I’m pleased to announce that we’ve just launched a substantial update to Forrst’s invite system.
We’ve employed an invite-only model since the early days of the site with a nice degree of success; it’s helped keep the community highly-focused, and ensured that only developers and designers are able to gain access. It’s also helped maintain our growth at a healthy rate.
Something we haven’t handled so well, however, has been our constantly growing waiting list — now over 13,000 strong. Folks who should be in the community have been subjected to increasingly unreasonable waits — sometimes up to a few months. We think that sucks, so to that end, we’ve re-imagined the way invites work on Forrst.
The new system is based on votes. Everyone starts the day with 5 votes, and may use those votes to say “I think this person should be invited”. You’re essentially vouching for them as a developer or designer. Once the prospective user receives 2 votes (a number we may tweak as we watch usage), they’ll receive an invite.
This is a major departure from the way invites currently work, where users’ reputations are linked to that of the users they invite. We felt that the accountability we were enforcing tended to be a bit overreaching, causing most users to feel uneasy about using their invites on strangers. With the new system, we’re spreading out the responsibility to multiple members.
Of course, you’ll still be able to instantly invite colleagues and friends via email, and that system has not changed — invites are still earned through awesome interaction with the community and maintaining a reputation in the 92nd percentile or higher.
Another thing you’ll notice is that we’ve stopped confusingly referencing requesting an invite as “applying”. To us, inviting new users should be entirely based on their passion for development and design, and not how talented or known they are in their respective industries. Forrst is a great place for getting honest critique and feedback, and any legitimate developer or designer is welcome to join; keeping this in mind when voting for new users is important to the process.
Speaking of critique, there’s an important new element to the invite request: feedback. When you request an invitation, you’re given the opportunity to leave feedback on one of our member’s posts; we think this is a great way to show the community that you’re ready, willing, and able to add to the discussions happening on Forrst. When you do receive your invitation to join, your feedback will be automatically added to that user’s post. We’re really excited about this new twist and we think our community will be, too.
If you’re ready to start voting on users, head on over here: http://forrst.com/people/list/invite/ (or access this page from People > Invite New Members at any time). We’re converting over many of the 13,000 existing requests, so bear with us as you may not see that many requests over the next 24 hours.
If you’ve recently requested an invite, we’ll be sending out an email with instructions on updating your request. Please expect it shortly (hopefully in the next 24-48 hours).
As part of this new system, we’ve also launched the Forrst Leaderboard. It’s intended to be an up-to-date snapshot of which members have been the most engaged and helpful within Forrst. While your reputation plays a very tiny part in your ranking, the majority of your ranking comes from having your comments starred by Forrst staff or marked helpful by other users; you’ll also get credit for inviting in new users who also start contributing to the community. This marks the first of many initiatives at Forrst to help reward our members for their helpfulness and incredible contributions, both to the community and each other.
While I have your attention (hopefully!), there’s one more tiny* thing I’d like to announce: we’ve also launched Notifications. Gone will be the days of Forrst email overload — there’s now a notifications page that alerts you to new comments on your posts or posts you’ve subscribed to, new follows, and any mention of your username within posts and comments (we’ve got more notification events coming shortly). Check it out for yourself: http://forrst.com/feed — Note that it’s only collecting data from now going forward, so it may be a few moments before you start seeing alerts. As part of this feature, you’ll see an unviewed notification count next to the Forrst logo and in the page title, so you’ll have almost instant notification anytime there’s something new to check out.
* Okay, maybe not so tiny
I’m really excited about the things we’ve released today, and incredibly proud of Keith, Zack, and Mike for their hard work in getting this stuff looking and working solidly. I’m also really looking forward to what’s in store over the next year. We’re definitely just getting started.
If you’ve got any questions or feedback at all, please don’t hesitate to contact hello AT forrst.com.
Late Friday evening we had to disable the ability to post new Snaps, due to high error rates when pushing to Amazon S3. While we work through this issue, there is a work around.
If you can upload your snaps to your own hosting provider, you can embed them in ‘Question’ or ‘Link’ type posts. You can then reference your image in the post description using either Markdown, or HTML.
The Markdown Syntax is:
Thank you for being patient while we work through this issue.
We recently made some changes to the way the reputation points decay on Forrst, and a lot of you have obviously noticed. The short of it is, every day, you lose all points that are over thirty days old. Everyone Does.
