Imaging the Future

Earlier in January, MMORPG.Social became unresponsive. While it only lasted for about an hour, the issue served as a wake-up call. People expect online services to be available 24/7, and I was desperate to meet that. So, after examining the root cause of the problem, changes have now been implemented to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

As a fringe benefit there’s also a boost to performance, but more on that later.

The outage happened because the server that MMORPG.Social runs on ran out of disk space. Over the course of one month, we’d managed to accumulate nearly 40GB of images – including 25GB from other instances in the federated network. That’s not just user uploads but also avatars, profile header images, and other graphics that feature in the timelines.

Without monitoring in place to alert me when space runs out, it’d just fill up until the whole thing stops working. Which is what happened.

My immediate fix was simple – purge any images from other servers that were older than seven days. Our own toots on MMORPG.Social would be unaffected, but older toots from federated instances wouldn’t have a local image and would show a link instead. That solved the immediate problem.

But it’s only a temporary fix. As MMORPG.Social gains more members, who share more of their amazing artwork, screenshots, and in-game photography, I needed a permanent solution that could provide storage that would scale as we grow. This is where Amazon’s AWS S3(Simple Storage Service) comes in.

As a result, the MMORPG.Social ecosystem has grown:

  • MMORPG.Social – the core platform based on Mastodon (now running v2.7)
  • – the simplified single-column interface based on Halcyon
  • – this news/status blog, based on WordPress
  • – the image repository on AWS S3 & Cloudfront
  • – email delivery performed by Mailgun

(The Cloudfront component acts as a global distributed image cache – it should result in faster image load times wherever you’re located.)

I’ve also updated the underlying software that powers MMORPG.Social, which introduces a whole bunch of new features. The biggest one is the Directory – an opt-in list of members on MMORPG.Social. It also includes hashtag filtering based on the contents of a profile bio – helping you find new people to follow. There’s also a new tutorial and more hashtag support, which you can read about in the release highlights.

With all these changes now in place, we should have enough capacity to scale up from the hundreds of members we have now to potentially thousands. I also have monitoring in place to avoid preventable incidents in the future. While I can’t rule out further outages, they should now be a much rarer thing.

Happy tooting!

One month on

It’s been a month since we started up MMORPG.Social, and I’m completely amazed by how it’s gone. We’ve had to upgrade the server (twice!), extend the storage space available to screenshot uploads, and even added a lite mode. Go us!

We’ve grown from a single user to over 180. Members here have shared over 3000 statuses including some amazing screenshots, generous competitions, exciting news, and more. It’s been amazing to watch the local timeline, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

It’s worth remembering that MMORPG.Social was based on three guiding principles:

  • To build a microblogging home for fans of MMOs and online games
  • To eliminate excessive and uninvited advertising or tracking
  • To bring back features like chronological timelines, and add new ones like editing statuses and custom emoji

Since then, we’ve unlocked new features, such as support for 4k screenshot uploads and animated gif avatars and headers. We’ve also become part of a federated network that’s made up of over 5000 Mastodon instances across the world covering a multitude of topics. We’ll keep on adding new capabilities that keep the place fun while staying true to those core principles.

In particular, we will absolutely not do anything with your data outside of running the service. We will never sell your details to mailing lists, and we will never sell your information to third parties. You are people, not products.

In the months to come, more features will be added. We’ve got some planned tweaks to image storage, improved Lite mode integration, and more besides. As always, if there’s something you want to see, send me a toot and I’ll make sure it gets added to our backlog.

For now, please share MMORPG.Social with friends and fellow gamers, and help them experience the benefits of a decentralised social network that puts the members first. And if you’ve not given us a go yet, now is a great time to start tooting!

Let’s continue to build a fun community throughout 2019!