Why does MetaFilter occasionally just wink out of existence? May 6, 2005 5:52 PM   Subscribe

I'm fairly new around these parts, so forgive me if this is stupid question, but why does MetaFilter occasionally just wink out of existence? This doesn't seem to happen to most of my other favorite sites.
posted by CrunchyGods to Uptime at 5:52 PM (46 comments total)

It's the evil monkey who lives in Matt's closet pulling the plug.
posted by jonmc at 5:57 PM on May 6, 2005


It's been said before, but

posted by yhbc at 5:58 PM on May 6, 2005


That's a very good question CrunchyGods and I'm very interested to hear the answer.
posted by greasy_skillet at 6:03 PM on May 6, 2005


So that some of us will put on some clothes and go outside for once. sheesh.
posted by puke & cry at 9:38 PM on May 6, 2005


Nooooooooooo, anything but that! My goth skin will burn up instantly and slide right off my body.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:41 PM on May 6, 2005 [1 favorite]


Clothes on? Outside?

Well, that explains a lot. Like the screaming and pointing, the giggling, and the sunburned dangly bits.

(On preview: Jinx. Is that why they call you "ThePinkSuperhero"?)
posted by loquacious at 9:42 PM on May 6, 2005


Sometimes Skippy needs time to himself.
posted by bshort at 9:47 PM on May 6, 2005


I agree. This is a good question.
posted by vacapinta at 9:53 PM on May 6, 2005


Things have been bad as of late and I've been offline more than online. Typically, I catch problems soon after they happen and the site doesn't suffer much in the way of downtime.

I'm actually planning on contacting Macromedia to see what I can do to tweak my server settings, to keep coldfusion from killing itself.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:55 PM on May 6, 2005


In all seriousness I was going to suggest "ColdFusion" as the reason. Fun, fairly powerful stuff but it tends to asplode when taxed, from what I hear.

Maybe MeFi needs a small, trusted group of folks with access to the remote reboot shiny candylike button thingy.

Or maybe not, it's not that important, even if you're totally addicted. *shakes slightly*
posted by loquacious at 10:05 PM on May 6, 2005


it would be nice if it worked without someone having to hold the server's hand every five minutes.
posted by blacklite at 10:05 PM on May 6, 2005


Matt, you must have constantly been doing whatever it is you have to do to keep it up (wait... that came out wrong...).

If the downtime lately is any indication of the amount of oversight required to keep it trudging along, I agree that maybe it's time for you to harvest some the whizbang technical genius around here.
posted by taz at 10:11 PM on May 6, 2005


(And, yeah, I would accept a position in that group if one were to exist, and if that button existed. A while ago I was prodding Mike B. for reboots when CF would hang, while he still was working for you. I respect data and people's systems, I've worked in data centers, pass Federal background checks, etc. Plus, I'm not doing much at the moment. But if such a group were to exist, it should be more than just two or three people, say six to twelve people.)
posted by loquacious at 10:11 PM on May 6, 2005


If you really don't want ColdFusion to kill itself:

posted by wendell at 10:13 PM on May 6, 2005


Image hosted by Photobucket.com
posted by keswick at 10:33 PM on May 6, 2005


It comes down to a very small set of reasons:

One guy coded it.
Over five years ago.
Without great scalability built in.
Has patched+cheated to make things work.
All while keeping the legacy features working.

I'd point out a full blown history..but I coudn't find it.

Talk to Matt. Who is a proud father this week.
posted by filmgeek at 11:30 PM on May 6, 2005


This gorgeous photo says it all!
posted by fionab at 11:44 PM on May 6, 2005


That was cold, keswick.

posted by wendell at 12:02 AM on May 7, 2005



posted by neckro23 at 12:04 AM on May 7, 2005


Some dude thinks "newborn daughter ≥ crummy web community," so we all gotta suffer. Which is not good for my self esteem, let me tell you.

