Free Day 2011 Recap

Forensics on our 2nd Free Day event. The ups, the downs. The lessons we learned were priceless!

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Free Day 2011 is done. Thanks to everyone who helped load our servers to a crawl. Free Day officially ended at Thursday January 13th at 11:07:03AM. $150,541 was given out and $22,988 was donated to charity. Here are some other fun stats from the day.

We had:

  • 11,495 correct answers to the quiz
  • 1,099 wrong answers
  • 9,884 people chose to take the quiz
  • 1,395 people chose to take the lump sum

As of 1PM on Free Day we had 13 million HTTP requests (how many times did you press F5?).

We served 45,000 queries per second with a peak of 133Mbps, an order of magnitude more than what we usually see.

We kind of exploded our IRC channel. Thanks to Freenode and thanks to robint91 (from IRC) for tracking and putting together the graph!

Zaber (aka Shashin, a regular on our IRC channel) was kind enough to track the funds over time. Can you tell when the second webserver came back online? The trend lines aren't exact, but something like $40,000 was issued in the last 5 minutes.

Above is a a breakdown of the international participation. Thank you all!

Similar to last year, we hit a twitter trend! 2nd and 3rd! Not bad. Don't worry, Wayne's our cousin.

We even hit 4th on Google trends for a bit! WOW!

If you send us a 4-pack of 15-ounce Chocolate Lovers cookies to thank us for Free Day via Amazon fulfillment, you bet you get it posted on the homepage. Thanks Jon (aka python_guy on IRC). A sugar high (and eventual crash) added something special to the roller coaster that was Free Day.
Brennen and Ben in IT

Last year Solarbotics sent us flowers for our dead servers. This year, they sent us fire extinguishers. Well played, sir. Well played.

For those of you who want to try your hand at the quiz, we will be posting it by itself soon so that you can check it out. We're pretty proud of it! But remember, there's no pot of gold at the end of the quiz.

Will we do it again next year? Free Day is really painful on a lot of people at SparkFun but it does help us become a lot stronger. So maybe. We can always use more fire extinguishers.

Comments 149 comments

  • icyfyer / about 13 years ago / 16

    Damn, that was a whole lot of fun. Thanks Sparkfun. Forget about all those who complained; apparently they didn't read the rules correctly or are just sore losers. This was a great idea. Even if I hadn't earned any free loot, I would still have had a GREAT time. I felt like a male virgin every time I saw the page actually load. "I'm IN!"

    • eewestcoaster / about 13 years ago / 7

      ...and then I was out again. Disappointment and frustration trumped all as I tried again and again with little hope of success.
      Wait, what were we talking about again? :)

  • Member #191758 / about 13 years ago / 9

    I noticed sparkfun #2 on google trends... right under Rush Limbaugh... Don't think it made the top, but still impressive. Nice work guys.

  • Rocketryguy / about 13 years ago / 7

    Last night I woke up and my alarm clock said 4:04. I was actually panicked when I couldn't find the F5 key on it. True story. Thanks Sparkfun for the $50!

    • Scube / about 13 years ago / 2

      Nice... I believe what your referring to is call "Post traumatic stress disorder", often causing nightmares like in your situation. The only known cure is to SPEND THAT FREE MONEY!!!
      PS: Thanks Sparkfun for the $10!!! It was a frustrating blast of a good time. C'mon freeday 2012 :)

  • GearJammer / about 13 years ago / 6

    I wonder what a year's worth of advertising dollars costs Sparkfun vs. Freeday. This day seems like a pretty decent ad campaign that reaches way more people

