Archive for December, 2007

Thoughts on America

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

The progress on California has been quite good, we’re now up to 442 members and what’s also nice is that virtually everybody has come back more than once after joining. It’s still nowhere near having a viable chatroom or even taking off through personal recommendations but it’s been a slightly faster start than we managed in the UK.

I’ve been wondering how big the Californian market is compared to the UK and other states. The top 5 states on AdultFriendFinder by number of members are:

  • California: 1,136,000
  • Texas: 772,000
  • Florida: 715,000
  • New York: 646,000
  • Illinois: 413,000
  • USA Total: 10,495,000

For comparison, they have 1,811,000 members in the UK so it would seem that California would be roughly the same size of market for Fab Swingers as the UK has been.

It’s interesting to think about what percentage of these members are active. According to the New York Times various has 1.2 million subscribers out of 260 million registrations. However this isn’t broken down between their different web properties so I’m reluctant to apply the ratio to AFF.

Over at, AFF had 20 million unique US visitors in November 2007. Now, California probably accounted for 10% of these visitors, giving 2 million Californian visitors to the site.

AFF is not directly a swingers site, as AFF is a bit bigger on adult dating for singles but even still it is pretty clear that there is a good 1 million people in California who should become Fab Swingers users!

The only negative is that the competition is better. When we launched in the UK we were lucky that the largest swingers had gone subscription only and in a really crass way, this resulted in a lot of unhappy users who were looking for an alternative. The top sites in the USA, which seem to be AFF, SwingLifestyle, LifestyleLounge and BayCouples (big in California) are better than the UK competition so although it’s a much bigger market we will have a bit more of a fight. But at least we don’t have a free competitor so the USP is still in place.

Erotic Awards

Friday, December 21st, 2007

I’ve rather immodestly nominated for Fab Swingers in the website category for the Erotic Awards.

I went on about us having more than 16,000 members in a little over a year, being the largest free swingers site and our belief that community websites should be free.

It would be thrilling if we got shortlisted! The awards are on September 1st so we’ve got a long wait to find out how we’ve done.

Changes in the site for California

Sunday, December 16th, 2007

California is going really well, yesterday we had more couples sign up from California than from the UK! However it’s revealing a few problems with the site:

  • Interest comments are international (and in the wrong order too) so I will make it so users only see comments from their own countries
  • Events and the Swingers Clubs List are national which is alright for the UK but someone in California will have no interest in clubs/events in New York

In resolving these points I will also try to address the SEO issues around the clubs list too — when Google views that page it only sees the US clubs, which isn’t ideal.

California swingers update

Friday, December 14th, 2007

The California Swingers recruitment is going quite well. There’s people messaging through the site, logging in multiple times and uploading photos which is good. People aren’t recommending the site yet or using the chatroom but that will happen once there’s a critical mass which I think will happen in about 2 months if I can keep up the present rate of growth.

The funny thing is that the Alexa rank is beginning to dip as a result! The reach is increasing (because there are more users) but the average number of page views is dipping (because there are fewer USA pages on the site for the new members to look at) and of course the Alexa rank is the product of page views and reach so for now the American expansion is going to result in a slight dip of the Alexa numbers.

I will shortly start a separate competitor benchmarking exercise for the USA using which is much more accurate than Alexa but is sadly only measures US traffic.

I’ve also had a small re-think on my original strategy. I had been thinking about going for California, then New York, then Texas based on the size of the local markets. The problem with that approach is that if I move onto New York next then I’ve gone back to square one with the problem of building the site with no members. Then moving to Texas gives me the same problem again.

It makes much more sense to move onto neighbouring states such as Nevada or Oregon or even Arizona which is getting me towards Texas. At least in this situation new members will be more likely to find people fairly near them.

There is also a small technical advantage in keeping to the west which is that the server is pretty overloaded during UK evenings but is very quiet during PST evenings so it will be a little bit more cost effective.

Change of hosting (again)

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

It’s coming up now for a year that I’ve been with ServePath. They have been absolutely excellent in terms of both service and reliability. However they have not been so good on price. Here’s a comparison with the also excellent Liquid Web.