Although that is a darn good photo, fionab. I TAKE IT ALL BACK.
posted by Guy Smiley at 12:07 AM on May 7, 2005


Whoa, that is a gorgeous photo. Bravo, Matt.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:11 AM on May 7, 2005


It's part of metafilter's charm, its flakiness. More so than probably any popular site on the net. I haven't been to a popular site that was down in years it seems, except metafilter.

But don't worry, one day matt will start charging an entrance fee and all this will be a thing of the past.

Wait a minute...
posted by justgary at 12:16 AM on May 7, 2005


I'm actually planning on contacting Macromedia to see what I can do to tweak my server settings, to keep coldfusion from killing itself.

You might want to move on that while they still have jobs.
posted by timeistight at 12:47 AM on May 7, 2005


That metafiltermedia ColdKeswick box is so awesome it felt like I just touched God's own peepee.

And it was good.

The rest of the images are awesome too.
posted by loquacious at 12:50 AM on May 7, 2005


(And yeah, it might have been God's own vagina. All I know is it was big and glowing and shit.)
posted by loquacious at 12:51 AM on May 7, 2005


loquacious: "Maybe MeFi needs a small, trusted group of folks with access to the remote reboot shiny candylike button thingy."

What MeFi really needs is to abandon CF. I love Matt, and both of his babies, but seriously, MeFi needs to be flushed down the toilet. The other baby is fine the way she is, as far as I can tell, but we'll revisit that issue in 5 years.
posted by Plutor at 4:38 AM on May 7, 2005


By "MeFi needs to be flushed down the toilet", I mean the codebase. There are a number of Open Source projects that are meant to mimic MeFi (like freefilter and phpilfer). Matt should fork one and modify it into a perfect copy of MeFi and pull a switcheroo one day. It could be a true OS project, like Slash for Slashdot and MediaWiki for Wikipedia. I'd think Matt would be happy to have a finite-but-large number of monkeys working on one baby so he could spend more time with his other one.
posted by Plutor at 4:42 AM on May 7, 2005


Maybe MeFi needs a small, trusted group of folks with access to the remote reboot shiny candylike button thingy.

Anyone see that twilight zone episode where a mysterious stranger hands a couple this box with a button on top, and says, "the moment you push this button, a complete stranger dies, and you receive one million dollars."

I think of that whenever I shop at Walmart.
posted by mecran01 at 7:51 AM on May 7, 2005


How long would it take to push a button 4 billion times? And what's four billion times a million?
posted by keswick at 8:19 AM on May 7, 2005


You never saw the end of that episode, did you keswick?
posted by spaghetti at 8:50 AM on May 7, 2005


OMG! keswick's dead!
posted by loquacious at 9:11 AM on May 7, 2005


Anyone see that twilight zone episode where a mysterious stranger hands a couple this box with a button on top, and says, "the moment you push this button, a complete stranger dies, and you receive one million dollars."

Great episode mecran01. We watched it in my Advanced Morality class in HS (but then again, we also used to watch ST:TOS).

And before anyone posts any snide comments, in Advanced Morality you studied a couple ethical philosophies with a heavy emphasis on the Catholic POV. Then we would be given various ethical dilemmas and explore them. Not a whole lot different from my college philosophy Intro to Ethics course, except there we spent more time with Utilitarianism and Kant.
posted by sbutler at 9:17 AM on May 7, 2005


What? You mean there's a twist at the end?
posted by keswick at 10:09 AM on May 7, 2005


how does coldfusion (sorry, I have never touched it) store its data? would it not be possible to move over to a more scalable solution (php/sql) to run the site? I bet there are plenty of people that would gladly work on the project...
posted by gren at 11:02 AM on May 7, 2005


Is there a torrent for that twilight zone episode?
posted by andendau at 11:49 AM on May 7, 2005


Last I checked CF is/was a weird sort of database front end. It interfaces with various database files (flat, relational, etc) and parses/calls/writes to/from that DB in a complex scripting-type language. You can use MySQL as the database backend.

