The date is December 27 2014, and I was amped up to do some digging on who General Buhari is. General Buhari is the Presidential candidate of the new powerhouse opposition party in Nigeria, All Progressives Congress (APC) and has been the subject of numerous criticisms in the tense campaign period leading up to February 14. In light of me being a pro APC supporter, my yearnings to be informed inspired my desires to locate verifiable facts and history of Buhari.
It is not news that Nigerian Journalism is quite mediocre. Any piece of crap, false and or clearly misinformed article, can be written anywhere for the right price and taken as gospel with little or no research into the subject. Another post for another day. With this in mind, it was important my searches were from vetted sources. The obvious first step was looking into Buhari via the internet.
Searches were initially focused on Nigerian based websites. It didn’t help that no Nigerian newspaper had an archive containing past articles. Expanding my searches revealed an interesting Nairaland forum thread (A Nigerian-centric online forum) started by the user “GenBuhari”. I found it most intriguing that he had taken his time to find relevant sources of information such as ITN, NY Times to tell a story about Buhari’s regime as head of state. In that instant, he got me thinking and I shared this with a friend via iMessage;
Next on the list was securing the right domain name. Domain names are arguably some of the most important issues for any website. The highest priority here was to get a name that is short and easy to remember. It had to have “Buhari” in the URL. I pondered, maybe a “Buhari.wiki” would suffice. It is about facts anyways. I was convinced there was no way buhari.com, buhari.com.ng or buhari.ng can be available. I mean, these are to me the holy grails of any website dedicated to a personality such as him. I searched either way and shockingly buhari.ng was still available. Didn’t know what to think of this. I can understand that the rather high cost of owning .ng domains can be a deterrent ($90 / N15,000 per year) but I couldn’t resolve why it wasn’t taken yet especially by the Buhari campaign web team. Either way, I was winning. I snagged that domain. Well, I did question a few times if I wanted to spend over $90 on a domain name. Used to finding a way to getting those for free through registering new hosting accounts.
The date is January 3rd 2015, my domain name is pointing to my hosting service well. WordPress is installed and fully operational. Chronos is delivering on rendering a great timeline. I am doing the one important thing any website must do, be able to cater to mobile devices, most importantly Android and Blackberry devices. Blackberry devices were not rendering the website properly (BB10 and OS7). It was obvious that a code to detect mobile devices be placed on the site and those users be given a link to a mobile friendly site. The choice of going this route was another exercise in decision making. Do I just point every mobile device to a mobile site? Opted not to because the timeline worked great on some devices and not others so I thought it best to leave the decision to visit the mobile site to the user.
The date is January 8th 2015 and I have gone through most of the kinks and I feel it is time to start sourcing content for the website. Nairaland was the focus area to hone in my search keywords. Then Google advanced searches. Google not only gives you the ability to search specific sites, it also allows you search a particular time period, in this case 1970 – 1985 and also by file type (pdf in this case). Then came the handy Google Newspaper Archives which has since been discontinued but still is a tremendous resource for anyone looking for newspaper clippings through history.
The google searches although helpful, didn’t offer as much as I felt was needed to flesh out the website. Then came the University library Journal subscriptions. As many college students know, numerous universities have access to resources like EBSCO database, JSTOR and FACTIVA, locations where premium newspaper company archives and peer reviewed journal articles can be accessed. I’d smack any college student out there working on a research paper that isn’t aware of this and complains when they see some article via an internet search require payment for access. Your school may have already purchased that access. To confirm if your school has such capabilities, the school library website is the best place to start. These databases opened up the floodgates of relevant newspaper clippings and interviews of Buhari I keenly sought after. Buhari.ng was ready for primetime.
The day is January 25th 2015, Buhari.ng is active but not really out there. My goal; to help educate folks in my circle, is quite successful so I feel mission accomplished for the most part. I’m scrolling through my twitter timeline and I see a tweet and responded;
At this point, the site barely averaged 15 hits a day. Didn’t take long for this tweet and all the subsequent retweets to shoot site visits to 10 unique visitors a minute (excluding the bots that make the frequency around a hit every 2 seconds). I was able to track site stats extensively using the plugin called SlimStat. It is a wonderful plugin but high traffic sites should note that all stats are stored on your server so it can fill up your database tables pretty fast.
It was unprecedented growth especially since the site was setup on a server that was only allowed 50,000 MySQL Query limits an hour. For the uninformed on the database side of things, imagine if the website were a plate of Rice, Stew, Chicken and vegetables. That can be considered as a single hit. The meal nonetheless needed to be prepared and all the ingredients; the rice, the water, the chicken, each spice, each vegetable are individual queries to the database. So one hit could easily trigger dozens of database queries. When you do the math, the only result was a complete shutdown of the site.
Enter January 26th 2015 and Buhari.ng is down just when it has hit the limelight and is seen as a great resource for the goal it was created for. This triggered an immediate move to migrate the website to a different server. Yet again, “decisions decisions”. Do I want to just go for a Virtual Private Server and not worry about this site? Wait a minute, I’m not getting paid for this. That’s a lot of money to spend on this project. There has to be a compromise. The compromise, after a hasty search, was GoDaddy’s Ultimate shared hosting plan snagged for $14/month. I really wanted to go with InMotion but their 1 month plans had a $40 setup fee. You’d get a competent VPS for that price. Ridiculous!
The next task at this point was migrating the website to the new site. The migration process involves; downloading a copy of the existing site, downloading the database tables and uploading them to your new service provider. Godaddy has a great support tool that is applicable to other hosting platforms. The migration process took me a lot longer than I had hoped because of a major issue I wasn’t aware of; the file wpconfig.php that connects WordPress files in your directory with the database are unique to each WordPress install. The only takeaway from this is to make sure you are editing the wpconfig.php file created by your new WordPress install and not copying the old one from your export.
The date is January 27th 2015 and after hours of battling with WordPress and MySQL tables, Buhari.ng was running again. Traffic volume picks up where it left off and I am monitoring to see if my choice of service can handle the traffic. An hour into the website’s return, I am running out of RAM. Oh here we go again. Fortunately, this time I didn’t expect to be taken down completely like with my older host. In addition to that, GoDaddy offers an upgrade to the Ultimate package which doubles the RAM resource ($4/month). An offer I immediately jumped on. (You can learn all about GoDaddy’s resource tiers here)
It is still January 27th 2015 and Buhari.ng is running without a hitch. Website resources are holding up with only half the RAM currently in use. It looks like the sweet spot has been reached. In summary; total dollars spent on building Buhari.ng – $130, time spent battling with keeping the website up and locating relevant historical sources – $frustrating, the impact and feedback from the website towards its goal? – Priceless.