How the Last Few Days Unfolded (hint: I’m spent)

The launch of LockerPulse has left me completely drained. These last few days have been out of control. It was a lot of long hours leading up to the launch, but man, once the site went live I didn’t have a second to rest my brain. I’m not sure I have a coherent post in me right now, but I also don’t feel like doing anything else at the moment, and I haven’t posted much lately, so I’m gonna give it a try.

Launch Day

The launch day (Wednesday) was supposed to be pretty simple. Since this wasn’t an existing site like the Detailed Image re-launch last year, we had all of the files in place prior to Wednesday and simply had to upload a new home page to make the site “live”. After that, we just had to do a lot of little things, like set up Google Sitemaps and put up some cross-promotional ads on SportsLizard and WoodyPaigeQuotes (a total no brainer since they make up the majority of our company web traffic).

As we went down the list, things took a little longer than anticipated (as they always do), but we had no major issues.

Then around mid-afternoon it started. Things started spiraling downward for me. I was like the plumber who plugs one leak and another one springs up somewhere else. The issues were happening faster than I could fix them. I was planning on spending the day emailing friends and family to let them know the site was up, but I didn’t get around to that until this afternoon (Friday).

Twitter Fiasco

First off was Twitter. Twitter is a big part of our marketing plan. We take all of our news and post it to a Twitter account for the team. See @NYMetsPulse for New York Mets news, for example.

This is a free service obviously. I’m a big believer in not over-using your resources on free services. The Premium Account members get everything we’ve got. They get customized emails and live AJAX updates, mobile access, and more. Non-premium users get a cached page that’s updated every 15 minutes, RSS feeds provided by FeedBurner, email subscriptions provided by FeedBurner, and auto-posting to Twitter provided (now) by twitterfeed.

Why let everyone’s feed reader constantly ping our site for new feed changes when FeedBurner can handle it for free?  Feed readers almost single-handedly crushed Music-Alerts a few years back. Why spend my time and resources working with Twitter’s API to post our news when twitterfeed will do it for free? What you lose in real-timeliness and customization, you gain in resources saved, maintenance time, and simplicity.

Anyway, on to our problem. Originally we had set up FeedBurner to do the auto-posting to Twitter with their Socialize feature. It works great on WoodyPaigeQuotes and DetailedImage, however when we activated everything on Wednesday nothing happened. Mike and I messed with it for a few hours and were stumped. There were a few reported issues on the forums, but no response from Google. We basically concluded that recently set-up accounts were having trouble.

So, rather than wait for Google to get their act together, George and I stayed up late on Wednesday and moved all 123 accounts over to twitterfeed.

Server (over)load

By Thursday morning, the Twitter problem was solved and I noticed the next big one: Googlebot.

I think I’ve previously mentioned that I spent a ton of time working on database query optimization and caching because I knew that, if this site was to become successful, the server would see loads like none of our other sites.  I recently picked up a 400+ page book on this, and I plan on making even more improvements once I read it and learn even more.  The majority of the site that you can access without logging in doesn’t even connect to our database.  The pages are cached every 15 minutes when we fetch new news for the team.  The lone exception is the permalink page for each story.  There are reasons for this – mostly that I didn’t think a lot of people would be visiting the permalink pages, and that those pages allow for comments which are harder to manage with cached pages (the WordPress plug-in WP Super Cache does this and has had some issues).

I did not count on Googlebot indexing all of these pages, particularly on day 1.  There are almost 100,000 stories on the site right now and surprisingly Google has indexed a good portion of them already.  I say surprisingly because, although they’re only a few clicks deep, I’ve read a lot recently about Google not deeply indexing new sites with very few backlinks.  Which makes sense.  A large site like LockerPulse might not be seen as valuable right off the bat.  For whatever reason, Googlebot did start to crawl all of the Archives.

The problem wasn’t loading the actual story on the page, it was loading the latest team headlines at the bottom of the story (shown below), which I foolishly didn’t cache.  Selecting those over and over from the database caused an abnormally high amount of slow queries.  I noticed this, and fixed it.  While I was doing this, I noticed some invalid HTML on the permalink page and of course fixed that too.  Just after that I realized I configured our Google Analytics registration goal incorrectly, so I corrected that too.  There are still a few tiny things that need fixing, but I took care of the big stuff.

LockerPulse Headlines example

Some Really Good Things

Needless to say, I didn’t sleep very well the past few nights.  I was already a bit worn out getting ready for the launch, and once the launch happened my brain was moving at a mile a minute all day long.  It’s hard to wind down from that.

HOWEVER, lots of good stuff has happened too.  A few good signs:

  • Amazingly, we’ve already gotten search traffic for story-specific related queries.  For example, people searching for stories on the upcoming Sharks vs. Blackhawks series.  Man, if those 100,000 pages start pulling in traffic, watch out.  That’s growing at about 50k/month.
  • Traffic has been better than expected, and we’ve been getting a handful of Twitter followers and RSS subscribers for almost every team without doing much of anything.
  • Twitter brought in a few hundred visitors already.  My guess is that it’s through search.
  • Feedback has been very very positive.  I’m planning a full post on feedback because it’s nerve racking.  We realize this isn’t for every sports fan.  Some like their current method of getting news.  Some don’t see the point.  But the people who do seem to really love it, which is what we’re going for.

OK.  My brain = fried.

I’m going to take some time off to recharge over the weekend and then get back on it next week.  Have a great weekend everyone!

5 comments on How the Last Few Days Unfolded (hint: I’m spent)

  1. Rob says:

    You go and have a good sleep, you totally 100% deserve it.

  2. Tim says:

    I think the last few posts you’ve made have been more enlightening than the comments would lead us to believe. Having experienced this rush myself on a few occasions I think these posts are incredibly valuable to younger entrepreneurs. As much as I love the 4HWW I think it has negatively shifted peoples mindset about what it takes to make a successful business work in the modern market. Even with the 4HWW model there is an enormous amount of time and energy required for that model to function effectively. In any case, this level of intensity is essential, at least from my experience, to make a business fly. It cannot be faked, and that is one of the many things that separates businesses that make it compared to businesses that don’t. There is a passion behind this project that is exploiting your expertise and in a way is the culmination of over a decades work and life experience. I think if you REALLY analyzed it you’d see that you “started” this project over 20 years ago, playing ball with friends, watching sports on TV, etc… The seeds for truly great ideas are not sowed overnight, nor do they bear fruit in as quickly as most would like. As the old saying goes, it often takes 20 years to become an overnight success.

    While the last few posts have not been glamorous and have not generated the conversations that posts of a month ago have, I strongly think these are some of the best lessons for those looking for a glimpse of the promised land from a distance. This is reality, and at times it’s very difficult for those who are not aware of this phase to stick with it.

    As a “serial entrepreneur” I know the level of frustration we go through when starting something new or launching an entirely new venture. No matter what the data says you ALWAYS have doubt and the doubt increases significantly the closer you get to launch – a fear of the unknown is only natural. What makes this even more complicated is that just before a big change or launch and immediately after is when you really have to bring your A-game. During this stage you will work harder than you’ve ever worked before and you will see the least amount of reward. You’ll experience exhaustion, enormous emotional ups and downs, you’ll be physically drained, mentally spent and it’s difficult to keep this pace up.

    Again to all those young and budding entrepreneurs out there, be sure to read that last few posts on this blog, they are not supremely glamorous, but this is a great example of what it’s really like getting something going.

  3. […] good friend and fellow entrepreneur Tim left a really good comment on my last post. Here’s an interesting excerpt: No matter what the data says you ALWAYS have doubt and the […]

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