Wednesday, January 9, 2013

34 Minutes and the Nature of the Web: My Thoughts on Lang's

It's been an interesting few weeks around here, but last night was surreal. Of course, it was Lang's Store night, and like so many others, I anticipated it all day long. Then, at 9:00 pm EST, I went to Lang's Store and attempted to access the listings. No luck. Nothing. I waited a minute or two, thinking it was overloaded from so many people trying to access it. No luck again.

That's when I started getting texts and emails from others about the fact that they could not get in either. I went to Joe's Board where earlier, at exactly 9:03, the first person posted that they were having the same problem. Then another. Then a third, and finally a whole litany of people posting about the frustration.

Like some, I kept trying, and even thought that I might not have a proper login so I created a new login identity. Finally (we are told at 9:34) the listings went up. Bingo! I cruised through the reel section and ended up buying two of the three items I most wanted -- by the way, whomever bought the Thos. E. Wilson reel in the box, drop me a note! Then I checked out and all was well in the world.

Except I kept getting emails and calls and seeing posts about how angry people were. My first thought was, yes, I understand your frustration. But then my second thought was…


The more I thought about the more silly it all seemed. Are we so impatient as a society that 34 minutes is the end of the world? Are we so unforgiving as a group that we can't accept the fact that, despite everyone's best efforts, sometimes things don't go to plan?

Case in point. I've been trying to make a huge launch myself (hinted at here) but guess what? The technology I have tried to use has broken THREE TIMES. I hope the fourth time is a charm.

And you know what? As frustrating as it is, it is a fact of life -- like traffic jams and illness, you can't predict what will put a monkey wrench into your plans.

And guess what? It happens ALL THE TIME on the internet. Take this past weekend, where a fledgling mixed martial arts organization named Invicta FC (specializing in female MMA fighters) launched their first Pay-Per-View on-line streaming card. Now keep in mind this organization had presented THREE major fight cards for free leading up to this. They are run by incredibly smart people and used a highly reputable company to host their internet streaming and PPV purchases.

Then just as the card launched Saturday night, the servers crashed. People paid and could not view the fights. Mass chaos ensued, and the president of Invicta stepped in after about 30 minutes and removed the paywall, allowing everyone to view the fights for free.

My point is that this happens all the time, and we need to be more forgiving and understanding, ESPECIALLY when people step up and do the right things to correct the technology failures.

In this message from Lang's posted to Joe's Board, John and Debbie Ganung explained what went wrong. I quote:

The issue started on the Friday before the listing when the Store site experienced server hardware failure. Our server provider, Verio/ITS, completely replaced the server by Saturday night and assured us the site would be able to handle any amount of traffic. They were obviously wrong.

Considering what was necessary to get the site working properly, we should all be amazed it only delayed the launch for 34 minutes.

The sign of a successful company is learning from mistakes. What did Lang's learn from this? I quote again:

Due to this and previous server/site failures, we have decided to completely scrap the site, leave our current server provider, and start from scratch. We will start building a new Lang's Store in February. Technology has come a long way since the first listing in 2008 - it is long past time to find a better way to offer this type of online listing. We still steadfastly believe in the concept of a "virtual show". From customer feedback, this is a buying venue most enjoy very much, especially our newest collectors - so we will try again, hopefully with success.

Note the important words--TRY and HOPE. That's really all we can expect in this world, is it not?

There was a recent post, again on Joe's Board, from user Todd Marquart I wish everyone would read.

In it, he states:

We all collect relics from a bygone era...a time when our forebears swept their boats forward with oars and not motors...when a backlash was a mainstay and when time was, well, slower. Tea kettles whistled when they were ready, motor cars didn't need sensors to need if the sensors were sensing and kettles brewed up wonderful meals fit for a king...Time and again I see needless posts on this board pertaining to impatience.

Patience. Yes, yes, and more yes -- it's something we ALL could use more of. If 34 minutes is too long for you to wait, then I'm not sure anything I say will be able to get through to you. We live in such a "now now now" society, that I guess the idea of patience is itself slowly dying, even among folks who should know better.

My old man has always had great pithy quotes -- some original, some widely used -- which I've basically used to guide my life. Perhaps the best one is among the shortest, and I'm sure it was learned while he served in the U.S. Army.

Shit happens -- deal with it.

I am nowhere near as brilliantly succinct as my father. So I would add the following twist to his words of wisdom, even at the risk of becoming overly verbose (which I suspect is exactly what my father thinks I have a tendency to be):

Shit happens -- deal with it (patiently and with understanding and forgiveness).

Even if you have to endure an interminable 34 minutes.

-- Dr. Todd

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