Author Archives: joshp100

Introducing, our new water cooler (and the fabulous Kathy Mar)

She did it. In her first week on the job, Kathy Mar, our newest Robot brought cool, fresh water back to our office. As if that wasn’t enough, she’s already made about a bazillion lists on 43Places.

Introducing Kathy & our new water cooler!Kathy’s been a user of 43Things since December 16, 2004, making her one of the first 300 users. We are still working out her title, but “Captain Obvious” is in the lead. She brings a practical approach to the Co-op that is already getting us to rethink some of the 6 year old ruts we’ve created for ourselves.

Kathy is a lifelong Capitol Hill native. She’s a graduate of Steven’s Elementary, Meany Middle School, Garfield High School, and Columbia University. She’s an accomplished internet veteran. Kathy’s worked at Microsoft, Real Networks, Disney and multiple mobile companies.

Hiring Kathy brings the Robot Co-op back up to fighting strength. We are now 6 Robots. She also adds the 10th dependent (Joe and Venessa are about to bring it to 11).

How we over did it

About a year ago we had the bright idea of creating the template for “How I did it” stories. And over that year, tens of thousands of people who have completed a goal have taken some time to share how they accomplished their objective and share some advice with others. Awesome. But in building the feature, we frankly over did it. Our solicitations for “How I Did it” stories confused some people who thought they were mandatory (we think we’ve already fixed that problem). And we parked the stories right at the top of the page, where they didn’t change or update very often.

We’ve been hearing more and more from members of 43Things that they are, frankly, just not digging those How I Did It stories parked at the top of the goals pages. So we are going to test some new designs that get those ever-useful accounts of how a goal is accomplished back in the flow with the rest of the content on the page. By testing, we mean some people will see the current page, and others will see the new one. It will probably take a couple weeks to dial in just what change we think will work best, but all the tests will involve getting more timely content higher up on the page.

Whenever we test something out or make a change, there is always a period of adjustment. By testing things we are trying to make sure that what is working on 43 Things doesn’t get broken in the process. We will do our best to make the site better and you can help us with your feedback.


43Places goes offline to prepare for a new 43Places

We are going to take offline for most of the day today while we work to rollout a new set-up for 43places. We aim to be back by 6 pm PST. The new site starts out looking much the same with one exception: lists. But under the hood a lot has changed.

So what’s new? Out of the gate, the changes are mostly in the infrastructure. All of the Robot Co-op sites were built around a shared database and at various times were cached and served collectively. This new 43places is running on a different set of hardware, with a different database, making it almost fully separate from the other sites. For users, we hope this means no difference. But for the Co-op, it has been a good chunk of work to allow it to get to this more flexible and independent set-up. Moreover, we’ve chosen to go forward with a hosting set-up that operates “in the cloud”. We are serving the whole site from EC2 webservers and the RDS database in the sky.

So what’s else? Well as we said in a previous post, we are moving the travel lists that lived on over to We think this will lead to more list building greatness and we’ve got a few new features for lists (like voting and new display formats). When the site is back up, check out a few lists, like:

  • “New York Times” 31 Places to Go in 2010
  • BBC’s 50 places to see before you die
  • Everybody Hates A Tourist: USA Edition
  • With the new infrastructure work done, we are looking forward to getting more new features out that make 43Places a useful and fun place for travel enthusiasts. And with these back-end improvements, we’ll now be able to work quicker on launching new features.

    With all this change, there are bound to be bugs and some half baked ideas exposed. As always let us know about them. With the move of the lists, there might be a week or so when some lists aren’t yet showing up on 43Places, but we will be working to get them there as soon as we can.

    Thanks everybody!

    43 Things: Our 5 Year Anniversary

    We are rapidly coming up on the 5th anniversary of 43 Things’ appearance on the interweb. When we were first getting started, way back in 2004, we decided to put out a “primitive” version of the site. We code-named this experiment “Twinkler”.

    “Twinkler” was a very basic version of 43 Things. This site let you make a list of your goals and told you how many people had the same goal in common. The site didn’t have accounts, reminders, entries, images, profile pages, search results, or any of the things you might expect a site like to have. What it did have was a big provocative question: “What do you want to do with your life?

    43 Things, November 21, 2004

    Within 43 days, more than 200,000 people had made a list of their goals on “Twinkler” and we knew we had an idea that was resonating with people all around the world. Five years later, over 2 million more people have used 43 Things to make a life list, a list of the goals they want to accomplish most. Since then, we’ve met users of 43 Things from all over the world, put out a book of goals submitted by users of 43 Things, and seen the site make differences in people’s live we never could have imagined 5 years ago.

    To commemorate the last 5 years, we are bringing the simplicity of that first version of 43 Things to our site’s homepage for a few months while we celebrate our anniversary. At the end of the week you’ll see the homepage direct some attention on the question “What do you want to do in 2010?” We hope you enjoy our tribute to our humble beginnings as we re-connect with our past and we hope you’ll think about what you want out of the next year, as we celebrate 5 years of 43 Things.

