Building 16 Sites in 2 Hours

Our program (Boulder Digital Works) recently hosted the Making Digital Work conference in Boulder. Jesse Weaver and I were requested to help with the conference. The idea was to split the conference attendees into teams and develop an idea. They would come up with two variations of that idea and create some copy/keyword combinations to test between. Then Jesse and I code all the variations for each team into web pages that we could test with Google’s web optimizer. Tim Malbon developed the logos and Jesse and I coded. It turned out well and the teams had some great ideas! I have  a few takeaways:

Simple Works….

The template, the process and the testing platform were all immediately understandable and easy to work with.

Start with a Clear Explanation…

Start with a clear explanation of the intended outcome. Tim explained the idea in one short email. The concept wasn’t hard to grasp because it was clearly explained and thus we were able to put most of our energy into building it.

Don’t Agonize…

When you’re rapidly prototyping an idea it doesn’t need to be perfectly polished, the key word here is “rapid.” I noticed several small errors while were presenting the websites, but it didn’t matter because the groups understood that this was an exercise in speed not quality. Most importantly they got the overall gist.

Make Backups…

About 4AM on the day of our presentation, I had the thought to make backups. Like an idiot, I thought “nah, my server hasn’t gone down in 8 months…what are the chances?” Famous last words. About 7:30AM I woke up to a text message telling me my server had gone down. I checked several ports including SSH and found confirmed my server was unavailable. I contacted my hosting provider who informed me their whole network was out due a (d)Dos attack from LA, California. I assumed it would only take an hour to clear up, but three hours later we getting a little worried. I had an encrypted backup, but couldn’t open it because I didn’t have my encryption key. It’s been a while since I’ve used those backups and forgot to get the key when I left my last job. A couple hours before the presentation the network came back online. We got lucky. Had my server been out during that time, we would have been screwed! Always make a backup, test the backup works and have  a backup plan to easily switch to another server just in case.

Designate a Zero Hour…

Decide collectively on a time when all production must be finished and changes cannot be made after that point. There is always an urge to “tweak” things to make you project just a little bit better. This is dangerous territory, in programming there are always unforeseen consequences to changes and they may not be immediately apparent. The reason I was up at 4AM (day of) was because I was “tweaking” things. However, when you’re tired you make mistakes and I failed to realize that some other tweaks I was made obfuscated some of the text on the pages. This made things difficult to read and became pejorative rather than helping.

All in all I think the project was successful, things could have gone smoother but considering we built 16 websites in a day, things went as well as they probably could have. Thank again to Jesse Weaver and Tim Malbon for making this a success.

Targhee Music


My marketing budget for promoting Targhee Fest (a reasonably sized 3 day music festival Grand Targhee Resort holds every year with names like Michael Franti and ) was next to nothing. We needed a strategy that could generate buzz around the music festival but also have long term implications for raising awareness about local music in Teton Valley. There were a couple opportunities also available for us as low hanging fruit. At the time, Teton Valley did not have a social hub. Blogs existed that mentioned local activities, but it was more of a side note. We also had some great lineups schedule for the summer and wanted to provide customers an opportunity to plan  around some of the events.


I built the microsite at and helped fill it with content. We managed to drive traffic by becoming a hub of information about local activities and live music schedules in the valley. We also launched the site with a bang by starting an online battle of the bands competition that translated into a physical battle of the bands competition. In a sense, the bands involved ended up doing most of the promotion for us by motivating their loyal fans to go on the site and vote. In order to vote, users had to click through a small piece promoting our Targhee Fest lineup. The site is still used when enough staff exists to keep it current and it has generated over 22k of new traffic.


Online voting is hard to implement. We had trouble with some fans “spamming” the vote in order to help their band win. In the end we had a wonderful response and actually walked out of the situation with an opportunity for some of the bands to contribute to the content of in order to start an online music community.

Targeting leaders of small tribes with engaged users and producing real value is key. We didn’t have the budget to promote this festival in a standard way and so we needed something viral. The band leaders already had email lists and sets of engaged users all we had to do is provide real value to the band leaders and the rest was taken care of.

Microsites take a ton of maintenance. Micro is a bit misleading in this sense because it implies “easy” which isn’t the case. It took hard work and long hours in order to fill the site with content and keep it relevant.


WordPress with a custom built theme and custom backend administration windows to manage voting and calendars.

Youtube direct API