Caching a Page; Saving a Server

A couple months ago, the Archdiocese of Saint Louis announced that a new Archbishop had been chosen (then-Archbishop-elect Robert J. Carlson). For the announcement, the Archdiocese streamed the press conference online, then posted pictures on the St. Louis Review website of the day's events (updated every hour or two).

Pageviews on April 21, 2009 - Archstl.org
Pageviews for April 21, 2009 on archstl.org – note that from 8-10 a.m., the server was practically down from the thousands of hits/requests it was getting. Just before 10 a.m., I enabled the caching described below. We announced everything via Twitter, SMS, Press Releases, and the web, just after 5 a.m.

During this period of time, the Archdiocesan website had over 2,000 visitors per hour, and almost all the visitors were hitting the home page. The website (run on Joomla 1.0.x) didn't have many caching mechanisms in place, and for almost a complete hour, the website was returning server errors as the processor was pegged at 100% utilization. Something had to be done!

Why OSC Looks Different in Explorer

If you're like me, you run multiple browsers; FireFox, Safari, Camino, and (last, and certainly least) Internet Explorer... actually, all three of the past versions of IE: 6, 7 and 8. And, if you have any ability to see, you'll notice that there are aspects of the site that look different—most notably the navigation buttons, the sidebar sections, and certain other elements.

The reason for this has to do with a principle embraced by those interested in making the web a better place: progressive enhancement graceful degredation [see comments below]. Basically, what this means is we develop the best website we can, and make it look great in the most standard and open way possible, and accept that the website might not look as good in older/less-compliant web browsers.

If you open the website in Safari (or any other standards-compliant browser!), here's what you'll see:

Open Source Catholic - Rendered in Safari


How @archstl Streamed the Installation Mass Video Online and via Satellite

On June 10, 2009, the Archdiocese of Saint Louis was blessed to have its tenth bishop (and ninth Archbishop; Robert J. Carlson) Installed at a ceremony in the Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis. The event was not only recorded for future reference; it was streamed to the Archdiocesan website, put on satellite for EWTN and CatholicTV to pick up and air live, and sent to local TV stations as well.

Archdiocese of Saint Louis - Streaming Live

For all this to happen, there were two main components: our production personnel/equipment, and our method of delivery.

Building Open Source Catholic

Just FYI, you can read through a series of postings on Midwestern Mac to see the details of how this website was designed. But I'll summarize things in this post, for those who would rather get the five cent version:

The website is running on a content management system (CMS) called Drupal. This allows for as many users to contribute tons of great content to the website, without having to use a program and programmers to sort through all the information.

The theme (which creates the basic look and feel for the website) was designed by Jeff Geerling during the weekend of the 2009 Catholic New Media Celebration in San Antonio, TX, and will eventually be posted as a free, open-source theme on Drupal.org (the theme will be named 'Airy Blue').

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