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Having fun developing useless apps

I always thought that the first time I got on the Hacker News and Proggit front-pages would be with some awesome and complex project. I was wrong.

Part I - Like A Boss

On 25th November, while browsing the web, I found a funny project developed by Zach Holman called Fuck Yeah. This was a simple API developed in Node.js that received a piece of text, searched Google Images for that piece of text, and added that text along with a “Fuck Yeah!” to the first image found.

I found the project to be pretty cool, and since I got a little rusty with nodejs, I decided to fork the code and make a new version of the API, this time called Like a Boss. You can pretty much guess what it does. You can check out the code at Github by the way.

Since I had some spare time, I decided to go further and build a website that presented the generated images in a more good looking way. And here’s the result.

Hack Like A Boss

I decided to post the “Like a Boss” website to Hacker News. It got upvoted somehow, and BAM! Hacker News front-page. In 2 hours the website had about 2000 pageviews. This was cool, but not without some problems showing up that had to be solved in order to keep the code from crashing the server. Still, Heroku, the cloud application platform I used to host my nodejs app, handled all the traffic pretty well with only one web worker (included with the free plan).

After about 3 hours, the Hacker News post dropped from the front-page, and traffic almost vanished.

Part II - HTTP Cats API

On December 14th, again, while browsing the web, someone posted on Hacker News an awesome Flickr set of cat pictures authored by Tomomi Imura with each cat posing accordingly to a HTTP Status Code. These pictures ended up being a huge success.

I instantly thought about how awesome would be to have those cat images show up when an error occured on a web-server. I fired up vim and hacked some nodejs code to serve those images through a simple API. After some minutes, the HTTP Cats API was born. I pushed it to Heroku, and it was rocking. I sent the link to a couple of friends, we all laughed for a while and I thought that was it.

HTTP Cat 404 Not Found

After a while, I posted the API link to Hacker News and Proggit. The Hacker News post never got voted, the Proggit one got allot of upvotes, and soon I was on Proggit front-page. An avalanche of traffic ensued.

The post got duplicated on Hacker News, and this time it got allot of upvotes (probably a user with more influence). This was when all hell broke loose. Not only it got on the first-page it was also ranked in 2nd place.

The results where: on the first day I got 19.412 unique visitors. The second day, 21.764 unique visitors. The two days together summed up 255.034 pageviews. These values are amazing for a simple app that serves cat images. Actually, while I write this post, which is 2 months later, it still has around 100 unique visitors a day. And I’m not even counting direct API calls, just the index page visits.

So what?

Yeah, I know these web applications are pretty much useless, but I had allot of fun hacking them and watching the traffic hit the sites. And of course, it doesn’t really matter the fact that they are useless, as long as you have fun, learn and make other people smile, that’s what really matters.