Chronicles of Swallowbush – Popularity contest.

As with the other posts, I am taking you deep into the experiences that I went through with my recently departed website, swallowbush.com; it is very important to keep in mind that swallowbush served as much more than my blog, it was actually my testing and learning grounds. In today’s installment I bring you my first experiences with the populous, and how I had to change the way I did things so I didn’t kill my server.

My poetry had been a hit, I just didn’t know it yet. Of course the girl I was dating at the time made it all too clear that my poetry was great to read and soothing to her soul, but I had it up on my site for the populous. I wanted it shared with the world so I could get the shit published and make some money to fund my future writing. Little did I know that my site was growing, and soon would go beyond its means.

I started thinking about how I wanted things to be handled; do I want to know who hits my site? No, I just need to know how often It’s hit. My server already keeps track of the number of people viewing my site on any given day/month/year and I was satisfied with those pretty bar charts. I began work on a new module for my site, yes – I do mean module. It was the first time that I started using a drag & drop module interaction with the backend of my site, and it was grand. The first module was just to keep track of the “popular shit.” The algorithm was very simple – grab the first five entries in the count list, ordering it in descending order, so the top 5 entries. And plop it was done, beautifully done.

What I failed to realize is that my host was not as great as I had thought. I was drawing traffic, for whatever reason considering the HL2 community hadn’t been established yet, and they were hitting my site pretty hard. I had a flash player with 13 or so MP3’s on it, paired with the other demo sites I was building for clients and their traffic. I was on a road for disaster, and I was too stupid to realize it. My site was down in a month.

When it went down, it took my database and a majority of the images that had been uploaded with it. Apparently this month in particular I wiped my bandwidth dry and ended up overwhelming my host who decided to shut me down and in the process they deleted a majority of my content. Relocating wasn’t an issue, it was pretty clear that I had a bunk host, and it wasn’t important enough to me to get back in bed with them. I moved and took my module system with me.

I added two new modules, “unpopular shit” and my favorite – “currently popular shit.” The currently popular column was difficult to figure out. It was straight forward to collect an accumulated total and sort it, but keeping track of stuff on a 24 hour basis was not in my inventory as of yet. I decided to start watching my site closer and drew up a new SQL schema to track things to a higher resolution; the way this algorithm worked was to track every view of every page, sort it by date, descending again, and grab the last 24 hours worth of data; having this data allowed me to run it through a PHP script that would tally and give me the top five entries. It was complex, but you would not believe how much information was being kept behind the scenes at swallowbush. Every time you read a poem, story, looked at an image, checked out a link or went through to my forum… I logged everything about you. It helped me fine tune my site to better ignore IE, since it was only ~ 9% of my marketshare, and that became more relevant when I began development of White in fall of 2004, since the majority of our viewers and the devs that hit my site were on ffox.

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