The Robot Co-op

Entries from July 2009

Meet the New Robot

July 29, 2009 · 8 Comments

Have you ever heard the story of the note placed in a bottle and thrown into the ocean, only to be discovered years later, thousands of miles away, by the very same person who wrote it? Well what about that movie, An Affair to Remember, where Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant fall in love and promise to meet again 6 months later. Now that I think about it, it is sort of like that Sandra Bullock/Keanu Reeves remake The Lake House, where to destined lovers are separated by the improbable barrier of time and tied together by a magic mailbox.

Oh, man, I think I’ve lost my train of thought . . . . did I tell you how HOT it is in Seattle today?

Back to the story: when we were getting started on we built an early prototype and shared it with a small group of folks. Some gave us one or two suggestions and one guy gave us a whole list of 43ideas for our new site. That’s where the “message in a bottle” part comes in. We loved the ideas (and we’ve followed through on some) and we promised to keep track of this list (we should have kept track of this guy as well). While no Cary Grant, we’d want to meet up later.

When we had a spot to fill on the Robot Co-op roster we posted the ad nationwide. We talked to a few folks and then it dawned on us - what about that guy who sent us that list almost 5 years ago. We sent him an email (that’s sort of like the magic mail box at Keanu’s Lake House). The guy we’d been waiting for, up there on the Empire States Building, had been using the site all along: user # 63 - member since December 12, 2004! Now that is old school! And when he got his email, he was like that guy who rediscovered his lost message in a bottle from years ago. Or something.

Did you know it is 101 degrees in Seattle today? I think it is affecting my metaphors. OKay - on with the announcement.

Ladies & Gentlemen: meet Joe Goldberg, the newest robot at the Robot Co-op.

Joe knows our site about as well as anyone outside of the company. In his first week he’s made all kinds of good suggestions. We feel lucky to have him. Joe will be working closely with Michelle on all things “front end” as well as helping to create new features and improve the performance of the old ones. He’s also diving into our metrics, fighting spam, and making the sites more awesome.

Thanks for joining us Joe! And sorry for the languid, sweaty, over-wrought, allusion filled, intro post! But it is REALLY HOT!

Categories: Uncategorized

No more beer (for now)

July 27, 2009 · 1 Comment

In our ongoing quest to get swift and svelte, we are giving something up we really enjoy (and want to have back). Sort of like when I gave up drinking beer to lose 15 lbs (but picked it back up -more moderately - after I met my goal). Here we are talking about giving up those “related goal” links at the bottom of the page that tell you about related goals (take a look at the image if you don’t know what I’m talking about.)

So long old friend.  We will be together again soon.

So long old friend. We will be together again soon.

Those little darlings were slowing down some of our most popular pages by as much as 12.5 seconds. So we are setting them aside to speed up these pages and we’ll bring them back when the back-end has been reworked to speed up that query. Thanks for the support on our diet! More to come.

Categories: Uncategorized

Working the machines

July 21, 2009 · 3 Comments

We’ve made some recent hardware changes in our ongoing efforts to speed up the sites and keep things more stable. We just finished commissioning 7 new boxes in our fleet, cylonwith a net increase of 2 servers.

We are now running on a total of 9 web servers with of 16GB of RAM per box.

New hardware is not all it takes to keep running fast and stable, but it is part of the solution, and some of the hardware we replaced was 4 years old. We’ll update you on some of the network and software changes we are also making to deal with the increased usage of the site. Thanks for putting up with some of the site’s setbacks. We feel lucky to have a problem like too much content and too many heavy users - that is the sort of problem we never want to get rid of.

Categories: Announcements · Site Status

The Robot Co-op goes on a diet

July 2, 2009 · 10 Comments

I shouldn't have done that last super cheer, or the 3 ice creams.

I shouldn't have done that last super cheer, or the 3 ice creams.

It has been 5 years since The Robot Co-op got its start, and like some of us who work here, we have to admit we’ve gotten a bit out of shape over those years. We were trim and fit back when we first asked “What do you want to do with your life?” but we have put on a few extra pounds. It is a bit overdue that we consider going on a feature diet.

The goal of this diet is a sleeker and swifter Robot Co-op, with faster and more responsive web sites. And the extra calories we need to cut are site features (and whole sites) that are weighing us down. The team has trimmed down and we’ve cut out an “empty calorie” here and there but it’s time to get more radical in our efforts to make the sites fast and stable.

What should we give up on our new diet? Well the first thought we had was “Should do this”.

So long old friend.

It was a great idea: a suggestion box for the internet. But it didn’t proceed as we had planned, and ultimately we realized it had an ethical conundrum at the heart of its business model. Is it fair to host a suggestion forum for a company that didn’t ask to participate? It’s an interesting debate. One we never had to really consider because traffic to the site was never very meaningful. So why kill it? Saying goodbye frees up space in our brains. We have one less site to think about and more attention to put toward sites that people care about. We learned a lot from should do this, and don’t regret taking it on. But given what we learned, we decided to take it down last week. Whew, I’m feeling a bit more trim just typing that!

Next we thought, what feature did we build that users just never use? Maybe even a feature a lot of users actually hate! Well no feature was added to 43 Things that ever met with more hate and loathing than our one time pride and joy: SuperCheers.

We hate supercheers

We had big hopes. If someone would buy a teddy bear for a facebook friend, why not a SuperCheer to encourage a fellow 43Thingster? Well you all told us why, in about 400 angry emails denouncing SuperCheers and the wicked minds that concocted such a feature. OK good riddance.

In removing the feature we give up some revenue that supports the site but we get less hassle for not having to deal with it. We don’t have to maintain a secure server or deal with our credit card processor anymore and it simplifies things. We know about 3 of you out there actually like this feature and will miss it, and we appreciate you supporting the site. Sorry it is going away, but your sacrifice will help us slim down. The feature should be down later tonight.

You probably know it is hard to lose weight, so we could use your support. The goal is a site that is faster and more responsive, and Robots with more attention available toward what matters most. If you have suggestions for cuts you think we ought to make, let us know. We’ll give you an update next week on what else we are doing to get fit (sit ups, new servers, etc). See you at the gym.

Categories: Uncategorized