Baekdal24Hours - No Tracker This Year

Update: Due to popular demand, I have quickly created a page for the social stream with tweets from the drivers, teams, and news sources (the same one that used to be in the tracker). Enjoy

Bad news everyone! I will not be making a Le Mans tracker this year... Yes, I have decided to not make my Le Mans tracker anymore, even though it really pains me to let you all down.

I'm truly sorry, but here is why:

So back in 2006, I was feeling frustrated by the rather poor way ACO communicated the 24 Hours of Le Mans to us fans, and especially their very annoying website. Thus, I created this:

This was my very first tracker, and it was essentially just a page with snippets from the Le Mans website embedded into it for very easy view. And it ended up being very popular. I got a ton of traffic, and we had a wonderful race.

Then in 2007, I was intrigued by this concept, so I wanted to create something that was even better. And I came up with this idea:

The problem was that there was no way back then to actually get this data, so I had to drop it. And instead, I focused on creating a simpler solution:

This tracker had a number of key elements to it. The first thing was that I started reprocessing all the data (which is extremely server intensive), and also included 'social signals'. Now you could get timing (which actually updated faster than the official timing), and you could see what all the teams and drivers tweeted during the race. This was a truly amazing experience. The TV commentators would speculate why something was happening, while we could just see that the team had tweeted that they had an electrical problem with the car.

This simple concept allowed us to stay more up-to-date than the people who were just visiting the official website, or watching the race on TV. And over the past 8 years I have refined this system to make it better and better.

However, a number of things happened over the years:

First of all, the popularity of the tracker literally exploded, which was a very nice thing. But it also put quite a bit of a strain on my servers. I used to be able to run this tracker in a shared hosting plan, for almost no money at all. But in 2009, my servers simply could not keep up with demand, so I had to buy a dedicated server (which is extremely expensive). Then in 2011, I had to buy two dedicated servers... and in 2013, I needed three dedicated servers. And all of this just to be able to process and manage the data.

The actual amount of data isn't that high, but the problem is how fast it must be updated. For instance, if I had 30,000 people on that tracker at the time, each requesting updates for all three data streams every 10 seconds, that's 540,000 requests per minute that my servers have to handle.

When you reach that high a level of requests, you run into all kinds of troubles. You start to exceed the I/O requests that the server can handle. It's not a problem with the CPU, RAM or the disk space, those are fine. The server just can't process it.

So, in order to make this work, I had to completely reengineer the entire system so that it was built around a very advanced forms of caching and load balancing. The complexity literally went up by something like 2500%.

And what used to be a simple and fun thing suddenly turned out to be very hard work. Last year, I spent a lot of time building the system to make it faster and more reliable... and even at that it failed to keep up the demand (which is why I had to add a third server, which I actually did while the race was on).

The problem with this is that I don't feel like a fan anymore. The amount of work that I have to put into getting this tracker to work is so intense that I feel like I'm at work. And over the past three years, I have felt increasingly disconnected from the race itself.

I love Le Mans. And I want to watch Le Mans for the sake race. I want to watch the 24 Hours of Le Mans as a fan and not as a system engineer.

I'm just like you guys. I'm here for the sake of the race. And I want to get that back. I don't want to spend two weeks building a tracker, and having to micro-manage servers in the middle of the night.

Also... remember that the whole reason I started doing this was because ACO's own site was terrible. But over the years the official Le Mans website has grown better and better. And this year they are out with a brand spanking new Official Tracker App... and it looks absolutely amazing.

In fact, it works in many ways like what I described in a report about the tracker. And as Giannis commented when I tweeted about it earlier:

So... the combination of wanting to spend my time watching Le Mans as a fan again and the introduction of this new official tracking app, I feel like my 'contribution' has come to an end. Mission completed, as they say.

You don't need my tracker anymore. And I want to go back to just being a fan.

What will I do this year?

Well, the tracker itself has come to an end. But I still have my special Le Mans Twitter lists. These lists combine the real-time tweets from teams, drivers and important news sources. There are four lists:

Open these up in your browser or add these lists to your Twitter client.

Note: The lists haven't been updated to 2014 yet, but I plan to do it later this week.

I will also be watching the race, as always, and tweeting about it via my @baekdal24hours account. Including my weird commentary when I get so tired that my brain starts to feel a bit wonky.

One example was when I commented on the excessive periods when they were reconstructing the barriers:

Yes, lack of sleep makes me weird :)

Anyway, that's what I'm going to do.

Again, I'm terribly sorry for letting all of you down who have been hoping to see my tracker again this year, but check out the official app instead. And thank you so much for all your support and traffic for the past 8 years. It was an amazing experience, and this year will be amazing too.

But going forward, I will just be a fan... like you!

/Thomas - @baekdal - @baekdal24hours