The seriousness reached its peak for me when my web site failed to work properly during a research session about two weeks ago while using my Q Sort tool. I had been experiencing system outages the day before and the morning of the research session. A few hours before the research session was scheduled to take place, the company reported that they had "really" found the cause of the problem this time and all was well. For the next few hours, it did seem like all was working fine. But, during the roughly 20 minutes of the research session, about half of the participants experienced Internet problems. This research session was done during a graduate class and everyone -- including me -- thought that the problem was likely due to some bug in my software. (I had made major updates to the software in preparation for this research session. Happily, my Q sort tool actually seemed to work perfectly.) There is nothing worse to a researcher than to lose data after all the time it took to arrange and plan the session.
I again reported the problem to the company and again looked they into it and again they said they had fixed the problem. I then traveled to attend the AERA conference in Washington, DC and put this issue on the back burner. But when I returned to Georgia and began working on the web site, I found the site was down -- very frustrating. Again, to the company's credit, they steadfastly looked into the problem. Perhaps due to an angst-filled trouble ticket message, they moved my site to a different "application pool," and so far everything has been working fine. Of course, given my lack of confidence I found myself obsessively checking the web site over and over throughout the day. And then it occurred to me -- I could program my own tool to "ping" the web site repeatedly and review the result later. If the web site wasn't working at some point, I could then share my data log with the company to aid in their troubleshooting.
Lloyd's Web Site Pinging Tool
The great thing about this little app is that even though I might check the web site manually and find everything was working, given the intermittent nature of the problem the thought quickly entered my head "Sure, it's working now, but just wait a minute!" Seeing a data log that ran all night or all day showing no problems is real evidence that the problem has indeed been fixed.
Here's a screen shot of the program after pinging my site every 15 seconds for just two minutes:
How It Works
global varDataURL, varCheckResponses, varTime on checkResponses put the internet date&comma&URL varDataURL after field "log" if varCheckResponses is true then send checkResponses to me in varTime seconds else put "New Session"&return&return after field "log2" put field "log" after field "log2" end if end checkResponses on mouseUp put line 1 of field "time to check" into varTime put empty into field "log" put field "URL" into varDataURL put true into varCheckResponses checkResponses end mouseUp
All the button "Stop Pinging" does is set "varCheckResponses" to false.