Ellis Hamburger over at The Verge (no link, it’s The Verge) has a post defending the practice of creating a wait list for new apps (think Mailbox). Hamburger linked to an old post of mine in order to point out that my solution doesn’t work in practice:
Even with a thousand servers, one user’s actions can gum up the works. “It’s a complicated system with lots of moving parts,” Underwood says. “We can test each of the pipes between them but we won’t know until we scale it if everything can handle the load.
Me, back in March:
You know what all these bullshit wait list apps have in common? They are free.
The thing is, I don’t know much about scaling apps like this. So, I did what people like Hamburger should do, I asked around to people with experience scaling some large systems — but I asked people I knew who had successfully scaled without a wait list.1 When I sent them the link to Hamburger’s “post” the responses ranged from:
- Yeah, that can be a problem. (This dev clearly didn’t want to get involved.)
- That’s bullshit.
- Was he paid to write this for these devs?
All I then asked is if you threw money at the problem, could you make it go away. I don’t just mean by adding more engineers, but by adding more people: the consensus was that you could lessen disruption, but probably not stop it completely.
So there seems to be a few ways to handle scaling your service/app:
- Do what you can. Allow the flood of users and do what you can to manage downtime. This is the worst option.
- Wait list. Allows people to roll in slowly to manage the growth and complaints if the service does go down.
- Allow everyone in, hire a massive team with a massive amount of servers — this is unlikely.
- Charge a reasonable price, which will slow growth, use those funds to grow the service as the service can afford to grow. If a deluge of users come in, then you are in boat number 3.
You know which option I prefer, but it looks like Hamburger would rather tell you that the only option is number two — and his argument doesn’t seem to reflect the reality (why not grab some developers who have successfully scaled, why only one side? Oh yeah, The Verge).
The best way to get rid of this wait listing bullshit is to ignore every app that comes out using it. That’s what I am going to do and I hope you do too.
Instead of only ones with a wait list like Hamburger did, I should have asked wait list developers too, but Hamburger has that Press Release, I mean article, already written for you. ↩