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On Monday, August 18th, I unleashed the LiveJournal Sitcom meme on the unwitting denizens of LiveJournal. Little did I know how large an impact this would have, at least in the short run. As of this writing, about 91 thousand unique users have used it, and it has sustained nearly 850 thousand hits. What follows is a description of the events immediately following the ljsitcom release, and some other random statistics. My next post will deal with technical meme-design issues, and I'll make the ljsitcom source code available at that point as well.

The seven updates on my previous post detail the trials I went through, in a nutshell, getting this thing to run in a stable manner. I'll recap:

By the middle of the next day, the popularity had begun snowballing, and the webserver's load average was skyrocketing. My website is hosted on an Athlon 800 with 512mb of RAM, which is very low-end in the server market, but had been sufficient for everything it needed to do up to this point (it had been slashdotted a couple times in the past and survived). However, the combination of a semi-computationally-intense script and the growing flood of users was driving it to its knees. Something needed to be done.

My first attempt at stemming the load was to try and optimise the script in any way I could think of. I used Perl's Cache::FileCache module to add local caching of fetched userinfo pages, I tweaked that so it only cached the list of friends instead of the whole page, I condensed some of the code where I could, and I replaced many double-quoted "strings" with single-quoted 'strings' so that variable-interpolation would only be done where needed. These changes had a very barely noticeable effect. I was still worried.

By the end of the day, the webserver was crawling again, so I took the script down overnight while I tried to come up with a solution. My server administrator was beginning to get annoyed with me.

In the morning, I decided that if I set up a cronjob to swap the real script with a placeholder "come back soon" script every three minutes, it'd give the server time to cool off between bursts of usage. In addition, I put up a second instance of the script on my admin's new server machine, a dual Athlon 2GHz with 2GB of memory, and added a "please use this mirror" link to the original script. This worked well for about five hours, when the main server overloaded yet again and the admin asked me to take the script down. I did, sadly. However, shortly afterwards, he agreed that I could try running it exclusively on the new server, as a stress-test. I set up a redirection script in the original script's location, sending people to the new server, and held my breath.

The new server's load stayed fairly low; I don't recall seeing it ever top 8 or 9. Still, I set up the three-minute rotation cronjob again, and from that point on the load stayed around 1 or 2. I was pleased, and watched the hits pour in. By the end of the day, 25,000 unique users had used the script in its new location, each reloading it about 8 times or so. About 7,000 had used it in its original location, bringing the total at that point to 32,000 users.

Over the next couple days, the emails and comments on the original post began flooding in. The script continued to run beautifully, and the server stayed stable. I started working on replying to people. Many of them had good suggestions, but most of all they just wanted to tell me they had enjoyed it. This made me very happy, since the whole point of this sort of thing is to give people some enjoyment, even if its only for a few minutes.

A side-effect of the rampant popularity of ljsitcom was a renaissance for the Pizza Arbiter. After its initial release, it had about 7,000 unique users over a period of a week or two, and then lay nearly dormant for the last month and a half. Since ljsitcom was released, however, the pizza database has increased to over 13,000 users.

There are over 83,000 unique LiveJournal URLs in my website's referer logs. That means that number of different links to corknut.org on LiveJournal pages have been clicked through. If LJ's Meme Tracker was ever updated, ljsitcom's 83,000+ links would most likely be at the top of the list. I'm so proud. :)

A handful of people made small donations as well, which was very heartening. Those donations will most likely go towards mangofandango and my paid accounts, because it seems only fair. Seeing this sort of thing happen gives me even more faith in the future acceptance of micropayments -- if some people are willing to send me a buck or two out of the pure goodness of their hearts, surely more people would be willing to pay a cent or two to use a toy like this, if it was simple and straightforward to do so? That's a discussion for another time, though.

Another wacky side-effect of ljsitcom was encountering some old acquaintances. Three people that I knew in the past have contacted me because they recognised my name on the meme, and it's be fun exchanging notes with those people. I've also been befriended by a bunch of new people because of this.

It's been a crazy ride so far. I'll keep you all updated as things happen. :)

Update (25 Aug 2003 15:59 EDT): LJ finally updated its Meme Tracker -- I guess they update it once a week -- and LJSitcom did indeed make it to the top, but it didn't find all 83,000 links. However, surprisingly, the Pizza Arbiter made its way back onto the list, with two different URLs (one with the www, the other without) both in the top thirty memes. Yay for renewed pizza interest!

Comments

( 29 comments — Leave a comment )
aussie_nyc
Aug. 23rd, 2003 08:27 am (UTC)
Was any of this inspired by my 6 year old lounge entry gag?
rfreebern
Aug. 23rd, 2003 08:52 am (UTC)
That was definitely part of the inspiration. Another part was reading a bunch of inane TV listings one night a few weeks ago. The idea's been with me for a couple months in one form or another, but I only just got around to coding it up in my spare time at work. The "title (NBC, 7:30)" bit is definitely modeled after your olounge, as is the "Zany antics ensue."

You're the meaning in my life, you're the inspiration!
aussie_nyc
Aug. 23rd, 2003 09:09 am (UTC)
I'm just glad so many thousands have seen zany antics ensue.
lassen
Aug. 23rd, 2003 09:41 am (UTC)
well it was really cool. You should make some more things like that.
rfreebern
Aug. 23rd, 2003 02:05 pm (UTC)
I am planning on it. I just hope I can come up with equally fun ideas in the future! And with any luck, I won't have such huge server trouble next time around.
lassen
Aug. 23rd, 2003 09:34 pm (UTC)
well good luck
(Deleted comment)
rfreebern
Aug. 23rd, 2003 02:07 pm (UTC)
Christian Bale is a very talented Welsh actor! He was in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" that I just watched a couple weeks ago. :) You can find out more about it at his IMDB page.
ex_devilpigl935
Aug. 23rd, 2003 11:11 am (UTC)
Okay, I maybe only understood every third word but it was still interesting to read about the survival of this great script. It brought a lot of humor to the LJ community and I really enjoyed seeing everyone's results*. So thank you for all your effort!