  • N.Poole / about 13 years ago / 5

    Here's my official Free Day 2011 Extended Metaphorical Analysis:
    A Volkswagen dealer has a contest to promote the new VW Bug. He offers $5 per 10 seconds to anyone who can sit in the car. You sit in the car, you get $5 for every 10 seconds you stay, or if you've bought a car from them before, you get $40 just for getting into the car... easy, right? Well there are 5,000 people participating. You arrive the day of the contest and see the size of the car. You see the crowd of people. You know this won't be easy.
    Scenario #1 -
    You Rush the VDub, knocking people over, you've bought a car here before so you want that loyalty money. You pull someone out of the passenger seat and crawl into the jam-packed little car. The car groans under the weight, the tires are flat, the door hinges are bent backward. You got in, got your money, you're outta here.
    Scenario #2 -
    You're determined to make some dough, you've never heard of the dealership before so there's no loyalty cash for you. You rush to the doors, crawling on top of people, they won't get out of the way so you push them. You grab a seat and hold on for dear life. You're repeated pushed almost out the door, but you keep trying and you hold on but eventually it's too much and after 30 seconds you're on the ground. You got $15, not bad.
    Scenario #3 - You get trampled on your way to the car. Every time you rush the doors, someone knocks you down. Finally you get inside for one short second, yuo see the interior... and then you get pulled back out. You got nothing.
    -In Scenario 3, should you blame the dealership for the time you wasted trying to get into a tiny car with 5000 other people?
    -In Scenario 2, does it make since to blame the dealership for not renting a bigger car for the contest (a contest to show off VWs)
    -In Scenario 1, Can you say that the car "failed"? The car was certainly destroyed. But the dealer never claimed that 5000 people should be able to fit in it. And it works every time 4 people want to test-drive it.
    -If you're in the back of the crowd, is it the car dealer's fault that you have a lesser chance of getting in? Again, should they have rented a truck or a bus in order to host this competition to promote VWs?
    -Most importantly, say they did rent a HUGE bus, and EVERYONE can get on it. The loyalty people sit in the front and get their money first thing, then the contestants take their seats, they wait patiently and the first people through the door (automatically on the longest) get the bulk of the money, the next group get a little, the last on get none. Is this really a different contest? Does it promote VW? Is everyone (including people with no money) happier?
    Just an interesting thought experiment. I think it's funny how some people thought they had a right to take the quiz. Part of the contest, for me, was just getting in to take it. Also, to unzip the last conclusion, imagine they did have infinite capacity? Then a few people would've gotten a bunch of money, a few would have gotten some, and a WHOLE bunch would have logged on to see that free day had ended 15 min after it started. Hoorah.

    • sephers / about 13 years ago / 4

      Well said, there were a lot of bitter people out there, and even more bitter people who had joined the same day. It's a shame that these discounts ended up on ebay. Next year Sparkfun should disallow new accounts a few days before it begins just for fun :D I didn't get anything but I honestly never expected I would. It was a lot of fun trying, especially since only 1 page loaded, seems the atlantic is too big to compete with 95% of the traffic from america :)
      Sephers (Oxford, UK)

      • Genesis / about 13 years ago / 1

        Same here, Once free day started, the page became unreachable for me. I just managed to load the first quiz page when the money ran out. Still it was fun to watch the server go down and the irc channel explode. Maybe you could look into cloud-computing for next years free day? that would give us europeans a chance to join in on the fun!

        • tarlen / about 13 years ago / 1

          I fit the #3 scenario. I got an option to take the quiz, but never saw any of the questions.
          I was so upset, I had to calm myself down by ordering the stuff I was hoping to use the Free Day funds for anyway. :-)
          And while I'm not going to complain about not getting free stuff, I must say the email I received saying "You attempted 0 questions" was a little mean. :-D
          Thanks for supporting your userbase so well!

  • alexanderjbuck / about 13 years ago / 5

    I must say you pulled off this years freeday very well. In addition to getting some credit to spend I learned a lot studying for the quiz.
    My one suggestion for next year, combine freeday and antimov: if a server goes down it must destroy itself.

  • alexw / about 13 years ago / 5

    That first graph is really encouraging. I might be biased since I got $50 this year and none last year, but it seems like this new model was hugely successful. Plenty of people got the $20 is better than $0 option, and it looks like the people who dedicated the afternoon to getting more were rewarded for it. As for this being good PR, I 'm not sure what your average profit margin on products is, but I know that I always end up buying 2-3x my winnings. And the first order is always the gateway drug for the rest of the month :)
    Thanks, guys!

  • Baron Bytecode / about 13 years ago / 4

    Thanks, sparkfun. The first free day that I didn't sleep through was a blast! You all deserve high fives when I come pick up my next order.
    I've also prepared a summary statement from those who weren't so happy with their free day experience.

    • lmpg / about 13 years ago / 1

      Nice! I'ma add this to our repertoire of responses here in Customer Service.

  • sduddikunta / about 13 years ago / 4

    Thanks Sparkfun. I got $30 which was more than I was expecting ($0).

  • Valen / about 13 years ago / 4

    Claims first comment! ;)
    Some graphs are hard to read. But the first one is clear. More people got to win something. And less people got the large summ. I'd say that's a fair deal.

  • Markatlnk / about 13 years ago / 4

    Thanks guys for putting it on again. I just took the cash. Didn't want to look bad as I teach Electrical Engineering at the University of Nebraska.

    • EliTheIceMan / about 13 years ago / 1

      Are you at Lincoln? I'm in electronics engineering at PKI in Omaha!

  • sephers / about 13 years ago / 3

    I find it funny that not a single one of these comments are bitter, note how all the people who joined on the 12th or the 13th, came along, won nothing, complained a lot about it, and appear to have gone again :) good riddance. Well done sparkfun, it was very enjoyable.

