Free Day Recap Video

Check out the action at the SparkFun offices on Free Day.

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Ah, it seems so long ago - but it has only been just over a week since Free Day 2011 took place. It was, at the very least, another interesting experience. All in all, we ended up giving away just a touch over $150,000 in SparkFun credit and gave approximately $23,000 to three charities. All in all, I'd say it was a good day.

So check out the video! This is a behind-the-scenes look at the mayhem in the SparkFun offices on January 13th, 2011. Share our joy as we count down the last seconds until the madness begins! Cry along with our melting servers! Frantically run the SparkFun office halls with distraught members of IT! Yep, this video has it all. Have a great weekend everyone!

Comments 67 comments

  • N.Poole / about 13 years ago / 4

    lol "Is this Global Warming?"

  • sgrace / about 13 years ago / 4

    Nice video, extremely selective editing, because I know IT was cursing up a storm.

  • pyrofx / about 13 years ago / 2

    You built it, we broke it. The bigger the server farm gets, the bigger the wave washing over it. Learn anything yet?
    Thanks SFE! Love You Long Time.

  • Steve Pinkham / about 13 years ago / 2

    BTW, Shmoocon reserved for sale 500 tickets in 6 seconds, then the next month an additional 550 tickets in 9 seconds. Of course, there were a few rounds of failures first, despite thinking they way overbuilt the servers this year.
    There's proably a few lessons in their blog posta about it for Sparkfun too:
    the curse that is shmoocon ticket sales
    so come on already-tell us whats up
    6pm update
    not the news we wanted to be posting but
    latest news plus a thank you
    (short version: They hit apache, memory and max socket limits)

    • Steve Pinkham / about 13 years ago / 1

      I can't complain though, it worked for me within the first 10 minutes or so and I got $50 in loyalty cash.. Thanks Sparkfun ;-)

  • ddd999 / about 12 years ago / 1

    I can't believe you guys have had that GPS wall clock up for FIVE YEARS and still haven't cleaned up that ugly wiring.

    • Actually, a couple of guys here just gave it a facelift in time for our open house last month. It looks and functions a lot better now!

  • dsv101 / about 13 years ago / 1


  • Wow! I spent my $20 shortly after free day and received my parts less than a week later (including shipping time). Very impressive, and a sign that the 60 day thing is working out pretty well.

  • Member #163967 / about 13 years ago / 1

    Hah... I use that same crappy computer case shown in the video...

  • MatthewR / about 13 years ago / 1

    Thanks for the video, and especially for Free Day. BTW, Nate must be in his right mind, as he appears to be left handed :)

  • Member #103633 / about 13 years ago / 1

    I think these guys are marketing geniuses. It can cost as much as $100 in advertising expense to get a single customer to visit your store. These guys put out $150,000 in credit (there cost was probably half that) to get 100,000 customer banging on their door screaming "let me in!, let me in!" For two weeks before the event, everyone is scanning the catalog looking for what they might get on Free Day.
    To me is was like authorized shoplifting, but without the negative consequences. Great idea!

  • kaipyroami / about 13 years ago / 1

    Next year there needs to be a "DONATE" button.
    $150,000 in credits to gain $23,000 for charity.
    I have plenty, and sparkfun prices are more than fair.
    I wanna give my credit to the cause...

  • MtCS / about 13 years ago / 1

    Free Day is a AWESOME initiative! Congratz! I just would like to sugest some load distributing/balancing techniques that would help you guys host those Mega events since I am a Computer Science PhD student and I can't hold myself.
    - You should look into "URL rewriting" that is a non infrastructure server re-routing technique.
    - There is always the classic but not so effective DNS round-robing.
    - Layer-3 witch is simpler and/or layer-5 re-routing witch needs a massive super expensive router (if I'm not outdated)
    In huge events like world cup or in huge sites like Amazon they use at least one of this techniques in they're site servers.
    Cloud computing is a hot topic now, maybe it would be a good approach in this big events since you could buy just the processing load that a free day would generate without paying for physical servers all year away.
    Here are some articles in the area:
    - The Measured Performance of Content Distribution Networks (WCCD'00)
    - Web Caching and Content Distribution: A View from the Interior (WWW'00)
    - On the Use and Performance of Content Distribution Networks (SIGCOMM WIMW'01)
    - The Effectiveness of Request Redirection on CDN Robustness (OSDI'02)
    I hope I helped with something.

  • ssembo / about 13 years ago / 1

    USB Bit Whacker 18F2553 Development board is a good gudget. I need to pruchase it but have failed to locate it price and places of in Washington DC.

  • strider_mt2k / about 13 years ago / 1

    New member here, and only somewhat familiar with the concept.
    Sorry I missed it, but hope to participate in the future!

  • linagee / about 13 years ago / 1

    10,000 quiz takers, 100,000 people trying to take it though.

