It was the moment I had been dreading since the day the Black Boxes widget was embraced with such enthusiasm. I fired up chasing sheep and instead of a Black Box there was a black hole. The server was out of bandwidth due to the amount of data passing back and forth between 'blackboxers', who were doubling every 30 hours and then faster and faster.
By a stroke of luck the tipping point occurred late on Friday (US time - fortunately the UK were asleep) and I just happened to be hanging out with a whole troop of alpha-geeks in one of our hotel rooms in Boston.
There was a flurry of clunks and swooshes as the laptops opened. We were living the alpha-geek dream: an emergency that genuinely required the application of the obscurest titbits of knowledge we collectively possessed. The clock was ticking and we were ready to save the day.
At first glance the answer had to be simple. After all, it's a pretty straightforward little widget - how hard could it be to find the right blog to send people to based on their choices? But no ... this particular puzzle held a lot more complexity than you could ever imagine. And, for an ordinary person, that would have been a disappointment. Luckily, for an alpha-geek the fact that your first three ideas are nowhere close to a solution is what makes it really start to feel like fun.
5 alpha-geeks, one beta-geek (self-termed and behind the camera), one designer / technical editor and a project manager. Go team geek!
We divided up the tasks and tested various theories. We implemented a fast-fix that we knew would only hold out for a couple of hours, and then we combined our collective problem solving capability and worked out a beautiful solution. I hacked a temporary version of it that we could have up and running that night, and the boys put together an amazing super-charged-version that will take over this week, and means that the widget will be able to handle up to 100 users per minute.
We tapped keyboards, opened terminals, installed stuff, researched stuff, tested, failed, tested, failed better, tested, failed even better and then, at 4.30 am Boston time, we uploaded our solutions and congratulated ourselves on having saved the day. (Or possibly just the widget, but hey, we geeks have egos too and we rarely excel at the heavy lifting stuff).
I can't thank my fellow geeks enough. They totally blew me away - partly with their sheer brilliance but mostly with their complete commitment to finding a solution. They rocked.