  • I was in school, during a free period. I was all excited. In the IRC was brutal, at least #sparkfun-freeday was around. Watching the timer, 3... 2... 1... NOW! and... Site goes to a stand still. For the next 20 minutes, I was frantically trying to get to the quiz, no avail. Period ends, I have to leave. 45 minutes of class, yada yada... Then back to another free, thank God for my schedule. I get in spend 20 minutes trying to log back in, ~50% of the prize is gone, were about an hour and a half in. I finally get to the quiz. YES! I look at the first question, ADC values, Thank god for wolfram Alpha (that isn't cheating is it?). Second one, solder sponge. no load problems. Third one, TTL to RS-232, WAIT! I meant to hit C!!! Why did there have to be a NOT :( oh well. I go to load #4, RING, end of the free. I got $17 and it was well worth wasting 80 minutes. I thank you Sparkfun, you are #1 in my books.

  • octopuss_svk / about 13 years ago / 3

    thank you for opportunity to participate

  • EvilGenius121 / about 13 years ago / 3

    I must say that was a great day. I got up early and re read some bite sized tutorials (not so good with binary and hex codes). Around 12 minutes before it started, the site totally bombed. I still had a page loaded though. After 2 lonely hours of clicking refresh, i finally got in (though before i had a couple standing up on my chair and yelling to the world that it loaded moments). Strangely enough i did have close to the F5 clock moment...
    Once i finally got in i got through 5 questions before it died, oh how i wish i went with my gut instinct instead of taking 5 minutes on a few questions and skipping others. My total spoils? $40. Fine by me, as it was free, and this was the first time i had ever participated in free day. Most of it will be going towards atmega chips. Great job sparkfun! Keep it up! Oh, and btw, did you actually have a server go up in flames?

  • planetjay / about 13 years ago / 3

    Is that an asteroids machine under the cookies and mountain dew? And Thanks again!

    • Good eye!
      That's a vintage 1978 2-player Asteroids table arcade game. It was non-functional and collecting dust in the break room for a couple years when Judd, our new-ish sysadmin got his hands on it and breathed new life into it.
      Now you it's rare that you walk into IT without hearing ever-quickening boops underlying frantic laser blasts and sporadic explosions.

      • Yvan256 / about 13 years ago / 1

        And those noises are from the exploding servers, on top of the Asteroids sounds!

  • Kuep / about 13 years ago / 3

    Very well done SFE! Already put my order.....snaking a bunch of your 'coasters'

  • legalize / about 13 years ago / 2

    If you're counting "Error" page serves as part of your "pages served", then you're just fooling yourselves into thinking your data is meaningful.
    Its not "serving me a page" to barf an error message in my face.
    Its not a "quiz" when I have to keep resubmitting my answer to the same question over and over again.
    Am I griping about the 2.5 hours I spent trying to get through your buggy server and software to get $10? You bet. Minimum wage hasn't been as low as $4/hr for over 30 years.
    You gloated how you fixed all your problems of the previous year, but I see no indication that it was any different from the previous year.
    Clearly most people are trying to take the quiz, but your horrible solution just failed and failed and failed.

  • SquirrelMan / about 13 years ago / 2

    Didn't have much time this year but I managed to get through to the lump sum. No time for the quiz. However, will there be a new product 'Charity' I can purchase in $10 intervals to fill up that charity bucket?

  • Brian Feller / about 13 years ago / 2

    I am with all of the positive comments! It was a great opportunity for you guys to grow stronger, and great for your customers to hit up on that action. I had fun putting you through hell.. In a good way! Thx a bunch.
    Looking forward to Next year.. In the mean time, I have plenty of projects to work on!

  • FrugalGuy / about 13 years ago / 2

    Oh, well. I did well last year. This year I managed to log in, choose to take the quiz, see the first question, select the answer and press Submit.
    That was when I was informed the day was over and I'd won nothing. Just managed to lose my loyalty gift.
    Still and all, you guys rock!

  • Member #139276 / about 13 years ago / 2

    Awesome, good to know there are more winner this time.
    Looking forward for next free day.

  • notloc / about 13 years ago / 2

    I'd be interested in seeing how many people clicked to take the quiz but never got far enough to answer any questions... (despite hours of trying, myself included) but it was still fun to have the chance and I love you guys. Thanks for doing this!

  • bdodds / about 13 years ago / 2

    95% was given to the US, but it would be interesting to see stats on Where is the US. (If that is even possible)
    P.S. Last year I could move around the site slowly and it seamed to only be the checkout that was failing over and over. This year I only got errors and timeouts until the very end when I finally got to the first question after trying since the start, and then POOF it was over before I could even read the 2nd question. $10 is better than $0 for sure. :)

  • Member #159982 / about 13 years ago / 2

    I started trying the second it launched and literally wasn't able to get to a single question until 1-minute before it ended. Luckily though--- I answered my single question correctly and I received a $10 code. Obviously I would have liked to have won $100, but... $10 is better than $0 and thus I am grateful.
    This is an ingenious marketing technique on your part. Thanks for the money.

