34 months ago
Back when the site first started Black Friday was just a blip on the radar. I'd hunt for a few deals like everyone else on the internet, maybe score a monitor, hard drive, or a peripheral of some sort. No one really knew about this site, and that was ok.
A couple years passed, and PCPartPicker was still at that point all running on a single server. We had family in our house for Thanksgiving, and I was glued to my laptop in the living room making sure the server didn't go into swap. If it did, everything was toast. Being single server with no load balancer there was no quick upgrade path. It survived, barely.
The next year I had it load balanced, db split out, and much better prepared. We've been fine since then. As the site has grown, so has the infrastructure. Leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday is usually a sort-of mad dash of coding. Trying to get last minute things in, but nothing so risky as to risk messing up price accuracy, latency, or part compatibility. This year I threw in some last minute changes to further reduce price latency. Today in the middle of Black Friday I rolled out a hack / experiment to detect lowest-ever prices on our price drop page. (I'm refactoring that hack now to make it a more long-term addition.)
But here's why I'm writing this post: with the extra traffic, click-throughs, and purchases from Black Friday also come extra affiliate revenue for PCPartPicker. Every time this happens I step back and ask, "We have this revenue, where do we go from here?"
Here's what we do. I take a portion of the revenue, and I give it to the staff for their extremely hard work on the site. I'm incredibly blessed with the people I get to work with every day. They are amazing people - you see a portion of it on the outside but you really have no idea. It's a joy to work alongside them every day. They tolerate me and my quirks, limitations, and inadequacies. They work extremely hard, and they all do a great job. So I want to make sure that as the site succeeds, so do they.
Another portion of the revenue goes toward future projects. We have a handful in the works, some more capital intensive than others. It's investing in this site in a big way, and I think users here will really appreciate what we're putting together. Some of it isn't direct revenue generating stuff, but I think it'll benefit the community.
And the most important to me, a portion of our revenue goes to fund water projects in developing countries. So every Black Friday when we're looking at good traffic and affiliate revenue I ask "Where do we go from here?" We help those who need it most. Every day we take for granted the simplest things granted to us by clean water and sanitation. Water is one of the most critical human needs.
Back when PCPartPicker started I never thought it'd amount to much. I told my wife that if we were lucky, maybe we could use the money to go get coffee or go see a movie once a month. But then in 2012 when it became apparent that it was going to be more, the focus shifted. My wife and I talked about it, and I told her I wanted this site to be something that truly benefitted people. She, being the amazing wife that she is, 100% agreed. I researched and picked Charity:water. Then I set in my mind what I thought was a lofty donation amount that I never thought we'd hit. This year we closed in on it, and if our trajectory stays on track we'll surpass it next year. I... I cannot even begin to express how that feels. But it also means new goals are in order.
Where do we go from here? Oh, we're just getting started.