Case Study: Jabberwocky Fallout

Jabberwocky was a music festival that was due to be held at the ExCel Centre in London over the weekend of the 15th to 17th of August, 2014. Unfortunately due to poor ticket sales and cash flow problems, organiser All Tomorrow’s Parties were forced to cancel the event three days before it’s start, leaving bands without shows to play and attendees, many of whom had travelled worldwide, without a festival to go to.

Quickly the London music community spurred into action, event promoters and venues started working on putting on nights in venues across the city in the hope of trying to recoup losses for the bands and before long event information and rumours of upcoming shows started being spread around social media, in particular the quickly created Jabberwocky Fall Out Party Rumours Facebook event.

This was all really amazing, it was heartening to see how the London music community could work so well so quickly and manage to put on shows with cohesive lineups in great venues across the town. The only problem was the complexity of it all, rumours were flying around of future shows while others were being announced, leaving the potential attendees with a wealth of confusing information and hard to make decisions about what Fallout shows they would attend.

I decided to create as a hub at which as much relevant information as possible to the new events could be collated and organised, hopefully allowing people to make better sense of what was happening. I relied on an email address, displayed prominently on the page, as my main source for information with which to make updates. It was absolutely incredible how keen people were to help and quickly I was getting updates from not only attendees and fans but directly from promoters, ticket sellers and band management directly. Within 12 hours of the domain being bought the site was receiving an average of 3 pageviews a second and by the end of the first day it had recorded over 28,000 pageviews.

Technical information:

The main requirements for the site were clarity and speed. Knowing that a large part of the festival audience was likely to be international with only frequent access to mobile devices (with outrageously expensive mobile data charges) I made the decision to strip everything down the the bare essentials, no images, no custom fonts and as little markup, styles and JavaScript as possible while still making the site easy to use and understand. Any JavaScript (other than Modernizr) was asynchronously loaded using RequireJS and the whole final build resulted in at 13 requests (5 async) totalling less than 37kb.

I hosted the site on PagodaBox using only a free web component instance. Originally I had thought about using WordPress but I wanted to avoid having the bottle neck or additional cost of having to rely on a database. I looked at a few alternatives for a flat file PHP back-end like Kirby and Statamatic but, seeing though demands what users wanted from the site were changing as the festival was approaching, I wanted to allow myself the freedom to be able to alter the site as much as possible, so I stuck with flat PHP pages.

When it came to the start of the festival it was still important that the site remain up to date, but I didn’t want to be tied to a laptop all weekend, so I set up SFTP on the host and downloaded the free (and amazing) Codeanywhere app for my phone which allowed me to update the code on the fly, SFTP changes to my PagodaBox instance and then deploy via Git. Initially I found it a little bit tricky coding on such a small touch device but before long I had a pretty good handle on it.

The site ended the weekend with 49,288 pageviews from 77 countries with 32% of sessions coming from mobile devices.