Yep, that’s a BBC accent.

  • We had to pull about seven million rows of legacy data over into our mysql database to get it rails-ready.
  • We went from the pipe delimited data file to a full-blown rails app in two months.
  • Luckily, the data model was completely redesigned in the 80’s when the data went from index cards to a library application (with a neat green screen), and the data model actually worked pretty well for the web.
  • One of the design concerns for the rails version of the catalogue was for the URL’s to be beautiful, and for each url to have a machine readable version (if there’s a page, it has an xml version)
  • One of the biggest issues (besides the sheer magnitude of data) was getting search to work well. We ended up using some of the built-in search features of mysql, which actually worked pretty well once some of the default mysql configurations were fixed.

Getting ready for the big launch

  • We knew the site was going to get a ridiculous number of hits.
  • Deployment was hardest part - BBC locked the process down, didn’t allow access to the deployment box, didn’t allow gems, had some problems with dispatches blowing up and the mysqld process getting stopped (whoops)
  • The site did launch, and it was pretty neat. Unfortunately, the site is currently offline for the standard review process that takes place for all new BBC features.


Someone asked how long it took to do the initial import of the data from the legacy database to the new database. Answer: Two weeks of computer time. Cute.