*Even though I was repeatedly played by Jeremy Irons.
rfreebern
Aug. 23rd, 2003 02:10 pm (UTC)
Hey, Jeremy Irons is a talented actor! Be glad you didn't get stuck with, for instance, Carrot Top or Pauly Shore. :)
elordais
Aug. 25th, 2003 07:13 am (UTC)
Yeah he's talented...but have you seen him in that...um...classic...called Dungeons & Dragons? I lost a lot of respect for the man after that bomb. ; )

Nice job on the LJ sitcom thing. Brilliant idea.
(no subject) - rfreebern - Aug. 25th, 2003 10:19 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
rfreebern
Aug. 23rd, 2003 02:11 pm (UTC)
Sank oo Melon!
trogdor
Aug. 23rd, 2003 03:51 pm (UTC)
It is really cool =) I enjoyed it, and am glad I am one of the 83,000+ people who've used it =)
gentlemime
Aug. 23rd, 2003 10:19 pm (UTC)
I don't know who collin farrell is, but I love mae west, and lucy lawless, and well, *glee*! thanks for making it:)
rfreebern
Aug. 25th, 2003 10:22 am (UTC)
I am glad you like it, but I am astounded that you don't know who Colin Farrell is. He's been huge lately! Here is his IMDB profile. Let me know if you've seen any of his recent movies!
gentlemime
Aug. 26th, 2003 06:29 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the educational imdb, his face is entirely new to me.--I think when I first saw Colin's name on a billboard(one fortnight ago), I had high hopes he was related to Perry Farrell. Alas, no.
kaura_nighthawk
Aug. 23rd, 2003 10:23 pm (UTC)
my god
My God. So you're the one to blame for the avalanche of sitcoms on my buddylist!

...good job! o_o;
rfreebern
Aug. 25th, 2003 10:23 am (UTC)
Re: my god
I'm glad you like it!
(Anonymous)
Aug. 24th, 2003 09:07 pm (UTC)
hi, just had to comment on the awesomeness that is your icon. Ahh, BTVS how I miss thee...lol. That drawing, major kewl...sorry...random buffy fan here...

deadjournal name is heatherbob
rfreebern
Aug. 25th, 2003 10:24 am (UTC)
When I saw that drawing, I knew I just had to have it for my usericon. I'm glad you like it. :)
chicabcn
Aug. 25th, 2003 06:11 am (UTC)
Male/Female
I know there is some algorithm for asignin one Actor/actres to each LJ user (the same every time I think).
I'm a female and I'm and actress, but some of my friends females also, are played by an actor (Bela Lugosi is not femenine at all and my friend, well, is just the opposite, and she don't know if cry or laught).

Is it possible to make some sort of "sexual" correction/improvement?, I don't know if you can see/acces the gender of an LJ user (not appears in the public information page, but is in the personal info page), if not I understend you can't, but if it is accessible .....

Maybe i can wait to see the source code. I don't know nothing about memes, but it seems fun and i'm a programmer so ..... let's see whats happens

PD: Sorry for my bad, bad english. I read/understend well but I sucks writing in inglish, spanish expressions don't translate well in inglish, and the on-line translator, dictionarys etc, sucks more than me ;)))
rfreebern
Aug. 25th, 2003 10:26 am (UTC)
Re: Male/Female
Unfortunately for me, there's no simple way of figuring out a user's gender from just their userinfo, so there's no real way to match female users with actresses and vice versa. A lot of people have commented on that, though!

The source code will be posted soon. I hope you come up with something neat based on it. :)

Also, your English is perfectly understandable. You do great for a non-native-English-speaker. :)
claudia_yvr
Aug. 25th, 2003 08:36 am (UTC)
This was just freakin' brilliant - many thanks for creating hours of endless fun!

I'm glad you included the donation link, 'cause that made it easy for me to contribute to your madness ;-)
rfreebern
Aug. 25th, 2003 10:27 am (UTC)
Hours!? My goodness, Claudia, I had no idea it would hold anyone's interest that long! Except for mine, I guess, but that's to be expected. :)

Thank you so much for your donation! It is truly appreciated. :)
claudia_yvr
Aug. 25th, 2003 10:51 am (UTC)
You're very welcome, Ryan! I've probably clicked enough times to create practically a full television season, but when I say hours, I'm talking collectively, lol! Just about everyone on my Friends list has played with your toy, generating lots of comments back and forth :-)

kittenaskat
Aug. 25th, 2003 09:01 am (UTC)
I'm very curious to know how the actor/actress decision was made... I think it's absolutely brilliant that I am played by Milla Jovovich (completely made my day!) but what I found even better is that my black cat, sophiecat and a friend's black cat mouse_cat were both played by Margaret Cho...
rfreebern
Aug. 25th, 2003 10:31 am (UTC)
It's just a simple heuristic. I add up all the ASCII character code values of the characters in a username ('a' is 97, 'b' is 98, etc.), mod the total so it falls within the range 0 to however many actors are in my list, and then select the actor from the list that corresponds with the chosen number.

It is quite surprising that two black cats are both played by the same actress! I couldn't have planned that if I had tried. :)

I liked Milla Jovovich in The Fifth Element.
dirtyaffection
Aug. 25th, 2003 10:27 am (UTC)
i just found the lj sitcom thing. i think it's great and so original! i loved it. thanks for creating it! :D
rfreebern
Aug. 25th, 2003 10:31 am (UTC)
Thank you for the compliments!
( 29 comments — Leave a comment )

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