Atlas – define a template for systems

We have pretty good systems automation at Ning, but we’d like a better solution for bringing up new instances of our system and keeping various instances in sync. In addition to our live production environment, we have multiple development and testing instances of our system, and frequently need short lived instances for experiments.

These system instances tend to get out of sync quickly, and bringing them back into sync, getting changes promoted correctly, and just managing them gets difficult.

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Tightening Down the Screws

In operations you have to measure many things, but the foundation has to be availability. Availability is your dial tone. If your site isn’t up, then fast and usable and engaging all won’t matter. Even though it’s the most basic metric, we don’t talk about it much because, well, it’s a little mundane. But keep reading, there’s some news in this post.

Quickly defined, availability is the percentage of requests served during some period, successes divided by attempts. While 100% uptime is desirable, the Internet being what it is, most of us set more realistic goals. At Ning our goal is 99.99% uptime, also known as “four nines,” allowing for no more than an hour of downtime per year.

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Code Reviews at Ning

At Ning we use a code-review system called ReviewBoard. This is a web application that shows you a commit diff and lets you click on lines to comment on them. The committer gets an email notification, and can leave a followup comment, etc.

We’ve set it up so that whenever anyone makes a commit, a review is sent to a couple of random developers, who may or may not be on your team. I’ve found this to be a good way to learn about what other teams are doing.

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Tech Talk: Realtime Analytics at Ning

I am very excited about the Analytics tech talk today, Apr 27th 2011. It starts at 6pm in our Palo Alto office and is open to everyone interested.  You can read the details and RSVP on the meetup page.

We do tech talks regularly at Ning. You can checkout the video from our first one.

Free Pizza, beer, and Analytics!  See you in the evening.

The Joys of the JavaDoc Style Guide

When I need to do maintenance on code that has been JavaDoc’d, my heart sings. There’s something about code that’s been JavaDoc’d that makes it so much more pleasant to work with. Look at the source code for any class in the JDK.

There is some wonderful top-level doc for the class, explaining its purpose, and also rewarding the reader with some finer points about the implementation. Then each method (even private methods) has some doc explaining the intent, descriptions of the parameters, and any gotchas.

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Videos from Ning’s first Tech Talk!

If you weren’t able to make it to our first Ning Tech Talk, The Ning Content Store, A Case Study in Architectural Evolution by Brian McCallister, you can check it below! Our next Tech Talk, Realtime Analytics at Ning by Pierre-Alexandre Meyer, is just around the corner on Wednesday, April 27, at Ning HQ in downtown Palo Alto. Join and RSVP through our Meetup group and we’ll see you there!

http://vimeo.com/22301966

When you RSVP, let us know if you want to present a lightning talk and tell us your topic. Keshav Murthy from IBM presented at the first Ning Tech Talk and we’re looking forward to hearing from more of you!

http://vimeo.com/22312268

Cross-domain communication with HTML5 postMessage

Plenty has been written about HTML5’s spiffy postMessage() method, which allows a window to send a text string to another window. When one of those windows is a web page in one domain, and another one of those windows is an iframe for a different domain embedded in the first window, you’ve got the basis for cross-domain communication that can work around the restrictions of traditional Ajax requests.

To take advantage of this capability, I put together a proof-of-concept jQuery plugin that makes this pretty simple.

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Announcing Ning Tech Talks

I am very excited to announce Ning Tech Talks, a technology event series we plan to host regularly. It’s free and open to everyone interested in learning and discussing technology topics. We will have speakers from Ning and other companies sharing their experience.  We will have free pizzas and beer.

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