The Reddit 'Hug of Death'

The Reddit 'Hug of Death'

Oct 20, 2021

Wow! So the last couple days have been intense!

I launched on Sunday, thinking that it was something that maybe a few people would get a kick out of. Mostly, it was a personal design project and a chance to scratch a personal itch of mine—that there's no centralized place to search for movies by the places and time periods that they're set in.

I tweeted about it, and didn't think too much about traffic. A couple hours later, my wife nudges me and says, "Hey Robby, what's traffic look like on the website?" I checked Google Analytics and replied "Oh, I can't tell you. I clearly set something up wrong because the analytics say there are a couple hundred people on the site right now. I know that's not right."

That's when she told me she had posted a link to the site on Reddit in r/movies, and it was getting a lot of comments over there.

"Oh! Thanks! That's Great..."

(pauses to think about how much work is left to do to make the site perform under heavy traffic...)

"Oh... Crap. How much traffic could I possibly get from this?"

Turns out, it was a lot.

Over the next 18 hours (which was mostly in the middle of the night, unfortunately), the traffic seemed to just go up and up and up... until it stopped because my server completely fell over. The site had fallen victim to the dreaded "Reddit Hug Of Death".

I learned a ton about website optimization in those few hours as I struggled to keep the site up. It wasn't pretty. But, I think there was only a window of a couple hours where things were completely overloaded to the point of the server crashing repeatedly. Eventually, the traffic eased off, and I got the site in much better shape to handle high loads, and could breathe a sigh of relief.

All this for a goofy personal project that I'm doing mostly for fun. Hahahaha.

But there was also a TON of amazing feedback from Redditors who checked the site out. It was really awesome to see a lot of people like what I was doing. It made the all-nighter optimization panic feel worth it.

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