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Scaling Jarvis from 5 to 5000 users in forty-eight hours

21 May 2016

Last Saturday, Daniel and I were ready to launch our side project, Jarvis , to the world. We had been building and dogfooding it for about three weeks and were excited for people other than our friends—real people—to try it out. We posted the link on reddit and Product Hunt and…not much happened. About 15 or so people briefly messaged Jarvis and then left. We went home, dejected, and slept.

Two days later, Jarvis had over 5000 users and got featured on some cool sites like these . We have now sent over 13000 reminders to over 8000 users, and migrated our parser to wit.ai. But in the crucial first forty-eight hours, here’s how things went down.

Hours 0-12I woke up in the middle of the night and checked Product Hunt and we were right there, trending on the front page. People were actually trying Jarvis out. I checked the Heroku logs. Holy shit, logs were scrolling down the screen like in the Matrix. All was well and good, until we stopped responding to messages. Ruh roh. I checked the logs again. 500s all over the place. Jarvis was down. Someone sent some weird unicode that we didn’t decode properly. Fuck fuck fuck. I woke Daniel up and he got to debugging the issue while I messaged all our new users to tell them that we were having issues and could they please hold on for a second. 15 minutes later, he pushed a fix. Thank god. We could rest easy…for about five minutes, when something else broke. We ran into our Google Maps Geocoding API limit of 2,500 requests per day. We quickly generated a new API key but Google said it could take a while. Meanwhile, a ton of people were messaging Jarvis and probably bouncing because he was unresponsive. My palms were sweaty but my knees and arms were alright. This was the most exciting time of my life, except for the time I played this really good guy at Smash 64 at a tournament. 10 minutes later we were seeing 200s again. Luckily, Facebook buffers any requests that didn’t 200 so we could still backfill the missed requests. We went back to sleep soon after that little incident.

Lesson learned: Be careful around Unicode.

Hours 12-24We grabbed brunch nearby and started talking about our future billions. I upgraded our dynos and went home and

created a test framework continued writing good tests like any good software developer who always writes good tests.

Lesson learned: Nothing much, really. Things were pretty good at this point.

Hours 24-36Monday morning. I woke up and everything was on fire. I checked the logs and we were down again. Goddammit. We were getting hit with 150 requests per minute thanks to the Lifehacker article. Luckily, the fix was super straightforward (we had missed a unicode conversion) and I pushed it like five minutes after waking up #mlgskills #realtalk. Jarvis was down for a total of about 30 minutes at this point, and we probably lost a bunch of traffic. Oh well, not much we can do about that. Then our Redis cluster started getting really slow. Like, 1 second per query slow. It may have had something to do with us just stuffing all our data into two keys. Then we lost connection to the cluster and dropped some users. This was not good. I contacted RedisToGo and they told me they were investigating it. Eventually they managed to recover the cluster and upgrade the memory but we had lost about a thousand users during that time. I started building a Postgres backend because this Redis thing was clearly getting unsustainable.

Lesson learned: Use Redis for caching or message brokering and a real database for database things. Don’t stuff all your data into a Redis list and iterate through the list to find things. This is inefficient.

Hours 36-48Things are getting stable. It looked like we were going to hit our API limit with Google again but if you attach your credit card to your developer account you can pay 50 cents for every extra 1000 requests. This is a pretty good deal, so we did it. We also finished the migration from Redis to Postgres with very few problems. We were still getting a shitton of users, my ex started talking to me again, and things are looking pretty good.

Lesson learned: Make tiny, immediately useful things to validate your market.

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