My Accidental Connection with Senator Ted Kennedy

Being Chinese in Boston, I always hear positive stories about the late Senator Ted Kennedy helping immigrants. In addition, I agree with most of his political views, he seemed like a good Senator. After learning of his death, I felt we had lost a great man. I added one of his biographies to my Amazon wish list, to learn even more. Other than media, that is the only connection I have had to Ted Kennedy. Until Thursday.

I was instant messaging with my designer on a project, NPR news streaming in the background when a bit of white noise filtered in. “Did I just heard that the Kennedy Funeral is going to be held at the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help?” I am familiar with this church, often called the Mission Church, as it is located on Tremont Street, Mission Hill.

About a year ago, my friend, a supporter of the church, asked us to revamp their website. The previous site was, let's say, a pre FrontPage era website. Donating our services, we redesigned the site. With the limited budget, I photographed the site images myself. Corrie, our designer, touched them up digitally. You can read about the design process on her blog.

After hearing the Funeral location on NPR, I immediately checked the Google analytics for the website we had worked on. It went up over one thousand percent just yesterday, upping a few hits a day to 6,000. But that was before the radio announcements.

[*Update*] The site traffic spiked to a 14000 visits (about 30,000 hits) on Saturday. During the funeral I did embed a live stream from onto the news section, since I assume most visitor at that time wanted to watch it.

I quickly made changes to the site to ensure it could handle the spike in traffic. I notified our hosting company, Web Faction and they agreed to keep an eye out for us on the status of the church site. So far, we have received about 20,000 hits in the last eight hours, averaging one hit every 1.5 seconds. People are hitting the visit us page, and the news page looking for details on the funeral.

I am glad the site has stayed up, and that I caught the news about the Funeral location. We really cannot fault the Church for neglecting to notify us of the pending event so that we could better prepare the website. The church has their hands more than full and I am sure the web site is not top priority.

I am glad we were able to make a very, very small contribution to the Senator's legacy.

For the techies, the site is done in Django, our web application framework of choice. It uses a custom content management system from my company, Imperial Consulting. The dynamic content is pulled from a Postgresql database. While we provided the Church with bi-lingual capabilities, they have yet to create all the Spanish content. It is supported by some busy and dedicated church volunteers, after all. The pages are cached by memcached at the URL level by the Django cache framework. So far, it is handling the traffic with ease. Keeping our fingers crossed.

Some books on Ted Kennedy

If you can recommend a good biography let me know!