Building Chess.com: Part 4 - Unexpected Happenings
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Sometimes people ask what it is like starting a website like Chess.com. I finally figured out how to explain it: it's like riding a bike. First you have to decide which bike to get on. That was easy for me - chess website, of course :) Then you have to start pedaling. The first few pushes on the pedals are hard as you have no momentum. The bike wobbles for a second, maybe you even touch your foot back down to brace yourself from falling. Did you pick the right idea? Is this the way I should be spending my life? Can we even DO this??
Soon though you are pedaling on a slight incline. Putting people and resources together. Working hard to line up design + product + coders + mission + etc. etc. It is tiring and sometimes frustrating because you just want to get the site open and going! But at the same time you aren't moving too fast, no hard deadlines, no major stress. It's exciting to see the next step up ahead!
And then, once you are ready to launch you find yourself at the top of an incredibly tall hill. You pause briefly at the top and catch your breath and look for any hazards on the hill. Then you nudge forward and put your feet up and grab the handlebars tight....
The first day a website opens you just can't know what to expect. Who will come? What will they think? How will they interact? And it is a little empty and slow-feeling. Day ONE on chess.com was totally uneventful, just as being on the apex of a hill. You can feel it slowly pulling you downward, but nothing much yet. But not 2 breaths later the momentum is irreversible and you are going downhill fast. The you realize you are on one of those San Francisco hills where you can't really steer too much - you are headed straight down. You're doing your best just to stay balanced, to avoid the trash and potholes (spammers, morons). You'd like to stop and rest for a minute, but then you realize you have tens of thousands of people counting on you and who would be REALLY disappointed if you stopped. And so you keep going, legs flailing, trying to keep everything under control.
I guess two days ago somebody looked out their window and video taped our wild ride for a second and it made it on to the news. Chess.com was featured on the morning technology show "Click" on the BBC in the UK. We didn't even know it until we started wondering about all of the activity on the site and the crazy numbers of UK folks signing up (welcome, by the way! :). To see the brief clip click on this link and then find the PLAY NOW button on the right side of the page. Then fast-forward to minute 18:45 in the show.
The coverage was nice and simple, and we feel so lucky to have people noticing what we are trying to do! Thanks BBC UK!
All that said, we did hit a pothole this week. As our site grows and grows and grows we need to keep up with it. We recently ordered some beefy new servers to handle the traffic. But in the mean time we also found that our current database server is having a little trouble. If you have noticed, today (and a few times in the past) the site will just suddenly stop working for a few minutes. Well, the problem is either a bug in the MySQL code, a problem with FreeBSD, faulty memory from Dell, a glitch in the processors, or something we haven't even thought of yet!!
We did a rebuild of MySQL and will be installing the new servers and load-balancer next week, so hopefully we have the issue addressed.
As if that wasn't enough, we are madly trying to get Live Chess done :). We want it, you want it, everyone wants it. But it just isn't an easy thing to build. Thanks for being patient!
Also, this week we are going to take our first investor meetings. Wish us luck as we try and get some more cash to keep us moving forward!
We are all having a lot of fun with Chess.com and appreciate all of your support, interest, help, and patience as we build what we hope is the best online chess community!