Product ServePath Liquid Web
Dual Xeon $280/month $269/month
Clock speed 2.0Ghz 2.8GHz
Data Transfer 2000GB 2000GB
Unmetered 10Mbps $400/month $100/month
Unmetered 100Mbps $1500/month $2100/month
Harddrive 2 x 250GB SATA 2 x 120GB SATA
100GB backup $50/month $25/month
Private network $100 setup, $50/month $50 setup, $5/month

To match the ServePath 250GB drive would add $15 a month but I don’t think I need that.

The main thing driving this change is bandwidth, I’m going to be on about 50% of my allocation this month and it’s rocketing up. Over the past 7 days I’ve used an average of 0.95Mbps and with a peak at 2.95Mbps so I will need a 10Mbps circuit which should do me a while (and I wouldn’t mind sometimes slowing down slightly at peak times).

For the server above with 10Mbps unmetered I’m looking at $680/month from ServePath and $369/month from Liquid Web which I’m afraid just means a change.

In the future I will need a private network when I get the inevitable second server which is cheaper at Liquid Web but when I get to the stage of needing 100Mbps connection ServePath begins to look quite good again. However according to this page there is a limit of one 100Mbps connection per customer so I guess that in the longer term I would need to move on anyway, and the bigger the site is the more difficult it is to move.

Nothing is ever easy!


After sleeping on this, I’ve just worked that a 10Mbps connection has a theoretical monthly limit of 3255GB per month. Obviously 100% loading would be nonsense, so assuming a 50% load then this would be 1600GB per month. My present bandwidth limit is 1500GB so in actual fact this maybe isn’t an upgrade at all!

A Intel Xeon Dual Core Conroe 3060 from The Planet, with 250GB SATA and 2500GB bandwidth would come in at $209/month which would be virtually doubling my actual traffic and pretty much doubling the processor power too. If I need extra bandwidth I can get another 1000GB for $175/month.

Email Speed

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

My new timing code revealed that there was a problem with all of the pages on the website that generate email.

I investigated a bit more and it turns out that using the Python smtplib is many times slow than using popen2 to call the sendmail command directly.

It also means that my Apache processes aren’t tied up waiting for email to process. The downside is that I need to do a bit more checking on the validity of email addresses in my application instead of relying on the mail server.

Progress today: memcache, MySQL and CherryPy

Friday, December 7th, 2007

I’ve been able to spend the whole day on Fab Swingers which has been great.

First off, I’ve written a trivial CherryPy tool which logs any slow pages. Currently “slow” is defined as 500 ms but I’ll need to cut this back a bit.

This tool has already been quite handy and I’ve spotted two missing database indexes which has already dramatically speed up the Cross-dressing page.

I’ve also implemented memcache for the homepage, the profile pages, the session system and for the new mail received prompt. As a result MySQL has dropped right down in CPU usage.

Swing2Us sold!

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

I’ve just been checking out Swing2Us and I noticed that the owner has changed from “Dean and Matty” to CyberMaxx. I went over to and the change happened between January 26th and February 2nd this year.

CyberMaxx is ran by Thomas Gapski, I’ve not been able to find much about him although he is mentioned in the German Internet World but unfortunately my German isn’t great. I think I can work out what pornografie means though! If you do understand please add a comment to this post with some details of what it says.

I am slightly surprised though that they’ve had such a bad year in terms of traffic and there doesn’t seem to have been any investment in the site (still lots of broken links, etc). I would’ve thought that if you were going to buy the site then you would do something with it. Maybe they just picked it up very cheap?

NASCA Membership

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

The USA campaign continues, I’ve just filled out an application for NASCA membership. NASCA is really big in the US and most swingers clubs are affiliated and they have a pretty large membership in the swingers community too.

In addition to spreading the word about Fab Swingers I think that NASCA membership will add a bit of credibility to the site too.

Memory upgrade

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

I ran vmstat today and I noticed that there was a bit of swapping going on (memory swapping that is, not rumpy-pumpy). I think the reason is that I increased the Apache max clients, but this was required because the server had ground to a halt. Also, I am about to deploy memcached with an initial 64MB so it looks like there’s a need for a bit more memory.

I’ve decided to upgrade from 1 GB to 2 GB which should keep me going for a bit. It’s a $39.99 setup and then an extra $39.99 per month from ServePath. This seems bit steep given that an extra 1 GB from Dell is a one-off $70!

I also considered upgrading the slightly elderly processor but I think that extra memory will have much more impact.