On Tuesday, I released Politician Market, a satirical, fake, marketplace for buying US politician votes. I brought it online, posted to Hacker News, and went to take a shower. 15 minutes later, I’m wearing a towel when I notice that Politician Market is #1 on HN and the server is melting. 12 requests per second. Gosh. I spent the next hour coding in underpants only. My roommate walked in with family members in the middle. He just pointed, said something with the word “roommate”, and walked out.
I wanted Politician Market to be entirely static site, so I used JotForm for signups. There were so many sign-ups that I crashed JotForm’s servers after only 10 minutes and had to move the sign-up form to Google Docs.
Signups and Conversions
Conversion tip: If you want to optimize sign-ups, don’t use an external service. Sign-ups stopped almost entirely after moving to Google Docs. (I received only 40 signups after the move.) If you want to gain feedback, do place a feedback form on the homepage and you’ll get plenty of feedback.
12,000 uniques and 4 hours later, Politician Market mysteriously disappeared from the homepage and traffic started to subside. Some time before then, I had to disable the contact form entirely because I was about to overrun my JotForm quota. Despite disabling the form, people kept submitting it, often blank. (A browser bug?) At that point, I changed the form’s action to “#” and added an overlay (see below), but people kept submitting the damn form. My brother told me that he wrote me a long message in the contact form, because he was convinced that it really did get sent after all. What must you do for people to believe you?
Another conversion tip: Adding social sharing buttons seems to matter. There were 12,000 hits while we were on HN for four hours. After pg killed the submission, the long tail brought (and is still bringing) another 2k. If you add sharing buttons, make sure to include Google Plus. The break down was 259 shares on Twitter, 40 on Google Plus, and a bunch on Facebook. (For an unknown reason, Facebook wont show me the stats anymore.)
For absolutely no reason, I asked for phone numbers in the signup form. About 30% of all sign-ups included them.
Avoid AppEngine Like the Plague
I originally wanted to host on S3, but it wouldn’t accept my credit card so I used AppEngine and static-app-engine-hoster. Don’t do that. There is no caching and you lose all the benefits of a static site. I wasn’t expecting so many hits, so I didn’t think this through.
More on AppEngine: Deployment is easy, but payment sucks. AppEngine makes you pay per-week, so if you want to use $10 a day, you have to deposite at least $70. (Slimeballs.) AppEngine has absolutely no support for paying customers. I sent two emails about urgent issues and never heard back. Avoid AppEngine like the plague.
I tried publicizing Politician Market on Reddit, Slashdot, and Digg. It almost took off on Reddit, but Slashdot ignored it despite votes on the Firehose submission and Digg was a laughable waste of time. (What they say about Digg is correct: If you aren’t part of the oligarchy you might as well submit the link to /dev/null.) I emailed a few tech and political bloggers. Most of them ignored me, but some had incredibly kind words and published a link. Do have the chutzpa to email bloggers.
This is the second launch I have done. Third time ice cream. Does anyone know where that weird Israeli saying comes from?
Happy holidays, everyone!
I’m off for Hanukah and I want to donate a few holiday hours to a charitable project. Do you know of a good cause that could use a C hacker or independent Python web developer? Let me know and I’ll donate four hours tomorrow night, with the goal of continuing to help out during the new year.
Are you a coder yourself? Can you pledge the same? Send me an email and we will code for good tomorrow.
Update: Join us in #holidayhack on Freenode!
Tonight something incredible happened: I asked Emacs to solve my physics homework and it couldn’t. If you think Emacs can do everything, think again: there is no (require ‘physics). Go solve assignments yourself.
You might be laughing, but this no joke. In the process of coding and writing fiction, I have canoodled Emacs into unzipping files, trailing log files, displaying inline latex previews in org-mode, disassembling java classes, and converting variable names between CamelCase and c_style. My Emacs also commits to git and ClearCase, displays a minimap, looks up synonyms online, browses local files, browses the web, reads my emails, plays typing games with me, and provides a more vimmy vim than vim itself. Hell, Emacs can even play chess.
I didn’t produce the above list from thin air. I looked in my .emacs and reviewed what Emacs has done for me lately. If Emacs can do all that – and I hear it can provide psychotherapy services over irc – then Emacs should be able to solve my physics assignments. Go figure.
(Now, supposing you aren’t an Emacs user, don’t you think it’s time you found out what Glorious Emacs can do for you?)