This being my first post to the Fanzter blog, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Joshua Warchol and I am a Senior Software Engineer at our Collinsville, CT office. I joined Fanzter in December 2008, making 2009 my first full year with the team. I'd like to look back on 2009 from a technology perspective and see what Fanzter has been up to "under the covers." The past year has been terrific for Coolspotters with raw growth that I'm very proud of and a ton of very active new users spotting away. We've been doing a few things on the tech side to keep that going smoothly.
All of our sites are hosted "in the cloud" on Amazon's EC2 service. Because of that we've been able to grow our network organically as needed. Early in the year we decided a dedicated caching server (memcache) was needed, and within hours it was up and running. Coolspotters depends heavily on our search server running the Apache Solr search engine. Mid-year we found it needed a little more juice, so without much more than a reboot we more than doubled that server's available resources. These flexibility and agile tools have allowed us to grow and improve the servers without needing to dedicate full-time resources to it. More time to develop cool new features!
We're working on a number of new projects, some of which you may have heard about in earlier blog posts, others you really should check back to hear about soon. An interesting part of that has been the opportunity to explore technologies more deeply. Coolspotters has always used software libraries to resize photos our members post so they fit in all the different places photos are shown on the site. Up until the summer of 2009 that work was largely done with just a few configuration settings on some stock open source software (attachment_fu, rmagick). But more discrete requirements made it worthwhile for us to go deeper into the tools and make our use of them more flexible. We developed custom recipes for manipulating images to optimize them for the platforms they'll be seen on, and to make beautiful composites for use in our publishing tools. It took a team effort to hunt down tricky little problems along the way and teamwork like that is what I love about our crew.
One other big push in 2009 was to start making the awesome spots by our community available on other social media sites. As they say, "Go big or go home", so we started with publishing to Facebook and Twitter. We've added associations within our data to link profiles of celebrities and brands to their social media identities (Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, etc) and are able to intelligently mention who a post refers to in context, with a link back to the spot for more details. It was a trying process to learn the ins and outs of several very different publishing interfaces simultaneously, but the results are proving it worthwhile. Most of our posts to these social networking sites are part of our automated publishing tools, with editorial involvement to ensure we're posting what many followers are interested in. Our work so far has only scratched the surface of what's possible, so definitely become a fan of Coolspotters on Facebook and follow us on Twitter (@coolspotters) to see what comes next.
2009 brought new faces to the team, while some shook hands and bid farewell, and all the while Coolspotters grew and grew. Some of the days were very long, but the year flew by. It's hard to believe 2010 is tomorrow, but I know the best is yet to come.