Website updates

Last December was the biggest month for RogerHub ever. We served over 4 million hits, which consumed over 3 terabytes of bandwidth. By request, we released the 6th calculator mode, “lowest test dropped”, to the public. But during the same month, we experienced the biggest outage that has ever happened on RogerHub, which affected over 60,000 visitors, and the number of total spam comments has nearly doubled. I keep using “we”, even though this is a one-man operation, because these seasonal surges of traffic feel a lot bigger than just me. Toward the end of the month, my hosting provider Linode was targeted by several large DDoS attacks across all their US datacenters. RogerHub is run in 2 Linode locations: Dallas, TX and Fremont, CA. However, only one location is active at any time. The purpose of the inactive location is to take over the website when the primary location goes offline. There’s a lot of reasons why a Linode datacenter could fail, including physical issues with Linode machines, power outages, and network connectivity issues. During the recent DDoS attacks, Linode came very close to being offline in both Dallas and Fremont, which would have caused issues for this site. There’s another wave of traffic in January, for people who have finals after Winter Break, and it’s important that RogerHub doesn’t have an outage then.

I’ve been working on new stuff for RogerHub. I’ve decreased the payload size of the most popular pages by paginating comments. It took a while before I found a solution that both provided a pleasant user experience and allowed the comment text to be easily indexed. I’ve made the site a bit wider, and I’ve reduced the amount of space around the leaderboard ad on desktop browsers. I’ve improved the appearance of buttons on the site, and I’ve given the front page a new look. Finally, I’ve migrated RogerHub from Linode to Google Compute Engine and enabled HTTPS for the entire site.

RogerHub is using GCE’s global HTTP load balancer to terminate HTTPS connections at endpoints that are very close geographically to visitors. Google is able to provide this with their BGP anycast content distribution network. With HTTPS also comes support for SPDY and HTTP/2 on RogerHub, which remove some of the performance quirks associated with plain HTTP. I’ve also converted all my ad units to load asynchronously. My use of HTTPS and GCE’s global HTTP load balancer also makes it tricker to block RogerHub on academic WiFi networks, especially on non-school owned equipment, where TLS interception is out of the question.

You might think it’s silly to run third party ads under HTTPS, since advertising destroys any client-sided security you might claim to offer and many ad networks still don’t fully support HTTPS. I’ve always had mixed feelings about the advertising on RogerHub. Advertising covers my server costs, and I wouldn’t be able to run this site without advertising revenue. But poorly-designed advertising can ruin the user’s experience, especially on mobile devices. I’m only interested in the most unobtrusive online advertising for my website, and I try very hard to make sure that expanding ads, auto-playing video ads, and noise-making ads never get served from RogerHub. During the last few months, I’ve removed the main leaderboard ad for mobile users and I’ve removed ads from the home page as well.

In other news, a lot of RogerHub’s sites have been shutdown, including the Wiki and a bunch of miscellaneous things you’ve probably never looked at. My coding blog has been turned into static HTML, but is still available1. This is my only blog left (also my first blog), so I might use it again some time soon.

  1. There’s currently some mixed-content warnings on it, but I’ll fix it soon ↩︎

5 CommentsAdd one

Sunny S
Tue, 13 Dec 2016 02:37:43 GMT

Roger, what are your thoughts on the amount of traffic the comment section on your finals calculator receives? I'm pretty amazed at the amount of creativity and content that shows up around there. It obviously has something to do with the fact that it is a tool used by students and protects the anonymity of the poster, but there is definitely something interesting going on. It is pretty unusual for something as utilitarian as a calculator to attract so much discussion.

Roger: Hmm. I agree that the anonymity and lack of rules encourages people to share more. But at the same time, fewer than one in a thousand visitors actually leaves a comment.

Students taking the final
Tue, 13 Dec 2016 02:29:29 GMT

Thank you so much for making this calculator! This is my first time taking finals and this definitely helped a lot!

Roger: You’re welcome, and good luck!

Finals Time
Sat, 10 Dec 2016 17:28:48 GMT

Thanks for making this calculator!! Super helpful!!

Roger: You’re welcome!

Wed, 01 Jun 2016 09:51:27 GMT

hey thanks so much for helping me find out what i need on these finals. 3 more days!!!! i also find these blog posts extremely entertaining..

Tue, 26 Jan 2016 09:10:14 GMT

gg m8

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