When I first released SETT, a common bit of feedback I'd get was, "It's nice, but it's really slow". This shouldn't have been too surprising to me, given that I hadn't spent any time optimizing it, and didn't know how to, anyway. So I sat down and decided to fix the problem. Now SETT is extremely fast, despite running on a single server with a 6 year old processor. It's far faster than WordPress, but still a bit slower than Tumblr, which is incredibly fast.
What happened? Well, I have a policy-- when something important is a weakness, I try not just to get it up to par, but turn it into a strength. If you look at decisions I've made in my life, you'll see this over and over again. I was terrible with girls, so I became a good pickup artist. I wasn't well traveled so I became a nomad. My posting began to become inconsistent, so I doubled up and started posting twice a week on a consistent schedule. I ate a moderately unhealthy diet, so I got very healthy and strict.
This attitude pervades my entire life and my work. Even in SETT you'll see this all the time. It was slow, so now it's extremely fast. Scrolling deeply-nested comments was a hassle, so I built what several people have told me is the best nested comment interface they've ever seen. It was buggy, so I went overboard with automated testing and QA policies.
Why do I think this is the best approach? Two reasons: accuracy and efficiency.
To find the accurate optimum point, you need to be able to see the entire range. Take healthy eating, for example. I used to eat junk food all the time. I loved doritos and ice cream. Many people would opt for a moderate approach of eating "healthier". But where is that point? How do I know where I'll feel and perform best? The answer, I'd say, is to explore the extremes so that you have an understanding of the full range of possibilities. I ate full vegan, raw, and cut out all sugar and flour. I ended up adding well-raised meat back in, as well as 2-3 unhealthy meals per month, because that was the best choice for my lifestyle. I could have never come to that conclusion without exploration of the extremes, though.
Sometimes you'll find that the extreme is the best choice, which is something you won't know unless you get there. SETT can render a page in about a hundredth of a second right now. It used to take almost three seconds. People probably would have stopped complaining somewhere around the half-second to one second mark. But since I optimized to such an extreme, I've found huge benefits-- a couple weeks ago there were five hundred people hitting SETT every minute. Because SETT can render pages so quickly, this was no big deal. We could have handled a thousand visitors per minute without any noticeable slowdown. Without exploring the extreme, I would have kept my assumption that to handle that sort of traffic we would need a high powered server, or at least some decent cloud solution. Nope-- my 6 year old server can handle it fine.
There's also the benefit of efficiency. The time and effort necessary to get to Extremely Good is often not much more than what's necessary to get to Acceptable. Writing every single day and posting twice a week takes up just a couple hours more per week than writing "once per week, usually". But now my blog is much better for my readers, and since I blog on SETT, I get more opportunities to test it out. Post quality, as you've hopefully noticed, is also way up because of this practice. When I became a nomad, it didn't really cost more than it would have to take a couple trips a year, and didn't impact my productivity. But I got to visit 15+ countries instead of 2-3, which was a great learning experience.
Besides accuracy and efficiency, it just feels good to take problems, crush them, and turn them into strengths. I used to hate taking showers in my RV, so I went way to the extreme and joined a great spa downtown. This minor hassle in my day turned into a nice time for relaxation and contemplation. When you have this habit of turning weaknesses to strengths, your brain begins to see problems as opportunities, not hassles.
Back from China, heading out to Vegas this afternoon. Who else is there?
I wrote this before SETT was moved to Rackspace, but decided not to edit it for the sake of simplicity.
Photo is one of the Terra Cotta Warriors. Hope you like photos of China, because that's what will be at the top of posts for the foreseeable future.
What you wrote here got me wondering how you feel about the Pareto principle (the 80/20 rule). In terms of the effort put in to get to your result, where are you drawing the line? Is your "extremely good" the 80% that all the Pareto principle advocates support or are you suggesting crossing that 80% line?
I just read you hating on the internet!
Wow You just came out swinging with your hate and ignorance. This guy looks like a well put together intelligent guy - I'm sure all those women enjoyed his company. Whats wrong with that?
Go for a walk, stop bringing people down.
I don't think i'm bringing anyone down and i'm certainly not hating on the internet (not sure what you mean by that, but I'm assuming you don't mean what you actually wrote). hey, these are just my opinions and I'm certainly entitled to them. The thing that bothers me about pick up artists...well, they're playing a game with people. They are pretending to be sincere, but they're not. They turn human interactions into something deceitful and manipulative; don't we have enough of that? And regardless of Tynan's motives (if they are sincere) he's teaching other men these practices, which are largely used to use people. Creating a false persona in order to bag more girls -- why should we, as a society, encourage that in any way? Women are already quite cynical when it comes to men and their motives; PUAs only perpetuate this problem.