  • Paul17 / about 13 years ago / 2

    Ah, so far more people getting less total money each. I sort of figured this was the objective as giving a huge number of people $10 generates far more revenue since nobody is going to place a $10 order. Well done Sparkfun.

  • Yvan256 / about 13 years ago / 2

    Here's an idea for Free Day 2012: only give 1$ credit for each correctly answered question, remove 0.25$ for every mistake, with five answers per question. People won't be able to rush through the test hoping to get at least 25$ by answering randomly, since the worst case scenario would be four wrong answers before finally "finding" the right one, which wouldn't give you anything (1$-(4 wrong answers * 0.25$)).
    That will give a chance to more people, the load test should last 10 times longer and a lot less people looking for freebies to resell on eBay will bother to do it at all.

    • wassabi / about 13 years ago / 1

      I only see one person on ebay, you would think more people would take advantage since the code is transferable.

      • sephers / about 13 years ago / 1

        It's a shame that's on ebay, it really ruins it for the regulars.

    • PatSharbaugh / about 13 years ago / 1

      I like that idea!

  • TimW / about 13 years ago / 2

    I think a very telling bit of information would be how many people got this email:
    "You chose to gamble with the quiz questions. You attempted 0 questions. Unfortunately, you didn't win any money this time around."
    I clicked on the quiz, but never got to a question.
    In fact it would be interesting to see a histogram of how many questions people attempted. Not how many they got right or wrong, but how many they got through. This would be a decent metric for seeing how many consecutive pages a person could hit the server before it booted them.

    • I think a very telling bit of information would be how many people got this email
      5726, give or take. We definitely didn't plan on sending any of those; the underlying assumption was that people who entered the quiz at all would manage to submit at least one question. We obviously should have thought harder about that logic.

      • TimW / about 13 years ago / 1


        I think a very telling bit of information would be how many people got this email
        5726, give or take. We definitely didn't plan on sending any of those; the underlying assumption was that people who entered the quiz at all would manage to submit at least one question. We obviously should have thought harder about that logic.
        Hmm, interesting. So of the 9,884 who attempted the quiz only a little over 4,000 could actually take the quiz? I'm not complaining, but it does make for an interesting thing to ponder for future Free Days if they happen. I'm only wishing I had found you guys a few months earlier so that I could have 1 year under my belt. :)

        • ikrase / about 13 years ago / 1

          I think that's what made some people so bitter, especially that the lump was biased over the quiz.
          Maybe next year, the quiz could be in a java applet or flash app.

  • simen4000 / about 13 years ago / 2

    Thanks for a great and fun giveaway! Happy i got through when it was just a few minutes left.
    Is it possible to make a list of the most popular items purchased with Free Day coupon codes up to this moment?

  • buxredding / about 13 years ago / 2

    I'd like to second the comment thanking you guys for the new format. I actually did get refreshed on some basics I'd forgotten since / never learned in college. I got nothing last year and was able to get a piece this year.
    I'm looking forward to my soon to be soldered together fingers and herbie mousebot with a limp.

  • kd5crs / about 13 years ago / 2

    You should look for any interesting data on those who got through, see what they have in common. For instance, were most of the winners geographically close to SF headquarters? Did any ISPs perform better than the others? Work vs home? You'll have IP addresses and zip codes from the eventual orders, seems like something neat could come from that.
    Edit: And I hope you have it again next year! I'm going to get rich selling "I tried to get into Freeday for three years and all I got was this lousy t-shirt... and I had to pay kd5crs for it!" t-shirts.

  • mman1506 / about 13 years ago / 2

    with 13 million request im glad i took the 10and ran

  • McSarge / about 13 years ago / 2

    Excellent job fellows! Again, I wish I worked for SparkFun!

  • dcormier / about 13 years ago / 2

    Thanks, Sparkfun! It was fun watching the chaos, even though I wasn't able to submit an answer to the first question.

  • Nakor / about 13 years ago / 2

    Sucked that I got nothing due to server load but oh well lol. In the cookie picture, is that an old school game table?

  • URALLNOOBS / about 13 years ago / 2

    How many people got the full $100??

  • eaglescout1984 / about 13 years ago / 2

    Well, the only real annoying issue I noticed was that I got kicked off my account a couple of times during the whole thing. I expected the load, but not having to load the login page and crossing my fingers the login request went through.
    But I was able to get a couple of quiz questions answered before the funds dried up. And I'll be sure to spend more than I won as a thank you!

