If 2011 was the year of fine-tuning, 2012 was the year of major feature enhancements at Scout. Some stats on what’s been a fun year:
In the Colorado Front Range area? I’ll be talking about the realtime web at the Fort Collins Ruby Meetup this Wednesday.
I’ll show how adding realtime functionality is the easy: in less than 30 minutes, we’ll build a Sinatra app that uses Pusher for realtime functionality.
See the demo Sinatra app, a Ruby Meetup Realtime Heckle Board on Github.
Our navigation header was packed-full of links (and let’s be honest, looked a little stale). We’ve elected a new, fresher, nav header:
What you need to know
- We’ve emphasized the primary pieces of Scout (servers, applications, charts, and dashboards). The less-accessed config-related bits are inside a pulldown in the upper right (people, notifications, billing, etc).
- Hotkeys plus keyboard navigation is the best way to play. Each of the primary areas has an associated pulldown. Reveal each pulldown with a hotkey (the underlined letter in the nav). For example, hit the “s” key to reveal the servers pulldown. Once the pulldown is open, use your up/down keys + enter to navigate.
- We’ve dropped the recently accessed server tabs. These frequently created confusion: how the initial set of tabs was chosen, how they reacted when a new server was picked that shuffled a previously accessed tab off the list, etc. Using the “s” hotkey is the fastest way to travel to your servers within Scout.
The hotkeys for each pulldown (the first letter of each word):
- s – Servers
- a – Applications
- c – Charts
- d – Dashboards
Once a pulldown is open:
- up/down arrow keys – navigate through the list of items
- enter – show the current item
- esc – close the pulldown
If you see any issues, let us know!
Gavin Stark and the Real Digital Media team are Campfire power users. Back in April, Gavin created a Hubot script to send Scout alerts to their chatroom. Now, they needed visuals:
We wanted to grab some of the graphics that Scout’s in-app page offers to users to provide us with visual feedback on historical norms for each metric without leaving the chat room. A call to Scout support got graphics ported into the API in less than a day, and we were off and running.
His sparkline update hasn’t been merged into the Hubot repo yet, but you can view his fork
A month ago my family and I moved from one special city to another: San Francisco to Fort Collins, Colorado. While we’ve only lived here a short time, we couldn’t be happier. You probably know many of the one-of-kind-things about San Francisco. Here’s some of the things that make “The Fort” special:
- Bikes – Whether you’re cruising around or hammering, Ft. Collins is an amazing experience on two wheels. Almost every street has a bike lane, and for those that don’t, there’s usually a nearby dedicated trail. The city itself is flat – which is perfect for going to the office – but immediately to the west, the foothills of the Rockies beckon with all the scenic road and mountain biking you could ask for.
- Beer – With 11 breweries, Ft. Collins is the second largest producer of beer in the top-ranked beer producing state (and yes, you can pretty much bike to all of them).
- Tech – There’s a small (by SF standards) but super-friendly tech community in Ft. Collins. I’m working out of Cohere, an awesome coworking space in the middle of Ft. Collins. Conveniently, the monthly Ruby Meetup meets here. Boulder, home to many startups, is an hour south.
- Climate – Winter happens here (it’s mild), but summer does too!
When you combine the above bullets, it’s no wonder Ft. Collins consistently ranks among the best places to live in America. If you’re in the area, don’t hesitate to ping me for a visit!
Charts got some updates today:
- More colors available: previously, charts had just six colors and nine shades of gray available for plotting metrics. The new color scheme uses HTML standard colors, and makes it easier to follow lines on busy charts.
- Timeframe selection on dashboards: dashboard charts now default to a 5-hour timeframe. You can easily zoom out all charts simultaneously by clicking the new links at the top. This lets you quickly broaden your view to see what’s going on, without having to navigate to a bunch of charts individually.
- No more iFrames on dashboards: by encapsulating the chart code better, we were able to get rid of iFrames on dashboards. This makes the dashboard page much lighter on memory (a typical dashboard might be 50MB lighter), and also fixes some quirky behavior when you’re resizing a chart.
