How To Wake A Zombie

For the past few months, I’ve been spending nearly every free late-night minute working (finally) to rebuild The Archive of Misheard Lyrics from the ground up. The site had become very long in the tooth, and a total design embarrassment. Not to mention the fact that I’ve done virtually zero work to maintain the database itself over the past five years (and am now sitting on more than 60,000 unprocessed submissions!)

The idea was not to mention a word before the site was baked and ready to come out of the oven. Then, last night, received email from an old friend saying that kissthisguy had been linked to in a story on Slashdot. Argh! Why couldn’t they have waited two more weeks? Timing couldn’t have been worse: Had to teach a class in five minutes, then race home, wolf dinner, and attend a 2-hour meeting at the pre-school. Think fast.

Put up a note on the site asking Slashdot readers to come back in a bit, then realized this would be the perfect opportunity to stress-test the new site’s Smarty caching system (the caching system gives you the behavior of a dynamic site with the performance of a static site). Only trouble was, I hadn’t yet run the script I had written to batch-generate the index caches, which are the most resource-expensive pages to create.

Installed a redirect from the old site to the development domain, headed to class, and watched out of the corner of my eye as server load shot through the roof over the next 15 minutes. Then, gradually, the load started to decrease, as each index cache was created on its first request. It works!

Anyway, that’s not how I wanted it to unfold, but now that the cat’s out of the bag, I’ll leave the site in “beta” while I work out a few remaining bugs and get the advertising straightened out.

Aside from the new design, the most important new feature is voting – to improve the quality of the archive, I’m letting people judge lyrics as funny/not funny, so I can use queries to delete the duds and rise funniest lyrics to the top. Same principle allows users to help process the massive backlog. Also lots of deep links into the iTunes Music Store (some buggy behavior there), near-live statistics, and a much better mechanism for reporting lyric errors.

Let me know what you think!

Music: Linton Kwesi Johnson :: Fite Dem Back

9 Replies to “How To Wake A Zombie”

  1. Looking good Scot!

    Wonder if the RIAA or Warner/Chappell music will send you a cease and desist letter on the grounds that the site “misrepresents and in some cases slanders” them and their products (i.e. songs and artists) and of course its contain unauthorized derivatives of their copyrighted works!!!

    Anything can happen these days!

    Good luck!

  2. You’re the guy who does this? Right on!

    BTW, thanks so much for blogrolling us here. All the best with your vital and necessary project.

  3. The Funny / Not Funny / Abstain! radio buttons seem to be on the wrong side. I’m used to survey check boxes / radio buttons leading the description. Maybe vertically stack them with the radios on the left and the vote button at the bottom? Would avoid misvoting.

    Just voted “funny” for the girl who asked what “cum omlettes” means. (From Come on, Eleen!).

  4. Hey Jeb –

    Not quite sure I understant what you’re suggesting. The radio buttons are on the wrong side of what? Leading the description? What description? Why would stacking the buttons be more clear than aligning them horizontally?

    Not meaning to be dense, I’m just not quite following your comment.


  5. Instead of this:

    Funny! ( ) Not Funny ( ) Abstain (x) [Vote/Abstain]

    I think it should be:

    ( )Funny! ( )Not Funny (x)Abstain [Submit]


    ( )Funny!
    ( )Not Funny

    I think it is more common for the label to be after the radio button in surveys. The vertical stack would make it even clearer, and finally, using the word “Submit” would be even more concise.

  6. Ah… now I’m with you Jeb. You know, it *is* a bit clearer that way. Funny – I looked at that thing a hundred times, and there was always something in the back of my mind telling me it wasn’t quite right, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Anyway, fixed now. Thanks for the feedback.

  7. Scot,

    Great to see your old project resurrected (now with more braaaaaainz!). Great layout, very clear — straight to the point, no cruft. I especially like your graphic of the self-portrait with ear-phones (that is you, right?).

    Are you running Kissthisguy off of the same server as the rest of Birdhouse hosting? If I may ask, how’d it take the load and how were other sites affected?

  8. Hey Gilbert – Thanks, glad you’re liking the new layout. I’m happy with it as well, but there have been some complaints re: navigating between related songs and artists. Need to fix that.

    Yep, kissthisguy is a normal birdhouse customer site (where I’m the customer). The slashdotting affected the server, but things went very well once the server-side caching kicked in (which allevieated any drain from CPU-expensive directory building).

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