Release Notes 0.8.17

Published: 2012-06-09 01:42:50 -0400

Welcome to our third Release in this week! Elz, James, and Naomi contributed code to this release, and Ariana, bingeling, Enigel, Jenn, and Kylie from our testing teams worked it over. Our sysadmins and coders have done more work to address the performance issues that have been affecting the archive as well as several other bugfixes.

PLEASE NOTE: in the name of drastically improving performance, this deploy may have a few side effects that appear at first to be errors or confusing! Please do read over these release notes and make sure that they don't cover a problem you are experiencing before you contact support.

Further efforts to battle the 502 errors!

This release includes caching of most pages for guests using Squid! Squid will serve up saved versions of pages without hitting our database or application, which increases speed and decreases server load for everyone.

The tricky part is making this work with all of the dynamic elements of the site: skins, content that gets updated by users, personalized messages, etc. We have decided to turn squid on quickly to keep the Archive running smoothly but we'll be working on finding the right balance between customization and performance as we go forward, so you may see some tweaks to different aspects of the site as we fine-tune this.

Current issues related to the caching:

  • Site skins have been disabled for logged out users for the time being - if you rely on this feature for accessibility needs, please contact support and we will get you an account ASAP so you can use the skins again.
  • Comments and kudos from guests may not show up at once for other guests. When a guest leaves kudos or posts a comment, they will see the comment/kudos added. If another guest then visits that same page (or the same guest reloads the page), however, they will see the most-recently-cached version, which may not yet show their comment/kudos count.
  • Guests may occasionally see a stray error message or notice appearing at the top of a page that does not appear to be related to anything you've done. We are working to track all of these errors down but it is hard to be sure we've gotten them all. The messages should not affect using the archive.
  • Hits that are handled by Squid (most hits from guests) will not appear in the hit count immediately. The hit counts will be updated once a day from the squid logs.
  • Duplicate hits from the log files (for instance on page reloads by the same guest) will no longer be removed because of technical limitations, so hit counts may increase more quickly in some cases.

Squid will be enabled after we update the code, so you may not notice any changes right away.

For those interested in knowing more about Squid, see the detailed explanation below!

Changes to Subscription emails

We've gotten feedback about how people use their subscription emails and in response we have adjust the subject lines and message content to allow people to identify the content more easily. Emails will now contain subs of one type (author, series, or work) and the name/title of the first one in the subject together with the number of other updates.

Details

  • Subscriptions:
    • Email subjects will now say [AO3] instead of [Archive Of Our Own].
    • Subscriptions will be bundled by type with subject lines of the form [authors] posted [first item] and [#] more, where first item will be one of: [Work Title], [Chapter Title] of [Work Title], [Work Title] in [Series Name].
  • Performance:
    • Skin chooser is turned off for logged out users.
    • Nearly all pages will be cached for logged out users.
    • Comment forms and other forms that are getting data for logged out users will have their details remembered in cookies and filled in by Javascript rather than remembered in the page.
  • Bug Fixes:
    • 500 errors were appearing on some work listings because of an interaction between caching and time zone conversion - this should be fixed now.

Details About Squid

Senior coder Ana has written up some helpful information about Squid for those who are curious:

"Squid is a really powerful tool that does a lot of things, but we’re using it primarily as one thing: a reverse-proxy cache. A reverse-proxy cache is a system designed to cache (that is, store copies of) web pages. It sits between users’ requests and the rest of the site and stores the responses to some requests so that instead of making the server build the page from scratch again, Squid can check to see if someone’s looked at that page recently and pass on the cached version. This is really useful when you want to send the same page to lots and lots of users because it means that instead of forcing the servers to generate the pages over and over, we can store a copy and give that copy out to everyone.

Of course, sometimes pages change: an author edits a story, or someone leaves kudos, so you don’t want to let Squid keep those copies around forever. Right now we let Squid keep copies for 20 minutes, and then it throws them away and gets a new one. This feels like the right balance between keeping things up to date, but not overloading the servers.

In addition, logged in users get customization on every page, in the form of the user bar at the top of the page if nothing else, which means that we don’t want Squid to store or give pages to logged in users. If it did, then every user would see the user bar for whoever made the request that Squid saved, and it would only change every twenty minutes.

This same principle holds true for all on-page customization (such as the skin-chooser), and finding the right balance between customization and cacheability (how suitable a page is for storing and giving out to everyone) is going to be an ongoing project as we try to weigh site performance against nifty features and information."

These release notes written and compiled by Ana, Claudia, Elz, Enigel, Jenn, Lucy, and Naomi.