    Don’t give up! The tab is back

    Sorry for the slip up that led to a dust up but now it’s all fixed up. We were working on a new project (more on that in the next post) and we accidentally stepped on the “I’ve given up” tab.

    Don't give up!

    We know folks keep track of given up goals for all kinds of reasons. Be assured, your given up goals never disappeared - just the tab that let you see them went missing. Now the tab is back, and you’ll be wondering, “How can 1 calorie taste so good?”

    The Tab is back!

    Lighten up

    We try and keep our loyal readers abreast of what’s happening at the Co-op in our ongoing efforts to speed up the sites and make things easier to use and maintain. Today’s announcement concerns a test drive of a new navigation bar (navbar) we are working on. The new navbar is faster loading, less tall, and we think, a bit easier on the eyes. In terms of functionality, it is all the same, this is mostly about how it looks and the performance when you request a page. Because the navbar is such a focal part of the page, this test is one you will almost certainly notice.

    In our ongoing efforts to lose a few pounds . . .

    We also wanted to tell you a bit more about the experiment, as it could prove a bit confusing as well. We’ll be introducing the new navbar through what is known as an A/B test. Half of the 43Things users will see the new navbar and the other half will see the same navbar we’ve been using for the last 9 months. This lets us measure the performance of each treatment and analyze the resorts accordingly. It also means you and a friend might not be seeing the same navbar at all. Or if you use one computer at work and another at home, the navbars you see may vary.

    Thanks, in general, for being a part of the grand experiment that is 43 Things, and thanks specifically for bearing with us while we take the new navbar out for a spin.

    All is change. All remains the same.

    Hold on to your hats folks. In our ongoing efforts to speed up the sites and simplify their operation we are “refactoring” a few things on the site related to goal adoption and goal counts (how many people are on a goal). Now if all goes smoothly, the net effect will be everything will function just as they did before, but with faster loading pages and less strain on the database. That ought to mean fewer “oops” pages. The change will be most evident on goals with lots of people and teams with lots of members.

    Sounds great, right? So why the fuss? Well, because we are pretty much rerouting the oxygen intake for our dear 43Things the site (goal adoption) . We’ve tested the changes, double checked them, and we are feeling ready to roll them out. But if you see something go haywire in these 2 areas we’d love it if you let us know.

    Site outage tonight!

    We are going to take all the sites down tonight at 10 pm Pacific time to do some database maintenance. We are sorry for the inconvenience and apologize for not giving you more advance notice. The upshot of all this is that 43Things should be faster when we come back online 1 hour later.


    Our Load-balancer went all wonky and it took a bit of time to figure it out. It has now been reset, and things seem better. You should see no more “connection dropped” messages and all the edit links (etc.) should be working. Let us know if that is not the case, and thanks for flying with the Robots.

    Meet the New Robot

    Have you ever heard the story of the note placed in a bottle and thrown into the ocean, only to be discovered years later, thousands of miles away, by the very same person who wrote it? images-1Well what about that movie, An Affair to Remember, where Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant fall in love and promise to meet again 6 months later. images Now that I think about it, it is sort of like that Sandra Bullock/Keanu Reeves remake The Lake House, where to destined lovers are separated by the improbable barrier of time and tied together by a magic mailbox.

    Oh, man, I think I’ve lost my train of thought . . . . did I tell you how HOT it is in Seattle today?

    Back to the story: when we were getting started on we built an early prototype and shared it with a small group of folks. Some gave us one or two suggestions and one guy gave us a whole list of 43ideas for our new site. That’s where the “message in a bottle” part comes in. We loved the ideas (and we’ve followed through on some) and we promised to keep track of this list (we should have kept track of this guy as well). While no Cary Grant, we’d want to meet up later.

    When we had a spot to fill on the Robot Co-op roster we posted the ad nationwide. We talked to a few folks and then it dawned on us - what about that guy who sent us that list almost 5 years ago. We sent him an email (that’s sort of like the magic mail box at Keanu’s Lake House). The guy we’d been waiting for, up there on the Empire States Building, had been using the site all along: user # 63 - member since December 12, 2004! Now that is old school! And when he got his email, he was like that guy who rediscovered his lost message in a bottle from years ago. Or something.

    Did you know it is 101 degrees in Seattle today? I think it is affecting my metaphors. OKay - on with the announcement.

    Ladies & Gentlemen: meet Joe Goldberg, the newest robot at the Robot Co-op.

    Joe knows our site about as well as anyone outside of the company. In his first week he’s made all kinds of good suggestions. We feel lucky to have him. Joe will be working closely with Michelle on all things “front end” as well as helping to create new features and improve the performance of the old ones. He’s also diving into our metrics, fighting spam, and making the sites more awesome.

    Thanks for joining us Joe! And sorry for the languid, sweaty, over-wrought, allusion filled, intro post! But it is REALLY HOT!