Three Years Running A Mini Content Sharing Web Site - Part 1

To celebrate 3 years of Wish’ existence on teh web, I’ve been meaning to write up some behind-the-scene stories about Wish and some lessons learned so far from running a mini content sharing web site.

The Beginning

Wish was started back in 2005. The idea was simple, I’ve always believed that having a wish is an important part of life, so why not share it? I thought it would be interesting to know what other people are wishing for.

The very first question that was asked to me was “Why would anyone bother sharing his/her wish on the internet?” And from time to time I got the question “Why did you do it? The site is never going to make any money and it will never be popular. “

The Feedback

But I did it after all. And after 3 years, there are now 9,358 approved wishes on the site (out of 10,610 submissions, yes, evil spammers do attack Wish), not popular, but not too shabby either considering that I didn’t think the site would even get 1,000 submissions ever.

The statistics are nice, but what’s more important to me is the feedback I’m getting from strangers via email. I’ve received emails ranging from “Hey, I like your site,” to “I have a lot of problems in my life at the moment, I stumbled on your web site and it made me realize that wishing keeps me going with life. It gives me hope. Thanks.”

The Launch

Soon after finishing the site and making it available on the web, I emailed the editor of a web site called Lifehacker as my first attempt to spread the word. Back then, Lifehacker wasn’t even a year old and the idea of sharing content wasn’t as popular as it is now, so lo and behold, they put up a post titled Clear your head: Make an anonymous wish. I was lucky to start Wish years ago because Lifehacker would never post anything as simple as Wish web site nowadays with all the uber-cool web2.0 sites around.

So Lifehacker post was the good news. Now, the bad news was that I set up the site in the most cheap arsed way. I thought that since it’s never going to make any money, then I should spend the least amount of money, after all it’s just a simple web site that would never attract people’s attention.

I hosted the site on an old spare box I bought in 1998, running Pentium II 350MHz with 256 Mb RAM. Yea, I know, WTFFF??? And not only that, I hooked it up to my home Internet connection with 512 Kbps downstream, 64 Kbps upstream, shared with 3 flat mates.

I didn’t bother monitoring the ‘server’ and went out for several hours instead after that Lifehacker post was up. This was another big mistake because when I checked the log later on, there were thousands of error 500 responses, the site only managed to get about 300 wish submissions before literally crapping out.

Losing eye balls, content, and potential incoming links weren’t fun. I tweaked some server and app configs the next day, but the storm already passed and there’s no second chance. Lesson learned: no matter how small a site is, a launch is a launch.

To be continued…

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