Don't back peddle and make this about something else and go off on a tangent.
This guy wrote a good piece that can help others and you just came in and drop that smug negative remark that was designed to make him feel "less-than" and discredit him because you don't like that he's good at getting girls. That was a immature thing to do.
You women have your own games and a bag of tricks you learn from each other to get what you want and manipulate others - and you just used two of em here.
Excuse me, but he says in this post that he's a PUA, so technically I'm not back peddling or going off on a tangent. It's not that I don't like that he's "good at getting girls," as you say -- I don't like what PUAs teach and the social consequences of their teachings. In my opinion, people should approach each other with honesty and respect, which you will not find in the greater PUA community.
You don't even see it - do you? You're still pushing "I'm right about x" yet you let that justify your action of putting this man down.
Why are you even here? You said he lost credibility - so why take the time to say that? Why stay? Why come back? He probably doesn't want you here - so what, you need to slug it out with me now?
No ma'am - you've lost your credibility from your direct actions - not from implied actions based on generalizations about a community at whole.
I had to laugh as I pondered whether or not to buy the half price $10 ticket to go and see the Terracotta warriors on Living Social, only to move on to the next email (yours, which I actually read now, lol...) and see your picture of the Terracotta Warrior. Cool. I am studying Chinese. Can't hardly be a famous Chinese translator if I don't know Chinese.
Anyways, my "vote" on the whole pickup artist thing is to just do whatever you want. I may not let you pick me up because I am fairthfully married, but I understand your point was that you tossed failure to the flames and made it work for you. That is cool.
I will keep reading.
Georgiajean, I agree that 'pickup artist' has a bad connotation. Maybe I give him too much credit, but as a long time reader of Tynan's blog, I would say he does not abuse relationships. He's all about getting to know people, all people.
Tynan, of course I love your comment here that "When I became a nomad, it didn't really cost more than it would have to take a couple trips a year, and didn't impact my productivity." I hope to get to this point. I travel lite, enjoy home stays, and 'bring my work'. But... more travel costs more, and productivity takes a hit, especially where internet connections are bad.
Wow, I haven't actually been to the website in a long time, but have been reading your posts through my email instead; I must say, you were no kidding in SETT being much faster than before. It is lightning fast! Thanks for such a great blog and keep up the good work. You are inspiring and I continue to advance thanks to you consistent and great advice.
The problem is that performance often comes at the expense of additional complexity (caching, more complex algorithms, etc.). The developer continues to pay that "technical debt" on every future feature you implement. In my experience, increasing software speed relates to complexity exponentially. The first bit of optimization is often cheap from a complexity standpoint, but the last bits are very expensive.
Software is entropic by nature, adding additional complexity increases the rate of entropy. I've found, over time, I value maintainability (which includes the ability to continue to add new features at a linear pace) as much as performance.
I'm impressed with SETT though. Good work on the UI, feels very apple'ish. Just curious, what platform are you using? (PHP, .NET, etc)
Were you still using Server-a-Day when this was written? What made you switch, ultimately?
If there's something I'm known for amongst friends and acquaintances, it's that I tend to do things to extremes. I can't just do speed dating, I have to work my way to the top of the pickup food chain. Instead of moving in to a smaller house, or even a big RV, I buy the tiniest RV I can. I can't take a week long vacation to Thailand, I have to get rid of everything and go full nomad for years. Cutting out fast food isn't enough, I cut out everything that's remotely bad for me.
What I write about less are the counter extremes. I was an introvert who was terrified of girls. I lived in my own house with a whole room dedicated to warehousing my stuff. For years I didn't leave the US. Before I began eating healthy, I went to McDonalds so much, and brought my friends so often, that they actually stopped charging me for food AND giving me winning Monopoly pieces to get free food elsewhere.
I do this with just about anything. The other day while writing a post, I wrote, "I don't do everything in a weird way. For example, I..."
Maneesh Sethi was kind enough to write up a guest post for us on striking off internationally and doing the digital nomad thing.
Here's Maneesh -
Every day, someone says to me: “I wish I could travel like you do.”
And every time I respond: “You can too.”
You see, I’ve been traveling for the last three years as a digital nomad, through Asia, South America, Europe. I move to a new city, learn a new language, and do a cool project. I built an online business that is completely outsourced, so now I can work as many---or as few----hours/week as I want.