Though it's more than just scripting, because CF has been a "complete" programming language for a while now, and allows for a lot of pretty interesting stuff. You can go far beyond plain scripting into including objects and all kinds of gizmos, not to mention tieing it in with other Macromedia products like Flash and Shockwave MX, which was the whole point of MX.

The basic CF operation goes something like:

ClientHTTPtoServer -> CFScriptOrCode -> DBFunction -> RenderEngine -> HTTPSendToClient

with the bulk of the action happening in the script, DB, and render engine on the server-side. (I probably munged this a bit, but that's the basic idea, and certainly vastly more complex transactions are possible.)

AFAIK CF is basically a very fancy realtime script interpreter that sits between the user and the database and makes pagebuilds and such happen very quickly. At least until CF started supporting "real" objects, that is, but even then, I hear most DB coders still regard it as a script interpreter rather than a true language, but I know others would loudly disagree with that.

I personally don't have an opinion on that. Coding hurts my brain. I've done a bit of beginner stuff in CF to see if I could pick it up as a skill, and it's actually pretty easy to learn, with lots and lots of room to grow in it. It scales pretty well, and can handle a great deal of complexity. But a lot of diehards would scoff at using CF over PHP/MySQL, but then, CF has been around a lot longer than PHP.

I would guess that the parts that would break if we tried to pry MeFi out of ColdFusion would basically be everything.

You'd have to rewrite the core MeFi engine in something else. Or if you used another of the MeFi-inspired engines, you'd have to do a lot of DB massaging and restructuring to get it to plug into the new engine. I can only imagine what kind of widgets are embedded all over the engine of this place that would be hard to replicate or dovetail into a new system, not to mention how the DB was structured.

It'd basically be a metric fuckton of detail work on a live, constantly-accruing-even-more-data site, which is a problem a lot of live groupware sites run into.
posted by loquacious at 12:18 PM on May 7, 2005


I don't see what the problem would be if we had a database with the same schema somewhere to mess with.

Create something entirely new, for testing, with the same interface, make it go, open it up for a beta-type thing, and then once it's solid, swap the DBs and make the new thing the official metafilter.
posted by blacklite at 1:51 PM on May 7, 2005


You'd have to rewrite the core MeFi engine in something else.
I think that is the whole point.
posted by blacklite at 1:58 PM on May 7, 2005


never going to happen. ever.
posted by quonsar at 2:08 PM on May 7, 2005


pre-sale, that is.
posted by quonsar at 2:09 PM on May 7, 2005


I'd peg the odds at 50% long slow death, 49% cash out, and 1% Matt actually works on and improves the site in the next 18 years.

Frankly, I'm fine with any of the above.
posted by keswick at 2:30 PM on May 7, 2005


just sell it to six apart
posted by angry modem at 3:31 PM on May 7, 2005


If anybody is curious there is an answer on AskMe as to who the guy with computers is.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 1:00 AM on May 8, 2005


Did someone explain the history of the East India Tea Company to the server?
posted by nthdegx at 3:19 AM on May 8, 2005


One guy coded it.
Over five years ago.
Without great scalability built in.
Has patched+cheated to make things work.
All while keeping the legacy features working.


Ok, that makes sense, with the other details. Not being able to wrap my head around *why* there was a relatively large amount of downtime made it difficult to appreciate the server problems as "part of Mefi's charm."

There are a number of Open Source projects that are meant to mimic MeFi (like freefilter and phpilfer). Matt should fork one and modify it into a perfect copy of MeFi and pull a switcheroo one day.

When all the Mefi clones started popping up, I remember thinking, "Wow, is it really that easy to build a site like Metafilter?" I know that was naive, but since I'm not a programmer and have no idea of the amount of work involved, I'll just ask: How long would it take a team of people to create an open source "perfect copy" of Mefi? How transferrable are the databases, really?

Also, what taz said.
posted by mediareport at 1:50 PM on May 8, 2005


The quick and easy solution is to add a load balancer and several duplicate servers.

Rewriting the software in PHP os Z80 assembler might produce some short term gains, but eventually the userload would crash the newer, better software.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:11 PM on May 8, 2005


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