  • JeffC / about 13 years ago / 1

    Thanks for doing free day! Ever since, I've been thinking about how to architect a server farm if you know it's going to get slammed to the point that something's going to melt.

  • gomanual / about 13 years ago / 1

    So, come on guys -- what was your peak and average traffic during free day?

  • -MH / about 13 years ago / 1

    Are you SURE Sparkfun isn't actually a grunge band from Seattle?!

  • i helped melt servers:)
    I am also resopnsible for 100+ site requests

  • AcklenX / about 13 years ago / 1

    Not a good day at all.
    I logged in about an hour before and kept my session alive reading tutorials and adding things to my wish list. But once the free day went live I couldn't load the first test question despite not needing to log in . And that was within seconds of the link becoming active. I tried and tried but when the first question finally did load (after many fresh logins and many more timeouts) not sooner had I answered (again within seconds) only to be told it was all over. I didn't even get credit for the one question I was asked (and answered).
    And to add insult to injury I then got an email telling me that I didn't answer any questions... I didn't get asked any!!

    • PresidentOfAwesomeness / about 13 years ago / 1

      Yep, I didn't even try this year because I knew that exact thing would happen. Just like last year.
      But I do wonder, what is the correct way to actually do this Free Day? I think the Sparkfun guys (and girls) handle it pretty well. Looking at the charts, it must have been better this year than last. More people got free stuff. I might do it next year...

  • JRMorrisJr / about 13 years ago / 1

    rar! Next year I will have $10 Loyalty Dollars! I'll still take the quiz tho. Laters, I'm off the work on my "Free Day Costume."

    • EvilGenius121 / about 13 years ago / 1

      free day costume? is it going to be a large server half melted and in flames? that would be pretty awesome...

  • viB / about 13 years ago / 1

    kewl stuff. I'm thinking about all the adrenaline.. must have been fun or pain :)

  • crenn / about 13 years ago / 1

    Hehe, I came to Freeday again (Hooray for it starting at 3AM in my timezone) and left empty handed again. Oh well, 3rd time's a charm right?
    Although sparkfun is finally getting money from me within a month as I'll be placing my first order! (Although I've gotten my uni to order from sparkfun before).

  • sephers / about 13 years ago / 1

    "What's the red light for Jesse?"...."It's free day"
    lol :D

  • Ted M / about 13 years ago / 1

    I love you sparkfun. Can we have Free Day every day?

  • So. Many. White. People.

    • DanZ / about 13 years ago / 1

      Yea, You try getting a tan at eleventy-thousand feet asl.

      • I wasn't talking about people's pastiness, but rather the total lack of diversity at SFE. I'm not sure why, but that was the first thing I noticed; everyone is a 20-something white male. Then again, it's Boulder we're talking about... makes sense.

        • N.Poole / about 13 years ago / 1

          Yeah... It's Boulder, not just SFE.
          Copied from Wikipedia: "The racial makeup of the city is 88.3% White, 1.2% Black or African American, 0.48% Native American, 4.02% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 3.50% from other races, and 2.40% from two or more races."
          88.3%... dang. lol.
          Nice Alias, btw, haha.

          • viB / about 13 years ago / 1

            so how many
            "1.2% Black or African American, 0.48% Native American, 4.02% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 3.50% from other races, and 2.40% from two or more races."
            at sparkfun from the total
            not pointing just checking ;) kinda intrigued :)

  • Danny. / about 13 years ago / 1

    How about a good old watchdog timer on the HDD activity LED to control reset button on every server (6). Yust kidding, I had a great time!

  • Member #188754 / about 13 years ago / 1

    It was three hours of wasted time reloading a site that didn't work. It makes me doubt the reliability of your products.

    • viB / about 13 years ago / 2

      products are reliable but servers are not. I did waste almost the same amount of time as well but I don't think it's fair to hold it against sparkfun. It's just the way e-communication works. take it easy... :)

    • Danny. / about 13 years ago / 1

      I doubt that you know any other company doing anything like this, I even doubt that you are satisfied by anything other than thing yourself (and even have doubts on that).

      • Sean.W / about 13 years ago / 2

        Anyone who is cursing at Sparkfun for slow servers on Free Day has totally missed the point. In the interest of improving customer experience on every other day of the year, they wanted their servers slammed on this one day. Incentivized by the lure of free merch, we were all happy to oblige. I'm sure that many of us even took a twisted pleasure from torturing their servers. :) If you think that the difficulties that you encountered on Free Day are in any way indicative of the quality of Sparkfun website or products, then all I can say is get some perspective, and stop being greedy.

