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Thursday, November 16, 2006

I can't play - I'm an alcoholic

I wrote the original BeerMogul code from the ground up. It was a bit of an experiment and a learning process - learning about ASP and learning about web development in general. I was learning as I went, and the result was a bit of a mess technically. As a result the system would experience regular issues - getting stuck in infinite loops, poor database performance due to badly formed queries, general IIS crashes etc.

Once the game became popular it was creating too much load on the shared server - to the point where the daily run of the God Tool would bring the thing to it's knees - drawing complaints from other customers of the hosting company. We were eventually thrown off the service (thanks Hostworks!) and had to quickly find another solution. We were lucky to find Webhost4life pretty quickly. Sure it was an unlikely sounding concept (pay once, website for life!), but it just worked, and SQL Server was included in the base plan for free! I quickly ported from Access to SQL Server (thanks to the fantastic Up-sizing Wizard) and things were back on track.

Given the unstable nature of the system I would sometimes have to write pleading emails to the support staff asking them to kill a database connection, restart IIS or even reboot the server. After doing this several times I had a brilliant idea - if I could get one of the support guys interested in playing the game, perhaps they would have more interest in keeping it running smoothly, and they might spot issues before I found out about them. The next time I had a problem (after the issue was resolved) I told the support guy (via email) about the concept and asked if he wanted to play - his response? "I'm a recovering alcoholic - I can't play".