In a few hours, we will fly back to Barcelona, after spending several weeks in the United States in California (San Francisco mainly), Kauai Island (Hawaii) and Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
On Friday, September 11th, 2009, I was in a room at Chapel Hill’s historic Carolina Inn Hotel, along with Kirsten Dirksen (my wife and co-founder of this blog) and my daughters Inés (2.5 years old) and Ximena (2 months old.)
The afternoon of the following day, the youngest of Kirsten’s sisters (and therefore my sister-in-law), was set to be married in Chapel Hill, a pleasant university town part of an area home to the largest percentage of PhD’s in the United States: the Research Triangle. Even Google has offices in Chapel Hill, though they don’t market it and they don’t even have a secretary or a public telephone to call, since only developers work here.
Friday was a nice day, though intense. Nervous relatives talking and encouraging each other, clothes that needed to be ironed and a big coffee to take huge sips to from time to time.
Contrary to my predictions, I was able not only to check my computer, but even to work peacefully for a few hours that day, even though I had to leave for a pre-wedding party later in the day.
I rushed to try to post a blog entry I had been working on during random break times here and there, in days where time and privacy were not going together. I detected a behavior with the caching of that blog entry when in *faircompanies, once it was posted and I was ready to make it public, so it could be promoted to the home of the site. That blog entry explained our visits to Googleplex and Tesla Motors to find out more about their sustainability vision and policies, as well as the interviews we handled with both companies’ representatives.
I decided to notify our lead developer of the issue, who proceeded to check it out.
And then, suddenly, the site went totally down. Several weeks ago, we had deployed a new infrastructure that reduces downtime, resets the Django python application we use or the database server if necessary, and even swaps between the current application server (production) and another application server that we use to test staging changes.
For those who are interested, we run 3 server “images” on the cloud (3 Ubuntu environments on Amazon Web Services, using the infrastructure S3 + EC2). Two of them run an almost identical version of the Django app that makes the site, and the other one runs our database (PostgreSQL.)
Soon, after a couple of minutes of downtime, we realized something different was going on. The site was being recurrently hit by different IP’s. While we were looking at some small job of database maintenance, *faircompanies received an extraordinary amount of traffic. It was so big that we needed almost 30 minutes to handle the requests and make the site stable and running decently.
While we were still working in the middle of the downtime, I got an email from a developer that confirmed what we were guessing, following a unique referral that was hitting us hard: Mike Arrington from TechCrunch had published a post on *faircompanies: Welcome To Silicon Valley, FairCompanies. Thanks For Not Breaking Into My House.
And some of the early readers of the post were starting to joke around, seeing the site down, so we did our best to bring the site back to life and after that first half hour, the site didn’t go down again. So the few trolls that were waiting for our “European demise” (starting with one commenter who began his comment with the sentence “Europeans are retarded”.) To see my point of view on this particular comment, visit the TechCrunch post and check my response to it.
All that said, we have received a larger number of positive comments, and the major part of the world doesn’t make statements based on assumptions, but on credible data. And no, not all Europeans are retarded. Nor are others.
Fortunately for us, the post on TechCrunch has brought a considerable amount of traffic to the site. Sometimes, traffic coming from a popular blog post is conformed by a crew of early adopters and tech lovers who are not necessarily interested in sustainability, but we certainly got notable feedback from people really interested in what we do and publish in *faircompanies.
It’s specially interesting the amount of encouraging comments and responses we have collected through email or other channels, including an invitation to the TechCrunch50 party for European entrepreneurs via Twitter, which we could not attend because we were already in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
We have also seen how both friends and professionals in the Internet recognize our original approach to TechCrunch in order to get coverage. In the note we prepared for the popular tech blog, which we posted at their offices’ door in Palo Alto, we included a Flickr address where we would post the making off of the note that got published. The entire photogallery is available here.
It has been also reproduced in part in this post.
We include a note on the photoset of the note for TechCrunch, which we reproduce entirely below:
So Michael Arrington himself posted an article on *faircompanies in TechCrunch.
We just covered the making of of the note we personally left at the TechCrunch offices in Palo Alto.
All that said, we don’t want to encourage unpolite proceedings with anybody, and TechCrunch is not an exception.
It’s great that Mike Arrington took the joke with “savoir faire”.
Check it out:
So we got what we wanted: to spread the word about our website, http://faircompanies.com.
Check it out!