        • EvilGenius121 / about 13 years ago / 1

          fun torturing thier servers? at one point i had like 9 tabs open, and another 3 in a different browser. and at least 7 i refreshed pretty regularly...
          For some reason, yes, i did enjoy crashing the servers :)
          Hmm... i think im gonna call it the "sparkfun effect"

          • EvilGenius121 / about 13 years ago / 1

            or BSSFDMM2! (Boulder sparkfun server free day mass massacre 2)

  • jakkjakk / about 13 years ago / 1

    You should do something for IT if there is ever a year when they keep the site running up and running with no signs of problems during free day.

  • dwc309 / about 13 years ago / 1

    Thanks again for doing this.

  • Hackbat / about 13 years ago / 1's one TRUE enemy

  • RichInTN / about 13 years ago / 1

    What no theme song?
    I was thinking maybe Napolean XIV's "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!". Just assume the references are to a server.

  • Sure, so the servers failed. That's great! Like they said so enthusiastically in Meet the Robinsons, "In failure we learn. In success, not so much!"
    Thanks for a great day!

  • What, that's all? I expected stuff blowing up, people running around while being on fire, and the few able to retain their sanity praying to Mac Gyver for it to stop... oh well, that will have to wait until Free Day 2012, I guess...

    • Black Angus Rocket Storm / about 13 years ago / 3

      I too was underwhelmed by the certain lack of combusted people. But you can't have everything.

      • N.Poole / about 13 years ago / 1

        Ah yes, the classic "Man on Fire"
        No B-movie or IT catastrophe is complete without it, lol.

  • Azayles / about 13 years ago / 1

    Brilliant video! I wanna see more of the thing that "scales server load" (whatever THAT means). Aduino, a servo and some Python programming?
    I'm guessing the low number of total questions answered versus the number of attendees was down to many people being able to click the "take the quiz" button, but getting timed out before the quiz loads.

    • That was a pretty context-free chunk of what was not a particularly comprehensible explanation to begin with. I'm bad on camera. Anyway, it's just a CPU load monitor, updated by a Perl daemon that pings a remote host. Source repository here.

      • Azayles / about 13 years ago / 1

        I thought it might be monitoring CPU load or network traffic :P I was almost right :D
        I like the idea of using a "servo voltmeter" to display such stats in real time. Pretty cool idea!
        I got a spare servo knocking about, too. Hmm...

  • TheMoogle / about 13 years ago / 1

    lol @ nate breaking the osha rules standing on the ladder funny :-D

  • N.Poole / about 13 years ago / 1

    Agreed, FreeDay was a blast.
    I had some very GhostInTheShell moments watching the IRC and Blogosphere speculate on the nature of the various server issues, and mashing away at my keyboard trying to gain entry, lol.
    Of course the fact that I was donning my Head mount display and blasting SquarePusher lent a lot to the cyberpunk vibes.

  • Member #111280 / about 13 years ago / 1

    Free Day was a blast for me this year! I managed to answer 5 correct answeres, and even maybe one wrong.
    Then I ordered stuff for more than twice the money won :-)
    I love Spark Fun!

    • Scyne / about 13 years ago / 1

      Well I think that was the idea. I did not get all the parts I needed so now I'll be pushing another Benjamin their way to finish prototying my project... Then even more when I start populating boards... Sparkfun free day, funding your addiction™ (I totaly want credit for that if you use that SFE.... I'll settle for a LCD-09051 and a GPS-09159 with GPS-00177 ^_- )

  • Oh what a fun day, the flood in IRC was the best, you would think there were constant netsplits with the amount of traffic in and out of #sparkfun. did freenode give you a cease and desist letter yet?

    • mowcius / about 13 years ago / 1

      They did stop most people from talking though to try to make sure freenode didn't eat them.
      I was surprised that nobody made a temporary fake sparkfun channel that day :D

      • JohnGalt / about 13 years ago / 1

        There were at least 2 other channels in operation on freenode that were referenced in #sparkfun as related. #sparkfun was only giving +v to "regulars". The others were a bit more open.

        • Just trying to keep the noise down.
          I wasn't really worried until I saw that someone had created #sparkfun-answers to share quiz answers!

  • khearn / about 13 years ago / 1

    Let's see, 11,495 correct answers, 1,099 wrong answers, ~10,000 people. That means the average person answered ~1.26 questions. I guess I didn't do too bad answering 4 of them.

  • Yvan256 / about 13 years ago / 1

    HTML5 video, finally!

  • StudioLicio / about 13 years ago / 1

    Excellent video guys! Excellent article in the Camera this week as well... although I didn't realize that you procured "tens-of-thousands of bits and bytes to sell to a variety of people interested in creating devices using electronics" :)

  • JWRM22 / about 13 years ago / 1

    So the server was really down? i was thinking it was just me...

    • Utoxin / about 13 years ago / 2

      It was down multiple times. I'm SO glad I wasn't working for SFE IT that day. :)

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