Just before the holidays, Signal’s developers hunkered down for the sixth incarnation of Shark Week — appropriately, “Twelve Days of Sharkmas” was the theme.
Shark Week is a time-honored tradition at Signal. Twice a year, Signal’s engineers stop what they’re doing and turn their focus to the performance and speed of our products. At the beginning of the week, developers suggest ideas for many different projects that could be undertaken, and they all go on a whiteboard. Signalites join up with whatever project interests them, and they dig into making Signal’s platform even faster.
So how does Shark Week change as Signal grows? “We can be more ambitious about what we take on,” says Signal CTO Eric Lunt, who dreamed up Shark Week back in 2011. “When we had 15 developers, it was more splintered. Now we have 45 developers, and this round they completed 25 different projects–and each one benefits our customers.”
This week’s projects ranged from implementing a new network security monitoring process, to re-architecting our OpenStack implementation, to standardizing our style sheets across Signal’s user interface.
“A number of these improvements make the web interfaces our customers use snappier, including reducing the time spent rendering charts and graphs,” Eric explains.
The results from Shark Week also have a measurable impact on Signal’s own costs of doing business. “Even small percentage increases in performance can add up to real hosting savings,” says Eric. “If we can reduce response time by just a couple percentage points, we can decommission multiple servers and not have to pay for them. As we scale, each change we make gets amplified.”
The genius of Shark Week is in being deliberate and solving issues before there’s a problem. “Performance is in mind all the time–if anything ever goes wrong, we always fix it right away,” Eric says. “But during Shark Week we can look at the non-obvious places, and fix performance across the board. And we don’t have to do that in crisis mode.”
Check out photos from the week:
Photos by David Michaels.