The Digg Debacle

Digg has gotten itself into an awkward place with it’s latest redesign, Digg v4. The users are mad, the content has taken a turn for the worse, and now they’ve decided to fire their VP of Engineering over the whole debacle.

To be honest I never really understood why Digg had to move to Cassandra. There a plenty of really big players that use sharded MySQL to scale very effectively, Facebook being one of them. However, in reading this blog post it kind of makes sense. Joins are very expensive, and they’re working with some seriously huge datasets. But then again, the whole reason they started working with Cassandra is so they could add the green badge feature (green badge == one of your friends dugg the story). Is that really a necessary feature? This is reminiscent of Friendster’s failure:

The problem might have been solved if someone had reworked the software to ignore distant connections–for example, by calculating only connections between friends. But Friendster’s engineers were so preoccupied with day-to-day slowdowns that they neglected to step back and ask what was causing them.

When engineers are left unchecked they will try to solve every problem that comes up with a technology solution. In this case the green badge feature probably is a necessary feature, but that doesn’t mean the entire system had to move to Cassandra at the very same time they were deploying a new version of their site. In hindsight it probably would have been a lot smarter to change features or change database technology. Doing both at the same time at the same time has proven to be perilous.

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Powered by Nginx

I’ve finished building my new server for this blog and have made the migration from Apache to Nginx. To a large degree Apache has worked very well for me, but over the last year there have been two occurrences where a spike of traffic overwhelmed Apache to the point where the server started thrashing and ultimately became unresponsive. Nginx should be better at dealing with spikes in traffic as it’s designed to be a very high performance HTTP server with minimal memory requirements. For PHP I decided to go with PHP-FPM.

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Visiting the Facebook Office in Seattle

I enjoyed the Facebook party last night at their new Seattle digs. It was fun chatting with all the engineers and especially their VP of engineering, Mike Schroepfer. It’s interesting how open the big tech companies are about their systems. There are certainly plenty of things that are off limits, but in general the Facebook crew was very cool about discussing their infrastructure and technologies.

Would it be a cool place to work? Definitely. They’ve got a great product and enthusiastic employees. Perks include: three catered meals per day, laundry service, and a fantastic view of Elliott Bay.

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Found on Google Street View

I was checking out Google Street View in my neighborhood and was surprised to see my wife, 3-year-old, and dog walking along the sidewalk. Looks like the street view car must have rolled right past them.

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Facebook Seattle Office Party: coding required for admission

I came across an blog post today announcing an office party (read: recruiting event) at the new Facebook office in Seattle. To get an invite to the party you have to solve a puzzle (which gives you a URL) then you have to write some code that involves the Facebook Graph API. You can choose whatever programming language you want for your solution. Well, I like programming challenges and one thing lead to another. Looks like I’ll be checking out the new Facebook office in a couple weeks. I’m not going to go into the details of my solution but I will say that it was a fun exercise and the Facebook API looks pretty interesting.

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BlackRapid R-Strap: Great for blueberry picking too

My wife and I love the R-Strap for shooting weddings. They’re very comfortable camera straps, allowing us to move around easily, while always keeping the cameras close at hand. As far as we’re concerned, these are the best straps out there.

Today at the blueberry farm, we discovered another way in which the R-Strap enhances our lives. To pick blueberries efficiently, you have to use both hands, and your bucket must be close within reach. One might suggest tying a rope to the bucket and fastening it around your neck, but this is not comfy, especially when your bucket gets heavy. Enter the R-Strap: perfect solution.

blueberry picking with the R-Strap RS-W1

these are blueberries


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Deferred Acceptance Algorithm

I just read an interesting article in Forbes talking about Alvin Roth’s work in New York City public school system to place incoming freshman in. Fascinating work. I wonder what other problems this algorithm could be applied to? How about placing people in seats of an airplane (families sit together, babies near the bathroom, etc).

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Aside >> El Gaucho in Bellevue

El Gaucho, 450 108th Ave. N.E., Bellevue, 425-455-2715, offers happy hour Mondays-Fridays 2-6 p.m. and on Sundays 5-11 p.m. with bar food from $2.25-$12 and drinks from $4.50-$6 (

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iPhone 4 Antennagate: Give ’em free bumper cases

I’ve been using the iPhone 4 since the day before it was officially released to Apple stores. It’s a fantastic phone, by far the best I’ve ever used. A huge upgrade from the 3G I had been nursing along for two years. The speed is amazing. But a bunch of Apple naysayers have created this big hubbub about antenna attenuation. Yeah, well guys it’s a problem with all phones, so whats the big deal? Now Steve is finally setting the record straight with some data, and free bumper cases. He certainly didn’t have to give us all free cases — the phone works great without — but it’s a nice gesture and will hopefully appease the Apple haters.

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iPhone 4 Unboxing

My new iPhone arrived on 6/23/2010 one day earlier than originally promised by Apple. I suspect it’s easier on Fedex if they can spread out all the deliveries over a couple days. Nobody was home when the Fedex driver stopped by the first time, but luckily he stopped by again a few hours later — they like to get rid of packages as much as we like to receive them.

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