The Page Load Paradox

By Derek Bullet_white Comments Comments

The irony is that, with broadband nowadays more or less everywhere, overall connection speeds have gone up by leaps and bounds, yet the time taken to load web pages seems only to have got longer.

- World Wide Wait, The Economist, Feb. 12 2010

For more than 40 years, a one second response time has been the accepted limit for giving users the feeling they are freely navigating an interface [Miller 1968; Card et al. 1991]. However on the web, we operate with a different set of rules – we’ll hear anything from two seconds to eight seconds as the limits for response time. Even at the most aggressive threshold, it’s 2x the limit for a free-flowing user experience.

ShowSlow, a nice web service for uploading YSlow data, illustrates that many (if not most) of the Alexa Top 100 sites have load times greater than two seconds. If this Forrester study is correct, we’ve got a lot of frustrated people out there (Forrester isn’t the first to relate response times to revenue). Despite the data, we seem to use faster connections to build richer interfaces, not faster ones.

So, do users really care about speed?

My grandma and grandpa used to tell me they got by with very little growing up, but it didn’t matter. Everyone else was poor – they didn’t know they were poor. Have we just accepted poor response times as the norm? If sub-second response times were consistently possible, would we ignore it and just build a richer, slower web page?


There's Scout in my Safari

By Andre Bullet_white Comments Comments

The smart folks over at Rails Machine are always quick on the draw. Still, we were impressed when developers Will Farrington and Mike Skalnik had a working Safari 5 extension for Scout within 24 hours after Safari 5 extensions were announced. I pinged Will for the scoop:

What does the Scout extension do?

The extension works in the background to update the toolbar icon with a badge indicating the number of active alerts on Scout. Additionally, if you click on the toolbar icon, it will open up the activities page on Scout.

Active Scout alerts will show a badge:

... which you can then see on your Scout account:

Tell me about building a Safari 5 extension.

Building the extension itself was pretty pleasant. The bulk of it was spent in writing the (asynchronous) cross-site AJAX requests; the actual integration with Safari's Extension APIs was really simple and well-documented.

Overall, the extension APIs are still pretty young, and that does show, but very well-designed too. It ended up clocking it in at just over 100 lines of JavaScript (including comments and my whitespace preferences). The Extension Builder itself is very easy to use when it comes to setting up the extension and building/signing it. I can't speak to how this compares to the development process for Chrome or Firefox, but I'm very happy with the experience I've had and I'm looking forward to seeing what new APIs they end up adding to Safari Extensions.

What are your future plans for the project?

Version 0.2 will probably be out in the next day or two with some minor improvements to various things. I definitely have some itches I want to scratch. The big one for me — which might not be possible with the current APIs without some hacks — is getting a drop-down menu working for the toolbar icon so users will be able to right-click and have access to a quick list of all those active alerts they can use to navigate right to individual alerts. Beyond that, my other goals are working on a better UX; stuff like a first-run alert letting the user know they need to enter account information and offering a nice way to do so without necessarily having to even open up the Preferences window.

The code is open source on GitHub and I certainly welcome contributions: all you need is some JavaScript knowledge and to take a gander at Apple's documentation for the Safari Extension APIs.

Well done, Will! We'll be keeping our eye on the project. Check it out for yourself here.


Scaling Illustrated

By Derek Bullet_white Posted in Examples Bullet_white Comments Comments

Last week we added a third web server to one of our reporting applications. We’ve been growing at a steady rate and we wanted to reduce the load across our web tier (losing one of the web servers could put too much traffic on the remaining server).

Before Will Farrington (one of the fine folks at Rails Machine) added the third web server to the load balancer rotation, we setup a couple of charts to watch the magic.

Scout’s charts now refresh as metrics are reported so we could quickly see the impact.

Did the third web server help? Here’s what we saw:

Server Load

Our third web server helped decrease the load across our web tier:

Scout’s Server Load plugin is installed by default on your server.

Request Distribution

We confirmed the change in request distribution across the 3 web servers:

Install either the Apache or Ruby on Rails Monitoring plugin to view request metrics.

We love seeing visual confirmation of a job well done!


Small Teams Need Redundant Skills

By Andre Bullet_white Posted in Business Bullet_white Comments Comments

If you’re running a small company, it’s absolutely key that you have redundant skills on your team.

Does that seem counter-intuitive? Isn’t the typical pairing a business guy and a technical guy? In our experience, you’re far better off with two technical guys.

The redundancy is key if you want to stay lean and also stay sane. You need at least two highly technical guys (or girls). There are two reasons for this:

1. Support

All support issues are technical. We pride ourselves in giving great and prompt support when issues come up, and the best way to do this is to get you connected with the person who wrote the code. That’s us—if you email us with a problem, you’ll get a response directly from one of the people who coded Scout. We believe you shouldn’t have to wade through “Tier 3” support to get to someone who can solve your problem.

2. Vacations

We’re running Scout as a sustainable business for the long haul. In the real world, you take days off, go camping for a long weekend, or take a week off to relax on the beach.

When I’m away, I have 100% confidence that Derek can handle anything that comes up while I’m offline. That wouldn’t be the case if Derek were a business or design guy—I would be on the beach worrying about support issues or checking on our server performance metrics.

Our Takeaway

Our takeaway here at Scout: if you want to run a small business (and enjoy it!), get a partner with redundant skills.

Photo credits:,


Try out the new server view

By Derek Bullet_white Posted in Features Bullet_white Comments Comments

Updated 6/1/10 – The new server view has replaced the previous version. Thanks for your feedback (and feel free to give us more)!

Show me the metrics. That’s the message we’ve heard regarding the state of your servers in the Scout interface. How about trying it out?

A Widget-like view

Each plugin is displayed in a widget box. You can drag-and-drop the plugin widgets on the page to position the most important plugins where they are most visible.

Viewing Alerts

We’ve moved alerts to their own page. Just click the button on the server view to access the activity feed.

What do you think?

I admit it. We’re a puppy craving your attention. Tell us what you think of the new server view. Like it? Hate it? Missing something crucial?

Post a comment on this blog post, send a tweet to @scoutapp, or email us at


Rails plugin update: Rails 3 support & More

By Andre Bullet_white Posted in Plugins Bullet_white Comments Comments

We have updated Scout’s Ruby on Rails monitoring plugin with preliminary Rails 3 support. Scout’s support is based on the Rails 3 Beta 3 log format.

If you have a deployed Rail 3 application, we would love to get early feedback on how the Rails 3 support is working for you!

Database and view metrics

We have also added new data to the Rails plugin. In addition to tracking average time spent for requests overall, the plugin now tracks average time spent in the database and in view rendering:

Note that the DB & view metrics are currently for Rails 2 applications only. Rails 3 applications will show zeros for those metrics.

Install the updated Rails monitoring plugin from our directory.


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