Building the LOST: The Final Season Sweepstakes
We were contracted to build a sweepstakes site for Disney/ABC for the final season of the TV show LOST (or as they put it LOST: The Final Season, which sounds more ominous). It was a pretty straightforward database project, with two major wrinkles.
First off, they needed it in a week. I was thinking two weeks when we agreed to do it, but when you consider we had Christmas right in the middle of the project, we pretty much had to get it done in a week.
Purnima did a great job of creating custom graphics for the site based on the imagery we were provided, and Eric got the programming and server set up done in short order. Even the HTML came together, which is remarkable when you consider how short-handed we are in that department at the moment.
But the real thing that had me worried about this project is that this is LOST; this is a show with a fan base that put fanatical back in the word 'fan'. There are over a million fans on the LOST Facebook page which could pummel a web application. Then there's the fact ABC will be advertising the sweepstakes on TV, which can get thousands of people to hit the site at the same moment.
Fortunately Conquent has faced this before and we were able to get a site set up on Rackspace's cloud -- we looked at Amazon and Google (even considered Microsoft's), but what made Rackspace work for me was that I had a couple business cards from meeting tech and sales guys in Vegas at the CLIO awards. Yep, I made the business decision from hanging out in the cabanas by the pool at the Hard Rock Hotel in Vegas.
It's not that they had plied me with booze and wifi, it's that I was able to pick up the phone and talk to someone who was able to help my team set up the right solution. No matter how hard you try, you just can't automate real customer service. Even with over a decade of doing exactly these kinds of projects, cloud computing is new, and I honestly didn't know enough about how the technology works to understand how the pricing works or how we might get in trouble with one package versus another.
We're in Day 2 of the sweepstakes as I write this, and it's running so smoothly it's almost disturbing. I mean, I don't want to break the site, but I'd like to see the thing strain a little. But so far, it's just another ho-hum miracle.