  • Stevenh / about 13 years ago / 1

    There was a free day?? ;-)

  • Member #161592 / about 13 years ago / 1

    Doh!, I missed it! :(

  • Weekend_Nerd / about 13 years ago / 1


    Thanks SparkFun for bringing us useful electronics AND a lot of fun. Keep it up folks!
    Regarding the participation list I really wonder where's Germany got to??!?
    Seems I'll really have to bang the drum for SparkFun here! ;)
    I'm from Germany and I've won 10$. But because of the high shipping costs I maybe give my code away.
    Is anybody here who wants to exchange a Seeedstudio coupon code with my SparkFun Code?

  • c47385 / about 13 years ago / 1

    I'm very disappointed. Wasted my time (more than 1.5 hrs) and got no credit even though I answered 2 questions correctly :-(
    Poor effort, Sparkfun. You've lost another customer.

  • #0programmer / about 13 years ago / 1

    I would really like to know how some people managed to get through several questions, especially those geographically far away. I was in NY on a fast connection from the beginning and only managed to get one question answered in the last few minutes after many tries.
    It was incredibly frustrating, but I'm happy for my $10 either way (last year I got nothing). Thanks a lot guys, and keep up the good work!

  • Member #6570 / about 13 years ago / 1

    Thank you SparkFun! This year was much better than last year - I knew I'd never get through the quiz for the connectivity issues, but I was ecstatic when I managed to lock down the loyalty code :-)
    The funny thing is the next day I went to use the code and the item I wanted (Arduino Mega2560) was out of stock. I put myself on the watch list and
    5 minutes later I got a mail saying it had come into stock. My new toy is in the mail.
    Thanks Again, you guys are great!

  • esklar81 / about 13 years ago / 1

    It appears your charitable donation total was $7,012 short of the cap you set on it.
    How about letting those of us who missed the opportunity (I, for example, was in transit to the other side of the globe on business.) play the quiz just for charity? Why not give us a week (or less, if we hit the cap) to play, one attempt of up to 10 questions per account, for $3/correct answer to charity.
    That way, folks who really do want to try the quiz (that is, are willing to answer quiz questions without the chance of personal monetary gain) will have a chance to do so and SparkFun can do a bit more social good.

  • GuShH / about 13 years ago / 1

    Thanks Sparkfun!

  • Audiobuzz / about 13 years ago / 1

    Just an idea to consider for next year.
    How about spreading the money over the day. Ie $5-10k every hour
    That way internationals might also get a reasonable chance and you might prolong the exposure on twitter and google
    Just my 2.2c

  • Austin25 / about 13 years ago / 1

    It was loads of fun. I skipped school for it, by the way. It was definitely worth it.

  • Mure / about 13 years ago / 1

    Hey, that's not the entire country list of winners! :-)

  • amedeo / about 13 years ago / 1

    yea great idea, but in italy i'm not able to connect to sparkfun web site (only during free day)

  • haley0918 / about 13 years ago / 1

    LOL!!! i'm the only Malaysian participated in SFE Free Day!!!

  • Matthew Wilkes / about 13 years ago / 1

    I'm in Germany and won 60USD - that doens't show up on the international breakdown, your stats generation must be buggy.

    • ulpe / about 13 years ago / 1

      I dare say you're right! Just the two of us account for 80USD already, so Germany should show up in the list. :)

  • MACSBOOST / about 13 years ago / 1

    Thanks sparkfun. I was able to get a piece of the pie this year. I missed out last.
    I hope you decide to do it again. Thats the power of free! - Mac

  • Ritch / about 13 years ago / 1

    My summary of Freeday 2011
    15 minute reminder set to get me to a computer so I can dedicate myself to the event. Over the next two hours my refresh button was bashed so many times I had to change keyboards. I received a blank page god knows how often, a html version of sparkfun (presumably the page didn't load properly) four times, the login page nine times (I logged in once), and took the same first question 3 times (without it being stored). I received 14 "broke" messages over the course of the two hours which means the server was up long enough to know something broke.
    All in all, Freeday has been the worst expereince with Sparkfun I've had by a long way. In my buying time you have been simply epic without refrain or constraint. Freeday for me utterly pointless. Here's hoping you have more bandwidth next year :)

  • ulpe / about 13 years ago / 1

    Thanks SparkFun for bringing us useful electronics AND a lot of fun. Keep it up folks!
    Regarding the participation list I really wonder where's Germany got to??!?
    Seems I'll really have to bang the drum for SparkFun here! ;)

  • fowkc / about 13 years ago / 1

    Didn't get through to the quiz on my first free day. It started at 4pm in the UK, I left work at 5:30pm and during my drive home all the funds evaporated. Still, it was great fun trying!
    Is the quiz still available somewhere? I'd like to see how well I would have done if I'd got to it.

