Nothing more than a housekeeping miniblog today, I’m afraid, but it might interest those of you who like contemplating the astonishing power of volume.
I have for some time now been very wary of tweeting or retweeting URLs, however worthy the cause. The high (and entirely gratifying) number of followers that I have accumulated on Twitter means that when I point them towards a site it can often get almost instantly stampeded and flattened, swamped and strangulated. Only news pages and similar big name sites can withstand such a rush. I feel like the most awful bully and vandal when, within seconds, a tenderly cared for, loved and valued site goes down. It has taken me a long time to learn the lesson. Distributed Denial Of Service style slashdotting assaults and instant clamouring of this nature is akin to thousands of people all trying to get into a medium-sized shop at the same time. The weary shop-keeper, brushing away the broken glass into the street, turns to me and shakes his head. “But you asked me to alert people to your place, you insisted that it would be fine…” I say. He shakes his head and turns his back on me. Isn’t there some sort of cartoon character or figure in children’s literature who tries to be friendly but can’t help being clumsy and breaking everything and gets run out of town? Seems to ring a bell. Anyway, that’s me.
Over the past few days these miniblogs, which I have alerted my Twitter followers to, have nearly closed down my own site, stephenfry.com. Hoist by my own petard, as plenty of you have observed. Four thousand hits a second all diving down the pipeline at the same time for minutes on end. Do the math, as they say here in America.
I hope you’re reading this happily and that the site has let you in with speed, fluency and ease today. @simonwheatley, @sampsonian and the indefatigable Positive Internet Company have worked hard over the last few days to supercharge the server clusters with extra RAM. I hope this new capacity will prove sufficient. Bear in mind that this is virgin territory we are all exploring here. Without sounding too boastful I have to emphasise that these are astonishing numbers we are talking about and it is unsurprising that even a spaciously hosted server like mine feels the strain when you all ring the bell at once.
The iPhone and Android mobile versions of my site (which are essentially web apps) allow me to blog and upload and you to access the site in a really impressive new way, I think, which looks good and also (by virtue of its convenience and portability) contributes to extra volume. If you haven’t an iPhone, iPod Touch or Android phone, borrow one off someone for five minutes and go to stephenfry.com – I think you’ll be impressed by the way the web app works and the social networking toolkit at the bottom of each page and other unique features. There’s much more to come.
As individual and corporate sites develop apps and embedded relationships with the APIs of Twitter and other services so the journey through cyberspace becomes richer and – I hope – more reciprocal. Zesty (but never tediously abusive) commenting and on-the-fly contributions are always welcome.
But none of this works without the invisible infrastructure of servers and the brilliant and dedicated people who maintain them, so if you’re reading this and arrived here instantly, raise a cheer to them. But not all at once….