to use Dropbox as the user facing interface for depositing and working with ROs.

The aim is to connect up a user's Dropbox folder, containing these ROs, with the Research Objects Store and Retrieve Service, which is built on dLibra.

The Dropbox RO Connector app (ROBox) will connect up and manage the synchronisation between the user's Dropbox folder and the backend dLibra store. We will then evolve this as per user needs.

Source Code

Proposed Design

The ROBox application will be a web application accessible to users over the internet (e.g.:

We may want to initially password protect this application whilst we trial it out with our core users.


Users can log in through their Dropbox accounts. The first time this is done, ROBox will store the OAuth tokens for the user's Dropbox so that background synchronisation takes place.

Users can then register their ROs folder (see below for more details).

ROBox will then continually monitor this folder for new and updated ROs and handle synchronisation - changes etc. will be pushed to the RO SRS and updates from the RO SRS will be pulled back into the user's Dropbox folder.

The RO SRS Client Ruby Gem (being developed as part of the ROBox work) will be used to interact with the RO SRS service.

After the first sync, a Dashboard is accessible to the user. Here the user can see the status of their Dropbox ROs folder and see summary information on their ROs. ((thumbs up) What else is needed for the Dashboard? We will work with users to find out.)

A Getting Started wizard-like page helps the user go through this process. See below for a screenshot:

Working with Dropbox folders and the Research Objects Store and Retrieve Service

Users register a single folder in their Dropbox as being their Research Objects store, i.e.: the folder in which all their ROs are contained in.

Within this folder, each folder is considered to be a single Research Object.

For example:

In the above picture, ROs2 is the folder specified by the user as being their ROs folder. Within this there are three ROs that will be synced with the RO SRS - analysis1, analysis2 and paper1.

Implementation Status

First Iteration


Implementation status

Testing status

Sign in with a Dropbox account



Store Dropbox account details



Ask for, store and verify the ROs folder in the Dropbox



Initial Dropbox <-> RO SRS sync mechanism



Initial Dashboard



Technical Implementation Details

The application is built using the Ruby on Rails 3 framework.

Bundler is used to manage and load Gem dependencies.

Phusion Passenger (also known as mod_rails) can be used to deploy the application on an Apache based web server.

Deployment Instructions



This section is a work in progress

  • Dependencies
    • Ruby 1.9.2 and development headers (ruby-dev)
    • MySQL 5 and development headers (mysql-dev)
    • Git 1.7+
  • Set up
    • gem install bundler
    • git clone ...
    • bundle
    • Set up config/database.yml
    • Set up config/settings/custom.yml
    • rake db:create && rake db:migrate && rake db:seed
    • gem install passenger
    • Set up passenger in Apache
    • Set up application in Apache

Potential Issues


Working with the Dropbox API:

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