  • sephers / about 13 years ago / 1

    Lets face it, just like last year, of those who didn't get anything this year, who's now gonna buy $100 worth of stuff anyway :D

  • U2 / about 13 years ago / 1

    It's us from India...Me and my fried got 50 dollars collectively...Thank you Sparkfun...After 2 hours of struggle we were able to answer few questions...Why is it that people from India were not able to login...I had 10Mbps Broadband...

  • adamjgs / about 13 years ago / 1

    In the top graph, shouldn't the green area only be 1.5 * red area? It looks much more than that.
    As for the influence of geographical location on freeday success, I managed $50 in the quiz from Melbourne, Australia (thanks). It's interesting to note that the Australian turnout was almost half of that from Canada - even more interesting when you consider what time it was here (midnight - 3 AM start, 2 AM - 5 AM finish). Of course I'd like to see a 'rest of the world' freeday time slot for those of us not in the American longitudes, but I'll take what I'm given. Thanks!

    • rdm_box / about 13 years ago / 1

      No, because the red area is more in the $90 - $100 range, so each unit of area is worth more money.

  • Member #84737 / about 13 years ago / 1

    It was a lot of fun F5ing for few hrs.
    It was more fun when reading the question and not getting to submit the answer lol
    sparkfun is amazing, thank you!

  • Mark Fickett / about 13 years ago / 1

    Can you tell when the second webserver came back online?
    Aah, I wondered what happened. I was painfully watching my requests time out, and then they failed immediately for a few minutes (though I could still ping, and then everything was daisies for a half-minute until the funds ran out.
    Painful, but a fun party – and undoubtedly good publicity – and I'm sure I'll spend more than my $40 (woo hoo)!

  • TheRobberDotCom / about 13 years ago / 1


    Next year Sparkfun should disallow new accounts a few days before it begins just for fun :D
    I agree totally - in fact I had exactly the same idea :)

  • hesperaux / about 13 years ago / 1

    Thank you so much Sparkfun. At first, I thought I would rage extremely hard if I didn't get to answer the questions. I mean, I was waiting there before it started, and witnessed the beginning of the server crashing down in flames. I have a great chance to get something out of this, I thought! This attitude died as soon as I joined IRC and talked with all the people who were in the same situation. I figured out that it is really fun just to joke around and celebrate every re-login. Twelve minutes before I was like: "What? Freeday hasn't even started and the server's down? LOL"
    I was a trooper though. I didn't hit F5 constantly like a lot of people. I hit it strategically. I have a sixth sense about when to do it. This sixth sense, however, didn't let me see a single page for the first 40 minutes. Some good that did me. I was in #sparkfun-freeday and thoroughly enjoying the entire experience. To my complete surprise, I managed to get $70.00 out of it, but I was very persistent and patient! I did not expect that. How exciting!
    Only one thing about freeday annoyed me: all the people on IRC trying to trick users into taking $0.00 in loyalty money or telling people it was over. Not cool. I'm really glad Twitter was keeping most of us honest about that. Next year, can we get a couple extra ops in the IRC channels to act as truth-sayers? =)
    To the sparkfun marketing team (if one exists): I looked through your entire stock as a result of this event. I appreciate your efforts to sell-off-cheap the parts that most companies (sadly) throw away. Great philosophy; we all appreciate it. And let me say, I probably would not have looked at your whole catalog if it weren't for Free Day. That's got to mean something in the advertising/marketing world, right?

  • Member #155588 / about 13 years ago / 1

    I have a suggestion to make, why don't you give a big discount on orders for those who have never been able to get anything on Free Day because of server problems (and it won't discourage them) and maybe part of the money that you gain goes to charity. It's just a suggestion.

  • dlampron / about 13 years ago / 1

    Is it mandatory to have a beard to be in the IT team or you just worked too hard for the past week ?

  • calJimmy / about 13 years ago / 1

    Two Ideas for next year:
    Nice: Quiz again, but this time put the loyalty money decision on the first question page. Then no more zero-attempt disappointments.
    Diabolical: Scavenger hunt through the SparkFun Catalog.

  • SomeGuy123 / about 13 years ago * / 1

    I'm glad to see more people got prizes this year.

  • TheGreat837 / about 13 years ago / 1

    So for some reason i never got my coupon code, and i never was able to redeem the credit i had earned...... i hate how the rules change. that was a waste of time this year.

  • MichaelK / about 13 years ago / 1

    Interesting statistics, and a great free day, though still plenty of room for improvement for next year. Thanks, SparkFun, and keep up the good work!
    After the 60 days grace period is over, it would be interesting to see some order statistics as well: what were the most popular items purchased with the free day discount, how big were the orders, how long people waited before ordering, etc.

