Tag Archive for 'FolderShare'

Crashing When Something Feels Wrong

I’m sort of lazy, so I really like the idea of code that continually checks itself by using assertions. I even like running production services with assertions turned on. To be clear, I’m talking about assertions that check for actual bugs in your code – not assertions that socket() didn’t fail. Still, crashing production servers is a contentious issue, but sometimes (hopefully rarely) it is the best thing to do. For something like FolderShare, crashing a server as soon as there is any hint of an error is vastly safer than possibly deleting someone’s files due to a bug. Of course, this introduces the risk that you could have multiple servers fail in a short amount of time, but you need to design for that case anyway.

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The Lawsuit, Shutdown, and Aftermath

This is the final article in my three part series about building Audiogalaxy. If you haven’t already, you may want to read part one and part two first.

By 2002, things were going along quite nicely from a technology standpoint. Running the C backend on the hardware we had purchased for the Java version meant we were very much below our capacity, and we made it past 1 million simultaneous clients. I was pleased that I had learned the right lessons from V1 and designed a solid architecture.

I was also feeling good about the other major service I looked after — search. Audiogalaxy had sponsored my senior engineering project for UT in 2000 — a high performance MySQL indexing service. That, combined with a caching service I built in 2001, had solved the search problem. We were handling 80 million page views every day, most of them searches.

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I went to a meeting run by the Seattle Tech Startup folks a few weeks ago. Even though I’m not thinking about doing another startup right now, I was glad to see the enthusiasm of all the other people who are. Because I love seeing the new ideas that come out of startups, I really hate seeing them fail as a result of them making the same silly mistakes. So, the collaboration that the STS meetings and the associated mailing list promote really put a smile on my face.

I’ve played a big part in two successful startups, and my two had very different flavors. Audiogalaxy was a rocket-ship ride that didn’t let up for three years until it all came crashing down due to a lawsuit. We had traffic from the minute we turned on the Satellite, and all we had to do was scale it up as quickly as we possibly could. FolderShare, on the other hand, sometimes felt like a continuous series of failures until we had success all at once–a glowing review from Walt Mossberg while we’re negotiating our acquisition by Microsoft. That was nice.

Now that I’ve got some free time, one of the goals for this blog is to reflect a little bit on my experiences and what I might change next time. Stay tuned.