Status Report

There’s a lot going on.  Yowza.

For starters: I’ve left my day job and gone back to consulting. As is my policy, I’m not going to reveal clients here, but they’re an interesting cross-section of business verticals and projects, and one prospective client in particular already has me in touch with people on at least 3 continents, all from my desk in Kew Gardens. I’m feeling very much like one of those digital nomads that the post-Web-2.0 techno-hypesters like to talk about. And liking it.

I also have a part-time, on-site gig in a very trendy New York neighborhood. On some evenings, there is a truck vending “artisanal ice cream” parked outside this client’s offices. (I have not yet seen it move, nor heard it play an endless loop of 8 bars of “Pop Goes the Weasel”.) It’s little details like that that keep the New York experience refreshingly weird.

Also – and I should have posted about this ages ago, but you know how it is – the Rails Rumble 2008 was a blast, and I know more in my bones about building complex messaging systems than I did before the Rumble. Our entry was a multi-player word game, and you may play the Rumble incarnation of it here. We’ll be blogging about Rumble lessons and putting up an update of the game in the next few weeks.

And speaking of “we”, Gabe, Abel and I have added a whimsical name to our hacker cabal; blog posts about the Rumble experience will be posted over at Kickass Labs. (Note to Abel: Get a site up already so I can link to you properly. A one-pager will do.)

In other news: When I’m not hustling paying work or hacking w/ the KAL crew, I have plenty of my own projects to work on. To wit: I have a goal to fix a minor bug in GuitarCardio this week, I will probably take down Rewardist for the time being, and I’m currently investigating solutions to data representation issues in my super-top-secret Hadoop project.

And that’s enough blogging. Back to work.

The Second Wave

Lifehacker is one of my favorite blogs. I hadn’t thought to submit a link to GuitarCardio.com to them, mainly because GC seemed to me to have a niche appeal, rather than being the sort of general-interest productivity tool that LH usually features.

So imagine my surprise when I saw GuitarCardio turn up on Lifehacker’s RSS feed!

Thanks to the Lifehacker crew for thinking enough of the site to post about it.

And I’ll tell you what, I can’t WAIT to log into Google Analytics tomorrow.

Lessons from an Unintentional Launch

As I mentioned previously in this space, I’ve written a web app called GuitarCardio.com. Of course, posting about it here informs nobody but a few family and friends, and then only a few days later when they get around to checking the site. Likewise with my Twitter feed (which as an even more circumscribed set of people who care), Facebook, etc.

I also post to a few guitar-related blogs and fora, and I got a few hits from that. It’s not lots of traffic, but the people who came were at least interested in the topic.

The other night night, on a lark, I put GuitarCardio on StumbleUpon, which is a neat little tool for finding new stuff on the web. Within hours, I had over 5,000 new visitors. In the past 48 hours, it became over 12,000 new visitors, many of whom were staying at the site. GC peaked at #2 on the del.icio.us popular links, and made the front page of popurls. People actually gave pleasant, useful comments on the blog, and I got linked on Twitter and on multiple blogs.

I’m not so much bragging about any of this, but more expressing how agog I am at the whole notion. It had not occurred to me that any of that stuff might happen.

The even better news is that the site stayed hyper-responsive (within the limits of a good shared host) through the whole traffic wave. A few 500 errors or “sorry, my database is bogged” messages, and you’ve dug a pit of negative goodwill from which your site might never emerge.

So, lessons learned:

  • The site stayed responsive in part because currently there is no database component to the site (though this will change soon). Response codes for every one of the tens of thousands of requests over the past 48 hours have been either 200 or 302 – no 500’s, which is the bane of Rails apps on shared hosts.
  • I host no graphics on the page, which I think also helped performance. It is possible to make an eye-catching design with just HTML and CSS.
  • If you’re going to use a service like StumbleUpon, be ready. If my site weren’t able to handle the traffic, I wouldn’t have been able to do anything about it from work yesterday morning. I kind of lucked out there, due to my minimalist design decisions.
  • Services like StumbleUpon can work for you, if you’ve made something people actually want.

All the activity was really a surprise to me, as this is the first time I’ve put something (of my own, anyway) on the web that anyone I don’t know was actually interested in. (This is no great surprise – my interests and priorities intersect with those of the general population only rarely.) So thanks to all those who did care enough to say something nice about GuitarCardio – who voted it up on StumbleUpon, and who tweeted, blogged, and bookmarked it.

Now, I need to digest some of the great feedback I’ve gotten on the GuitarCardio blog, pore over the Google Analytics data, see how my ads performed, &c.

And then, I’ll be making the site even better. The GC blog will cover the features I add and when I’ll be unveiling them, and I’ll be posting about technical lessons learned here.

w00t!