  • Limelover / about 13 years ago / 1

    I took the $20 only because I knew that I would never be able to even try to actually answer more than one question due to the server response. In fact it took a long time to actually score the "loyality" reward.
    So I was happy to get something more than last year, but disappointed that I could not actually play for a greater reward.

  • yngndrw / about 13 years ago / 1

    Have you guys thought about using something like the Amazon EC2 service next year ?
    I wonder what it would be like compared with the current hardware. (You never know, it might turn out to be cheaper than upgrading by an order of magnitude each year !)

    • yngndrw / about 13 years ago / 1

      I forgot to ask, which charity are you donating to and why them ?

      • MikeGrusin / about 13 years ago / 1

        We're donating to three worthy charities, see the original announcement for details:
        Also, remember that no matter how fast we get the servers to run, about 9 out of 10 people won't win. This is because we're only giving enough money away for a few thousand people ($100 max per person), but 100,000 people are hitting the servers. The money will be given out faster or slower depending on how our servers hold up (and if we virtualized it into the cloud it would be gone in seconds), but the 1/10 ratio would remain the same.
        Still, IMO 1/10 is pretty good odds for winning something, and I'm glad that most of you had a good (if understandably frustrating) time trying. Thanks for all your comments and support!

  • robotobos / about 13 years ago / 1

    freeday was awesome.
    lol @ sparkfun diversity

  • El1m1nate / about 13 years ago / 1

    I got a bit... the key to it, as seen above, was to be in the US... i used a tunnel to my vps from AU, and still only got to anwser 2 q's!

  • Pbone / about 13 years ago / 1

    I think it would be interesting to see who claimed the first prize and maybe who was the first to complete the entire quiz. Can we see some data like that? It is always fun for people to have bragging rights

  • Colecago / about 13 years ago / 1

    I was all ready for freeday last week, and then I completely forgot about it until I got home last night and looked something up online and saw the freeday news. Dammit. Well maybe next year.

  • Scott14 / about 13 years ago / 1

    The cash per winner chart has frustration written all over it. I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict that the bulk of the cash came from the loyalty dollars, not the quiz. If someone did play the quiz, they were very frustrated because they couldn't get through it.
    The quiz was a disaster no mater how you slice it. Virtually no one got the full amount. That just plain sucks. Forget about the quiz next year.
    To get more bang for the buck, just add a link on your landing page, click for a chance to win. Create the odds at oh, say 1000:1 and let it go for a few days. Set time limits on how fast someone can repeat win, add $10 per win up to a limit of 100 . . . or put up a product and play like it's a raffle. Some random click in the next hour will win it, keep clicking until it's won.
    This way everyone knows what they are getting into, you server load is still high, but not crazy. Oh, and get some real server power. By any measure your servers FAILED the test yesterday.
    Also, it's one thing to list total winners, but every time I got the "Something Broke" message I got pissed that it was your screw up that kept me from winning not mine. Fix that please.

    • dbc / about 13 years ago / 1

      Well, I went for the $30 in loyalty dollars because I didn't think it was worth the hassle of fighting the servers to take the quiz. I'm perfectly happy with an easy $30 versus more money for more work.

    • Erik-Sparkfun / about 13 years ago / 1

      Nope, about $37,000 went out in loyalty cash, the other $113,000+ went out through the quiz. Sorry you were frustrated, but the good news is that this way a lot more people got smaller pieces of the share, rather than a smaller fraction of the people getting $100 each.

    • wassabi / about 13 years ago / 1

      Furthest person I saw in screenshots cleared question 8. Personally, after 2 hours of timed out pages I finally got in and was able to answer 4 questions about 5 minutes before the funds were gone.
      Someone mentioned a bug in another comment that prevented people from taking the quiz, once corrected lots of people were able to take the quiz.

  • bbotany / about 13 years ago / 1

    I note that there were more comments on yesterday's post than wrong answers.
    So as a group we're perhaps not doing too much systematic destruction of our devices with simple mistakes. That leaves the question: do we instead reek destruction with advanced mistakes, or random simple mistakes?

    • dbc / about 13 years ago / 1

      How about mistakes so advanced they wrap around to simple, and then destroy randomly?

  • Kuy / about 13 years ago / 1

    I actually went to SparkFun's Chinese copycat site GE Tech (remember them?) hoping to see them having a Flee Day of their own, but alas.
    *Note: image is a mockup and probably also violates SFE trademarks.

  • ThreeBean / about 13 years ago / 1

    Hey, is the quiz out there anywhere that i could take it. Just for fun I would like to see what the questions all were.

  • Member #156859 / about 13 years ago / 1

    Hmmmm. Canada is right next door and we didn't even break 1%. I know more than enough people in London alone that could make the $1464 that supposedly the entire country made. Mexico pretty much had 2 people make something off of this.
    Not really complaining cause it was to be expected, but could there be a way to optimize the servers so international customers have a better chance next year?

