You could make a case that the most dramatic moment of the night of Boston's preliminary mayoral election a few weeks back didn't take place at a polling station or a candidate's campaign headquarters. It happened online, when the City of Boston's election department website crashed — twice.
Unlike previous high interest elections, the city's website was the only one posting up-to-the minute results. And that meant most people following along, from the press to the campaigns to curious citizens, were checking the elections results page on the city of Boston website.
Tonight, the city of Boston's elections result page once again take center stage – and the IT team at City Hall has made a few changes in an attempt to avoid a repeat performance.
First, they've adjusted the cache to lighten the stress on the main server. Cache is a smaller, faster kind of memory that stores copies of data and diverts some of the traffic from the main server.
They've also changed the auto refresh rate on the site. Back in September, the page was automatically refreshing every minute. Tonight, it will refresh every two minutes. Officials say this will cut down on the number of requests on the server. When asked whether that slower refresh rate might actually encourage people to refresh the site more often themselves, making things worse, officials explained that two additional steps have also been taken.
But online two minutes is an eternity. And whether that message will be enough to keep itchy fingers from clicking that refresh button remains to be seen. If it all does work smoothly and according to plan tonight, watch out for poacher, City Hall, there is another government website that could use a few good troubleshooters.