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How not to run a website


Darling wife is a fan of the Iditarod dogsled race in Alaska. She once lived and worked there, so she has an appreciation of it. Me, I prefer races of machines, not animals. But the dogs are cute in their ferocious, wolflike way.

The Iditarod is a major event in the world of snow sports. Mushers (dogsled drivers) come from all over the planet, even from tropical or desert climates without snow, to compete in the 1000-mile, weeklong race. They train by having their dogs pull them on sleds or four-wheel All Terrain Vehicles across dry ground. If they use an ATV, they simply put it in Neutral gear with the engine off, and let the dogs pull the dead weight of the vehicle and the driver. It’s good strength and endurance training for the animals.

Because the Iditarod is a world-class event with only a regional appeal (Alaska and Canada), it’s difficult to get news about the race outside of those areas. So the Iditarod organizers put up a website to carry videos, pictures, interviews, and race updates. You have to pay money to get access to most of the content on the website.

Unfortunately the people running the website are woefully incompetent. The website’s design is poor, with multiple ways to access a page, but usually only one way actually works (or more often, none of them work). The server continually buckles under the load of its visitors. And whoever thought it was a good idea to put a chat window next to a video clearly didn’t realize that it’s just a big drain on bandwidth. When the chat window updates with a slew of comments, the video freezes.

And as visitors piled into the site to watch Dallas Seavey win the race yesterday, the server buckled again, killing the live video feed. The chat feed exploded with criticism, justifiably so. A lot of race fans, darling wife included, are very angry that their only access to the race was denied them at a critical moment.

If the Iditarod wants to attract fans and keep them, it’s going to have to work a lot harder at providing reliable access, especially when those fans are paying money for that access. Darling wife swears she will not follow the race anymore, because of IT team’s dismal failure of a website. It’s a shame, because she enjoys it so.

Perhaps I can convince her to watch the Dakar Rally and its related races instead.

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