What this does is level the playing field for everyone, and encourages constant activity from you to keep your reputation up. (Foursquare recently did the same thing with mayorships).
Your old points always decayed, but at a much slower rate. So slow in fact, that it would take the old algorithm two weeks to process the number of Reputation Actions that happened on any given day. There was no way for the processing to ever catch up.
So, the reason that we made this drastic decision to cut out your old points completely, is because several of the “top 20” users were so far ahead of others no one could catch up, and some of these “top 20” users had been inactive for weeks.
So, while it looks like your points are just falling off, so are everyone else’s, and the change of your actual reputation percentile (which is what we care about internally) should be more representative of your actual activity on the site.
If you have any questions about these changes, or anything else regarding engineering at Forrst, feel free to email zack at forrst dot com
On 3/26/11 Forrst went down from around 7:00pm CST and stayed down until around 9:45pm CST. It appears that somewhere around 7:00pm last night our Redis server became unavailable to our front-end server for around 45 seconds. We’re still investigating the cause for why Redis went away, but for whatever reason, it was gone.
In most normal situations, you would have all seen the Error Bear for about 45 seconds, and things would have gone back to normal, but instead the white screen of death was showing. This happened because Redis went away in the middle of a request (this person most likely saw the Error Bear). This caused PHP to shutdown incorrectly and not call our custom shutdown handler, which we believe left a file pointer to one of our log files open.
This was causing our PHP framework (Magnus) to die during startup because it couldn’t write to the log file that had an open file pointer. It was a simple oversight on our part to not check to see if our log file was writeable (which we have now remedied).
The reason it took us almost 3 hours to diagnose this problem was because we initially believed it to be a networking issue between servers, as that had happened to us early in the year, and we started triaging based on that (now incorrect) assumption.
So, going forward: We’ve fixed the issue where Magnus isn’t able to write to log files with bad/wrong permissions, and are going to reduce the memory footprint that Redis is using (probable cause of the crash).
We’re extremely sorry for the downtime and have worked to ensure that this issue won’t occur again.
TL;DR Redis crashed for a few seconds, our PHP framework couldn’t write log files, and was dying during bootstrapping causing the white screen of death.
I wanted to take a few minutes at write an update to the Forrst Architechure (http://blog.forrst.com/post/616614116/on-forrsts-architecture). Lots of people reference that post, it’s almost a year old, and lots of things change in a year.
First, the basics. Forrst is still a PHP (5.2+) app, however, it is no longer written in CodeIgniter. We (read: Kyle) wrote a rad new PHP MVC framework called Magnus. Magnus is a very light weight framework that was written and designed for Forrst, but we do plan to release it at some point in the future.
We are still using MySQL for the primary datastore. We store pretty much all mission critical information in MySQL. We’ve scrapped MongoDB, but we still are using Redis2.2.1 for caching expensive MySQL queries such as counts. We also use Redis for handling all of our sessions.
The new Forrst Talk feature is powered by the absolutely amazing Pusher with web sockets, and we plan on using Pusher for lots more exciting new stuff as time rolls on.
Pretty much everything from the original blog post is still accurate. If you have any more questions on the Forrst architecture, please feel free to email either zack at forrst dot com, or kyle at forrst dot com.
When we launched Promoted Posts back in December, we had no idea they’d become so popular so quickly. (Un)fortunately, that put us in an interesting position where the initial system we’d built quickly became inundated with posts — a good problem to have, certainly, but not necessarily for our users. We’ve been working extremely diligently over the past few weeks to re-architect the system to much better handle the amount of posts coming through. To that end, we’ve temporarily disabled promoting new posts — existing posts will still run normally.
The new system works a bit differently: you purchase Acorns and hit “Promote” as usual, but now your post will enter a queue. It’s designed to ensure that only a limited amount of posts run at any given time, and as one post drops out of rotation, a new post takes its place. We’ll soon have enough data to show you exactly where you are in the queue, and when you can expect your post to go live. It’s a first in, first out kind of system.
So, for now, we need to focus on clearing the existing queue before we enable promoting new posts again. When the new system is ready, we’ll turn promotion back on. There will also be a way to “double down” to jump the line — for extra Acorns, you’ll be able to move your post to the front; great for posts that are time-sensitive.
