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10 years ago, one tweet from @ConanOBrien changed my career

One tweet, 10 years ago today, by @ConanOBrien changed my professional life in the most amazing and unexpected ways.

I remember that day vividly. Conan was going on tour and I had been asked to build a site to accompany his social media presence. The initial plan was for Conan to tweet a link to the site at 9:00 am. I spent the night before running performance tests, optimizing the server, projecting traffic based on his social following, and mentally preparing for the next morning.

Back then it was just me in my apartment. I was the lone developer and did all the ops work myself. I wasn't overly concerned or worried about the launch. I had spent the past three years at Yahoo!, working on sites with hundreds of millions of pages views a day. I was confident I had planned accordingly.

It... didn't go as planned. Conan ended up tweeting at 7:21 am (not that it would have made a difference if he had tweeted at 9 am). Luckily I had woken up at 6:30 to go for a bike ride and caught the tweet before I left my apartment.

The site had crashed almost immediately after the tweet. Turns out I had the right capacity for our projected traffic, but I was a bit off on the projected traffic. Apparently, people were more interested in what Conan was up to during his "television hiatus" than I though.

I spent the next few minutes franticly spinning up more servers, getting them into rotation, and restarting servers as they failed. After about 20 minutes, things leveled off and the site was stable. I spent the rest of the morning glued to my monitor, watching the logs, tweaking Apache and making sure nothing else went down.

Later that day, I heard from Team Coco. I was terrified I had ruined the launch, torpedoed the tour and they would never want to work with me again. It was the exact opposite; the tour was close to being sold out, Conan enjoyed the "exiting rollercoaster" of his first big website launch and the team was excited to begin work on the next iteration of

Over the ensuing ten years, I have had the privilege of launching several successful projects (none of which crashed on day one) for , build out a full cloud infrastructure, digitize and release Conan's full late-night archive, win two Emmys, worked with some amazingly talented people and watch Team Coco grow into the powerhouse it is today.

...and it all started with a tweet!

Top comments (5)

christopherkade profile image
Christopher Kade

Such a great story, thank you for sharing ! If you don't mind me asking, how did you end up working for them? Were you referenced as a freelance dev or did you submit you application for this project specifically?

traviskuhl profile image

thank you!

a former coworker was helping Conan with his social media plans for the tour and knew i was a huge fan. she pinged me out of the blue and asked if i would be interested in helping. i was freelancing at the time and had just ended a contract, so it worked out perfectly. after the tour, CONAN on TBS started and I joined the digital team full time.

kamranayub profile image
Kamran Ayub

That's awesome, I can relate since I helped launch several million entry sweepstakes sites for brand marketing in a past role. We made sure we enabled auto-scaling and deployed the sites on platform-as-a-service cloud platforms. That was some nice piece of mind! Actually it wasn't the sites themselves but the database that was harder to scale, as SQL Server didn't do load balancing in the cloud. Those were very expensive instances we had to spin up to keep up with the load 😅

clifton893 profile image
Clifton Long Jr.

This is such a great story! I'm happy it worked out for you--I can't imagine how worried you must have been while scrambling to fix the servers, haha!

traviskuhl profile image

thanks! it was one of the many times in my career that i was very happy to be working remote. it would have been impossible if i was in an office, with people constantly "checking in" and watching me as i freak out.