Earth Day is the world's largest secular holiday, celebrated by more than 1 billion people each year. In addition to all the concerts, coordination with 20,000 partners in 190 countries, and promotion that goes on around the event, the Earth Day Network has an active web presence aimed at engaging audiences throughout the world.
In 2009, the Earth Day web site saw more than 25 million hits on the days before and after the event. The organization needed a flexible, capable platform to act as its portal and encourage participation in Earth Day events. They chose Drupal based on the strength of its social media tools, ability to integrate with external tools, and overall flexibility as a content management system. In order to make it work for their needs, they came to Trellon for asssistance with the strategy and development of the site.
The organization's internet strategy has been to employ social media tools as a way of raising awareness of the event. They get people to participate through attendance, pledges to do good works, and sharing news of their activies through social networks. Highly personalized, their site serves as a platform for activism, allowing individuals from across the globe to promote their own events and activities in a centralized portal.
One key challenge this presents is how to handle all that content. Ensuring the site presents information in a relevant, meaningful way is key to maximizing the success of the platform. Another big challenge was making the site reflect the way people actually use the Internet. Not everything is about web browsers anymore, and having the site talk to Facebook and the iPhone were key goals for the 2010 campaign. Finally, all of these features need to scale to handle the needs of millions of potential users, all in one day.
Trellon developed a strategy for Earth Day's main web site to that addresses challenges in a number of areas:
- Providing geolocated content to users, based on IP address.
- Integrating with external CRM systems to understand what people are actually doing
- Using widgets and embeddable technology to extend the campaign in original venues
- Integrating directly with iPhone and Facebook applications
- Scaling well, handling unexpected traffic bursts, and dealing with an unpredictable audience size
Geolocated Activism Tools
Earth Day's web site presented a massive amount of information about events, campaigns, partners and pledges from all around the world. Getting this information into a form where it was meaningful for users was one of the key challenges. Trellon developed a solution for geocoding information based on IP address that tied data to the specific country, state and city of the users. This allowed us to efficiently sort millions of pieces of content on a per-user basis. Event pages were geocoded to present events based on proximity and make sure users were always informed of what is going on in their region first.
Democracy in Action was employed as the backend tool for storing personal details of contacts coming to the Earth Day web site. Our team made modfications to the way information is tracked about individual users to allow consolidated views of event registration, participation and pledges within the CRM system. This gave EDN a 180 degree view of worldwide activity, all in an organized, sortable, searchable, tabluar form.
iPhone and Facebook Integration
Earth Day's internet strategy was extended to the iPhone and Facebook, to allow users to register, post events and pledges, and view social graphs explaining how many of their friends were participating in their events. Trellon accomplished a full integration with both platforms through the use of custom modules for sharing data. We developed tools for integrating with both platforms through a common interface that were also made available to partners via web services. The result was a site that was infinitely extensible.
The biggest goal of the Earth Day campaign was participation, the ability for people to take part in the worldwide effort in their own ways. Trellon developed a number of tools for creating accounts and posting pledges to the site that allowed users to embed widgets within their own web portals. People could grab the Billion Acts of Green widget appearing on the front page and drop it into their own blog to extend the reach of the campaign.
Making the site scale required extraordinary effort. The Earth Day site had over 25 million page views in a single day the year before, and we understood traffic was expected to grow significantly in 2010.
Trellon provided performance and scalability enhancements to ensure the site would be able to handle a reasonable amount of additional traffic. Unfornately, traffic to the site grew unreasonably thanks to Google linking to it from their home page in every language, Apple making the iPhone application the #1 featured app in their store, and the rest of the world suddenly discovering the Internet. The Earth Day web site suddenly became one of the most heavily trafficked Drupal web sites ever.
The Earth Day web site experienced somewhere between 80 million and 110 million hits during the week of the event. At various times, web servers were generating over 600 pages per second for extended periods. This included traffic directly to the main web site as well as through the iPhone and Facebook applications. The performance and scalability enhancements Trellon provided allowed Earth Day to scale horizontally and keep up demand by adding servers. As demand climbed, we were able to provision new servers to keep up with the additional traffic.
With some ongoing performance tuning, the Earth Day web site achieved a 1.2 second page generation time on average despite facing exceptional demands for resources. During the day of the event, millions of people used the site to find local events, participate in site activities through mobile applications while attending concerts, and register for newsletters and other forms of communication. While the site could have been more successful with additional preparation, overall it was an outstanding success.