- Nice looking URLS: chart URLs are prettier and easier to copy-paste—there are no more encoded characters in the URL.
Want to get Scout alerts piped into your Campfire room? You can, thanks to Scout user Gavin Stark’s Hubot script for Scout. Gavin describes the advantages for his team at Real Digital Media:
Our support staff can now see the alerts from Scout as a team. We combine this with other monitoring services that monitor ping-ability and web response speeds.
Getting Scout alerts in Campfire means we can discuss them inline and respond quickly. We’ve found the immediacy of Campfire to be an improvement over email.
Want to get your Scout alerts in Campfire? You’ll need a Hubot.
Need to set up a Hubot?
is a program that listens in on your chat room. He responds to commands and can provide notifications. Your Hubot needs to run someplace. Most people set him up on Heroku, since it’s A) really simple; B) free!
- follow these instructions to deploy Hubot to Heroku.
- once your Hubot has joined your Campfire room and responds to commands (try: hubot help), continue below to configure Scout to talk to your Hubot.
Already Got a Friendly Hubot?
Two easy steps:
- add the Hubot Script for Scout into your Hubot’s
- in your Scout account, click on “Notifications,” then set the webhooks URL to
That’s it! Try creating a Scout trigger that fires immediately to test it out.
Thanks again to Scout user Gavin Stark for writing the Hubot script, and to Hubot maintainer Tom Bell for the quick merge.
Scout’s basic chart functionality has remained the same, with a few enhancements:
- Most importantly, the charts no longer require Flash. This means you can view the charts on your iPad or modern Flash-free browser.
- Charts now show values in a tooltip as you mouse over them (the image above shows an example). This solves a long-standing problem with the old charts, where the legend became unreadable with many metrics.
- The charts feel snappier!
A Note on dashboards with the new tooltip: in some cases the tooltip can overflow from the smallest charts on dashboards. If you encounter this issue, just enlarge your dashboard chart a bit to make room for the tooltip.
It’s been a little over a week since we rolled out real-time monitoring. Some people think it’s pretty cool.
To commemorate one week of real time, our art department put together a basic infographic on its usage. You’re spending more time watching lines move on the screen than YouTube Nyan Cat videos. We’re damn proud of that.
Learn more about real time server monitoring with Scout.
I’ll remember 2011 as the year of fine-tuning at Scout. From your experience with the end product to our experience delivering it, we invested a lot of our time sanding Scout.
- Dashboards – Combine plugin displays and charts across servers for a complete view of your infrastructure’s health.
- Easier Plugin Development – Since we started Scout in 2008, we’ve believed a big reason services go unmonitored is that writing and testing monitoring scripts is painful. We’ll continue working to make plugin development easier.
- Scout API – With the
scout_api Ruby gem, you can slice and dice your metrics as you see fit.
- Fullscreen Charts
– Because you look smarter with pretty lines moving on a wall-mounted plasma display.
- Spotlight-like Server Navigation
– You’re monitoring more servers with Scout, so we made it easier to navigate between them.
A Banner Year for Plugins: 200+ commits from 20 authors
With nearly 60 monitoring plugins in our directory, Scout’s breadth of coverage grew substantially in 2011. Some of the highlights:
But it’s not just new plugins that I was excited about: Scout plugins grew incredibly more robust. Our plugin repository on Github had more than 200 commits from 20 authors in 2011. Thanks for all of your pull requests and bug reports: there are few things I love more than solidifying Scout’s core.
Blog Post Highlights
We think it’s important for you to know how our brains function at Scout. Some of the highlights (or lowlights, depending on your interpretation):
Implementing our succession plan
We plan on Scout being around for a long time. 2011 saw the start of our grand succession plan: both Andre and I brought home baby girls this year. While my two-month old daughter is lacking focus at this point, I’m confident she’ll be ready to take over my share of Scout by 2035.
I’ve never been more excited about Scout. We eliminated a lot of cruft from Scout in 2011 that’s freeing us up to make monitoring even easier in 2012. Thanks for your continued feedback, bug reports, and plugin commits: you’re making Scout better every year.