People are generally surprised to learn that seaturtle.org is (mostly) run by one person. One of the most frequent questions I get is how do you do it?
Skip down to the punchline if you get bored :)
The short answer is monkey buttons! A lot has changed since I wrote that "monkey button" post in 2003 (more than 10 years ago!). Seaturtle.org now averages 90,000 hits a day (2-3 million hits a month) and I'm not sure I can count how many pages make up the site. I now no longer have a "real job". About 6 years ago seaturtle.org became too much work to keep up with in my spare time, so this is now my "real job".
The (slightly) longer answer: I automate everything as much as I can. So much so that I typically will not add a new feature until I can figure out how to automate it. So if you are ever wondering why feature X is taking so long, that is usually the reason. Take this approach to it's logical conclusion and you add a new feature/doo-dad every few days for 10+ years, and eventually you have a giant, feature-rich website.
Note that I said "new feature every few days". In the early days I could easily add a feature, or multiple features, every day! However, even with automation, the code base and the user base has grown so much that day to day maintenance has become a huge task unto itself. I typically spend at least half of each day responding to inquiries via e-mail (preferred) and phone (not preferred!). These can be anything from simple questions and customer service type problems ("where is my adoption packet?") to technical questions and bug reports ("my favorite thing on seaturtle.org that I need right NOW is broken!"). The questions get answered, the problems get fixed and the bugs get squashed. And as with any growing and increasingly complex system, I periodically have to step in and optimized code, manage databases, etc, to speed things up and keep everything running smoothly. Throw in the (thankfully) infrequent hardware and network failures and you have multiple full-time jobs!
It can be a bit difficult to wrap your head around all of this, so I thought I would try something I am calling "a month of change". Everyday for the month of October I will document the changes I make on seaturtle.org. This could be anything from a brand new tool/service (least likely), to a new feature on an existing tool/service (a little more likely), to one or more bug fixes (most likely!). Sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference between a bug fix and a new feature :)
Consider this a peek under seaturtle.org's kimono, and a preview of some of the things I am working on.
One small caveat...
Family is important to me, so I will not make changes/post on weekends. Except in emergencies :)
Starting tomorrow (1 October 2013) keep an eye on this space to see what has changed on seaturtle.org. The changes will come from a variety of sources. There may be a bug fix reported by a user that day. I have an official to-do list of things that I have to get done. I have a less official wish list of things that I want to get done. And then I have a stack of random pieces of paper with notes and ideas scribbled on them sitting next to my keyboard. If you have any ideas or suggestions, please send them along (or post them in the comments below if you are reading this on the blog).
And enjoy a month of change!
PS - There are a couple of folks that help out tremendously (and others that have helped out in the past). Not everything can be automated. A lot of the content on seaturtle.org is user submitted and some of it needs to be reviewed/approved before it goes online. Without help I definitely would not be able to keep up. Matthew Godfrey manages the Image Library and ALan Rees manages the Job/Volunteer Board. They review all of the submissions and correspond with users as needed, I just need to make sure the engine keeps running.
And of course I would not need this extra help managing content if all you turtle nerds weren't participating by sharing your data, submitting your photos, and just generally being awesome. Thanks for being a part of the Global Sea Turtle Network!
And while I've got your attention on this topic, if there is a favorite tool or resource on seaturtle.org that you would like to help out with, please let me know :)
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