Building Chess.com: Part 14 - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
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I feel compelled to write today about the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. I'm going to break form though and start with the ugly and end with the good!
Sometimes things are outside of our control. There are weeks where everything on Chess.com moves like a sailboat gliding through the water smoothly. And then there are days like today. First, one of our servers crashed entirely and it was not our fault. It was the fault of OpenX - the opensource ad server we run. It went down due to a bug (their bug) and POOF - down we go. Ugh. And then, about 60 minutes after that, a DNS router at our host/datacenter in Los Angeles, CA crashed. POOF - down go more people (many of you were not affected, but some - like Chess.com headquarters! - couldn't connect to Chess.com). Anyway, I try not to cry when things like that happen, but it is so frustrating :(
You know how everyone thinks their own baby is so cute, but then when the kid grows up and sometimes you look back on the baby pictures and realize - that was an UGLY baby!? Well, that certainly hasn't happened to me or my 4 kids (:D), but it does happen. In fact, it even happened with Chess.com, which is, effectively, one of my children. And now that Chess.com is more grown up I can look out and say that our Chess.com child named "Live Chess" is ugly.
Let me explain more: Live Chess is actually very nice looking! It has really cool features, a great interface, and is fun......... IF it works for you. It is ugly in the sense that it doesn't work for many people. And to those of you I only have 2 words - VERY SORRY. :( We started out with such a grand vision for Live Chess, but failed to build it out in a careful manner. We pushed too hard too fast. We added features faster than we could test them. And we did it all with too few people. And so we have what we have now - a beautiful, dysfunctional live chess server. So sorry.
Here is the plan: we are now rebuilding Live Chess from the ground up and doing it right. Carefully. Patiently. Measuredly. And we have the best of the best of the best working on it - the pioneers of live web technologies like Jetty and cometd. We don't yet have a timeframe, but we do have a promise - it will be what you expect: a stable place to come and play chess and interact with friends. Getting disconnected is the most frustrating thing in the world, and it is what is really slowing the growth of Chess.com (though we are still growing really fast). We know that once we fix Live Chess... let's just say that we're excited :)
As you know, we're always trying to get better. Our To-Do list is long, and it comes from your suggestions. In addition to the many fixes and small features we are working on, there is one main feature we are now focusing on - instructional videos! There are lots of ways to learn chess (we think Chess Mentor is most effective!), and some people want to sit back and listen to a Grandmaster share insights into the game (I know sometimes I do!). So over the next several months we will be building the viewing technology (which will be the best online anywhere), and getting top players to create videos. Which brings me to my next "GOOD".
Chess.com has hired IM David Pruess as the Director of Professional Relations! In addition to being our personal Chess.com coach-slave, he will also be in charge of: recruiting new titled players (columnists, video lecturers, Chess Mentor authors, etc), interfacing with top chess players, coordinating Chess.com sponsorship of events, etc. Basically he will be the battering ram for any situation where normally people in the "chess world" would say "Erik who??" :) He is a great guy and a terrific Chess.com ambassador!
We have also hired the famed Kohai as a Chess.com Member Support person. As many of you know, Kohai is awesome in every way. A huge Chess.com fan from the beginning, and someone who has a level-head and is always ready to provide answers. Kohai will now be answering support tickets as well as other tasks.
One other piece of good news is that we are adding more new servers to Chess.com including our beefiest server ever - a new Dell 2950 with massive HDs and RAM as our new database box. This should make the site faster as the multiple harddrives in RAID format are able to do database reads - and more importantly, writes - much faster. We will be putting this server as well as a new Live Chess development server online in the next 48 hours.
So there you have it. The Good - new features, new faces, new beginning to Live Chess. The Bad - crazy things happen. And The Ugly - Live Chess disconnects.
From everyone at Chess.com -> a HUGE thank you to all of our members for your support! Without your ideas, suggestions, and patience we wouldn't be what we are today.
Until next time - happy chessing!