Merger hunting one month on
I (Waveney) joined Galaxy Zoo a few months ago and was a relatively quiet soul, who didn’t do very much…
A month ago I was sitting at a computer, and in theory looking at job ads, when I saw Chris’s request – Merger Hunters Needed. I read what was wanted and thought it would be fun to do, but the method requested was awful. One of my part time businesses is running a small scale internet services company and I like writing code to do fancy things. So I offered to provide a web page to do the merger hunting. I was busy during the day, but in about 4 hours in the evening I got the first program working, put it on one of my websites on my server and let the world know via the forum and the blog. I became famous overnight. The next day, Chris wanted to raise awareness and offered to add it to the Zoo front page and send out the newsletter, I requested that the front page be changed, but that the newsletter should wait a couple of days (just in case).
The following day, I was getting a lot of favorable comments and Chris mentioned it in the Blog, and Alice put it on OOTD. A couple of people commented about performance – this initially perplexed me as the program had almost no impact on the server. Then I found a limitation in the SDSS server about repeated requests from the same address, and I realised that this was the cause of the problem. I re-wrote fetches of the data and wrote my first ever SQL to pre-fetch the necessary info from the server. No sign of the front page change.
Usage grew, comments came and I started adding features, those useful features that I wanted like Zoom, Back and direct searches of the forum, requests for Invert, and then grid lines, and and and. I also leant a lot more SQL. Chris requested I have a “Basic” display and an “Advanced” display – done within the hour – still no sign of the front page or newsletter.
Prompted by the speed that one Merger Checker was working, and following discussions with Chris, the system was extended with a lot more data for images with lower merger ratings from the original Zoo. This required a complete re-write of the underlying data management – it took a few hours. Usage grew – still no sign of the front page or newsletter.
I was seen at the Winchester gathering, had it been a month before I would have largely been an unknown – now I was infamous. Usage grew – still no sign of the front page or newsletter.
Usage was steady, but at current rate it was going to take several months to get useful answers, I wrote to Alice requesting it be on OOTD again as it would be months before Chris had the front page changed – what happened – the front page changed almost as I finished sending the message. Users grew, but the rate of image classifications, didn’t change much. Oh well we will have to wait and see. Still no sign of the newsletter.
On Wednesday just after 7pm I noticed a sudden jump in users – 1 or 2 was not usual, but 5 in an hour was unheard of, clicked the status again and it had gone up 5 more! I asked on the forum and somebody said the newsletter was out! The next couple of hours where frenetic as the Merger hunters climbed from 200 to 700, and 20,000 images were seen. I kept an eye on the server – it has handled that sort of load before, and it did this time the only casualty was a logging program that runs in the middle of the night, when the system is usually quiet…
As I write this what started as a quick 4 hours a month ago has become the leading use of my talents for the last few weeks. 1200 users have seen 200,000 images and all sorts of useful results are beginning to be found. Oh and I am still looking for work – anybody want an experienced system/network designer and/or real time programmer?