    • First of all, thank you SparkFun for the $10 USD.
      I just placed an order only to find that my code was only worth $9.90 Canadian. The Canadian dollar has been worth more than US since New Year's. It's only $0.10 cents difference, but I was just wondering what's up with that?
      EDIT: Nevermind, it makes sense now.

  • kanurys / about 13 years ago / 1

    Really? Bret Favre Sister? Oh man...

  • "We even hit 4th on Google trends for a bit! WOW!"
    LOL #1 goes to Anna Benson.

  • jdiwnab / about 13 years ago / 1

    I'd be interested in knowing which part of the site was the bottleneck. I did a few ping tests at various points, and it seemed that they where being returned just as fast as normal, although even my browser connecting to the site wasn't reliable.
    Also, while Apache might have been using all of your CPU power (based on the htop screenshot), might there have been a bottleneck in some particular task, such as SSL, disk reading/writing, or some such?
    So, while your custom DDOS attack did uncover issues, a postmortem might show what happened. It did seem to have a different feel for how it was failing as compared to last year.

    • Kuy / about 13 years ago / 1

      I would guess that the bottleneck was the game logic, particularly exclusive access to some kind of database or general key-value storage: without that, the fierce bundle of hardware threads you see in htop wouldn't be able to check if there's enough money remaining (a singular, shared global value) to be given away and for the game to continue.
      From my testing, other parts of the site were very laggy, but did respond (the front page, account and general shopping pages worked because they could execute in parallel and didn't depend on the giveaway fund variable.

      • wisetech / about 13 years ago / 1

        I think it's would be better if they switched to cloud computing rather than having millions of http requests funneling to one server. Or maybe just separate the quiz from their site to the cloud so sparkfun can still be accessed. I think that's a win win situation.

  • Whosawhatsis / about 13 years ago / 1

    I would like to see stats on how people did on the quiz. I'm particularly interested in how far most people got through it, as the funds quickly ran out after I was able to start taking it, and I only got through six of the questions, but I'd also like to see stats or correct/incorrect answers.

  • No comments / about 13 years ago / 1

    It's sad to me what most of winner are from USA. Less servers in the way, faster connection :) i saw when non usa users just get online, half of money was already gone :) but still thanks people :)

    • N.Poole / about 13 years ago / 1

      I think it's sad how mostly people in Greece get to see the Parthenon... less space in the way.

      • N.Poole / about 13 years ago / 1

        Free-Day is the Parthenon of Internet Giveaways.

  • trevor / about 13 years ago / 1

    Just for the record, #happybirthdaywayne is for Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips.

  • AdamTolley / about 13 years ago / 1

    I like the idea of more quizzes, even if not for cash. You could have some sort of geek cred system, with badges, you know the internet loves badges!

  • mbedded / about 13 years ago / 1

    the yummy data almost makes up for my wasted two hours...
    interesting about the lowest 25 countries... 1.6% of the kitty, and only 2 incorrect answers? either they're a lot smarter than the rest of us, or (assuming same quiz stats) over 90% of their winnings were loyalty

  • Azayles / about 13 years ago / 1

    Your figures for quiz attendees might be a little off, as I managed to get to a point where I could click the "take the quiz" button, but was then met with the "page cannot be loaded" error :P Oh sigh. Just to rub it in, I later received an email thanking me for my participation of free day and that I'd answered zero questions. Who's idea was that? :P lol
    Oh well, better luck next year. Maybe!

    • Hmmm / about 13 years ago / 1

      Yeah, I got that, too.
      I know we're not supposed to complain about "not getting free stuff", but giving up my loyalty money and then seeing nothing but error messages and "you must log in" after I was already logged in, and never seeing a single question, and then sending me that email?
      C'mon, that's mean.

  • John Price / about 13 years ago / 1

    It certainly proved DOS attacks can work, the only page I got was "Something Broke... not to worry. We've logged this error..."

    • N.Poole / about 13 years ago / 2

      Right? Turns out you can't put the entire city of New York on a School Bus. lol

    • Mike27 / about 13 years ago / 1

      I was wondering: "Are they really logging all these errors? That seems like a waste."

  • batola / about 13 years ago / 1

    Does anybody know, what program is used for memory monitoring shown in screenshot?

  • beerbarrel / about 13 years ago / 1

    still waiting for sparkfun to close my account as requested

  • Member #135469 / about 13 years ago / 1

    Guess SparkFun should be moving off apache and switching to nginx. :)

  • straylight / about 13 years ago / 1

    you guys still should have posted a new product thursday.
    next week's better be awesome - like electronically controlled dragon zombie presidents with sunglasses

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