I’ll also be crediting all users whose posts are in the backlog with Acorns commensurate with the amount they initially purchased. I realize that it’s a small show of our apologies, and I’m very sorry for any inconvenience caused.
I’m really excited about the new system and I hope to have it fully deployed soon.
Thank you, Kyle
Howdy, folks. As of this morning, there are a few notable changes to the Forrst Guidelines I wanted to mention briefly.
Be proud of your posts. Please don’t post just for the sake of posting, or post things like “I was bored, LOL”. When commenting, try to say more than just “Great” or “Hate it”; the more thorough your feedback, the more reputation you’ll earn.
We clarified this guideline quite a bit, specifically in terms of one of the reasons why folks should provide thorough feedback.
Posts should have detailed titles and descriptions, and be well-formatted so other Forrsters have a clear idea about what they’re looking at. Also, teaser posts are fine, but photos of your screen or extreme crops are better posted elsewhere.
We added the bolded part — while it’s always fun to hint at that next big project you’re working on, we’d like to steer clear of the Forrst ecosystem becoming one too cluttered with low-context teaser shots and photos of screens.
Your posts and comments should be written with proper spelling, capitalization, and punctuation. In general, try to write things on Forrst as you’d write things to your clients or your employer.
This one’s brand new — Forrst is a community of both professional developers and designers, as well as up-and-coming talent. We previously didn’t mention anything about post and comment formatting, but the community has grown to the point where we’ve been seeing more than a few instances of posts or comments with good intent but poor formatting. We know not everyone’s the greatest writer (ourselves included), but we do feel that Forrst content can and should be on par with how you’d write a client or employer — properly formatted, no txt speak, and so forth.
We also updated the list of posts that probably aren’t a good fit for Forrst:
iOS homescreens and mods, work- and deskspaces, desktops, or desktop wallpaper
Desktop wallpaper and iOS mods, while certainly interesting, have tended to lead to terse posts without much detail behind the work. We also feel that there are better communities devoted more to customization, e.g. DeviantArt (of which we’re a big fan).
All in all, I’m really proud of how the Forrst community has continued to evolve and grow, and I feel our guidelines have played an important role in that. I appreciate the time you’ve taken to read the new guidelines, as well as our brief summary of changes above. If you have any questions, feel free to email me directly: kyle at forrst.com.
I thought it would be fun to do a quick post in honor of Forrst recently having its first birthday. Coincidentally, our birthday falls in January, which means I can be exceptionally lazy and combine “happy birthday to us” and “year in review” posts into one.
Now, without further ado, here it is.
Some interesting numbers since going online in January 2010, one year ago:
What a year it’s been! I had no idea that what started out as a tiny side project would evolve into a vibrant community. Other notables for 2010, and some of what’s in store for 2011:
Coming in 2011:
There’s a bunch more we’ve got in store for the product this year, including welcoming a designer to the team, helping members more easily collaborate, building a better notifications system, more partnerships, and so much more. There are also plans to really start exploring the ways Forrst can become a powerful business, through the job and recruitment avenues, our Supporter accounts, and so forth.
I realize that this post doesn’t fully do Forrst justice since so many incredible things came to pass last year that are difficult to properly convey, but I hope it provides a glimpse into the amazing journey I and the community have had. Thanks so much.
There has been some chatter around Forrst and IRC lately about reputation, so we thought we’d take a moment to write up exactly what reputation “is.”
The reputation system is in place to ensure the Forrst is filled with quality content. Just about every action that you do on Forrst in someway contributes to your reputation score. However, you are not the only one that can affect your reputation score, which should explain why your score can change over night and in periods of inactivity. And remember, every action you do also affects the person who invited you.
Thought out comments are encouraged, and un-constructive comments are discouraged. Other than that, don’t worry too much about reputation, and just be an active and constructive member. It’s more a way for us to watch and reward great contributors than it is any kind of competition.
We’ve designed the system from the ground up to help prevent users trying to game the system, and several checks are in place to ensure that things like just liking every post that you come across won’t give you an unfair advantage.
Currently, invites are handed out based on your reputation (thought we realize we may need to tweak the balance a bit), and we have several other things in the works that are going to require various reputation scores.
Feel free to email zack at forrst.com if you feel that there is an error or bug in the system, or with any other thoughts or concerns, and I will try to shed some light on the situation.