Charity Fundraising: The Ocean Cleanup

Current charity donations: € 1553

End date: June 30th. Donate here.

I want to talk about something important to me.

Before I can get to my main point, I would like to share some background with you.

For too many years, my life was focused (almost exclusively) on technology. Learning to code, spending hours upon hours online each day. Exploring, learning, feeding the never-ending hunger for more information because of my excitement when I first discovered some people in an online chat who happened to be writing code. They had the ability to think of something and then actually build it. I thought it was amazing, and it absorbed me.

Problem: when you do something too much, it’s too much.

And for a long time, I forgot how to do everything else. I forgot how to human.

Computer Problems

source: https://xkcd.com/722/

Until recently.

As you might know, I freelance as a full stack developer (and software engineering), I build my own projects (startups) and I try to learn new technologies as often as I can. I try not to stand still. You would think that these things are relevant, or that they would somehow explain why/how things changed for me, but the truth is they’re not – and they don’t. But as I’ve come to notice, the most significant changes in my life have been due to the most absurd or unimaginable things possible.

However, I can describe the things that I do, the things that I focus on, and hope that it helps to explain who I was (or am) as a person when these things happen(ed). It’s the best I can do.

I can’t remember where I’ve first read this quote, but life is what happens while you are busy making other plans(According to Wikipedia, it was Allen Saunders.)

And so I was confronted with how to human.

I met some people who are nothing like me.

I’m going to try to explain who they are – or at least the effect they’ve had on me – as best as I can, but written text isn’t the best at conveying emotion, so for the next part I hope you try to imagine it as if it would be happening to you. I hope you can open up.

They aren’t involved as much in technology, they aren’t focused on building commercial projects, we don’t work in the same fields and we’re not even from the same country. They just happen to be exchange students and they’re working to get their Master’s degree in human ecology. And I somehow just happened to meet them.

Even though I was an absolute stranger to them, they chose not to be a stranger to me. They chose to be the most honest, open, selfless and supportive people I’ve ever met or seen, more than I’ve ever seen anyone even try to be. If you would ask me, I would not be able to come up with any reason for why I would have “deserved” it or for why it ultimately happened. It just did.

Change, especially significant personal change, can be scary and overwhelming… and it was. It was so overwhelming that it hit me like a truck. It was so much, so fast.

But they didn’t mind, and they always stayed themselves.

I thought I was doing pretty well, taking care of myself. But meeting them made it clear to me that I was forgetting something important. I wasn’t standing still to seriously think about everything and everyone else. I was (unintentionally) selfish because of my inaction.

Everything

source: https://xkcd.com/968/

They taught me a lot. In so little time, they changed me.

One of the things they reminded me of, is that we should remember to care for each other more. We shouldn’t just close our eyes and act as if we don’t notice. We shouldn’t say we don’t care, just because it’s not happening to us personally. We shouldn’t distract ourselves with trivial things so we don’t have to look at the hard stuff.

Today I want to give back to them. They are the reason I’m sharing all this with you, and I’m hoping that we can make something greater together.

I want to show them that their efforts are worth something, and that everyone can change the world in their own way if they truly want to.

The birthday of one of them happens to be next Monday the 12th and I want to give this as a gift. The gift of letting them know they’re making real change, that they’re bringing positive change to a lot of lives. The gift of significant change and real impact.

And I need your help to do it.

I’m hosting a charity fundraiser for The Ocean Cleanup.

I want to give something back that helps people improve our world, to help build a better future.

In short, The Ocean Cleanup develops advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic. There are over 5 trillion pieces of plastic currently littering the ocean. Ocean currents concentrate plastic in five areas in the world: the subtropical gyres, also known as the world’s “ocean garbage patches”. Once in these patches, the plastic will not go away by itself.

Ocean garbage patches

source: https://www.theoceancleanup.com/

Since 2013, The Ocean Cleanup has improved its original design and plans and has gathered over 31.5 million USD in donations.

Some past milestones (read more here):

On May 11th, they unveiled the results of two years of work: an improvement to their design that will enable them to start extracting plastic within the next 12 months. With the first deployment in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the first half of 2018, they will start cleaning up two years ahead of schedule.

The Ocean Cleanup solves an important problem on a massive scale by intelligently using their technology. It’s a solution to a real problem that can be used in a matter of months.

From today on, we’re hosting a public fundraiser to gather as many donations as we can within this month (until the 30th).

To help The Ocean Cleanup, you can donate via this link: fundraiser has ended.

(We chose to use Paypal because other payment processors, including GoFundMe, take 4%+ of all donations.)

To start, I’ve donated € 350 myself and I’m adding more in a few days. This month, I will also give away 100% of contributions that I usually receive via Patreon.

Every day, I’ll update the total amount of raised donations at the top of this article.

I just hope that you’ll consider joining us in donating. Together, we can do more than when we are alone.

Please consider sharing the article (at the top of this article are some buttons!).

 

To anyone who has helped, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. ♥

I Got 25.5 Million Visits in 45 Days

Twenty-five million, five hundred thousand visits in only 45 days. Let that sink in for a minute.

25.5 Million Pageviews

If the entire country of Belgium would visit my website once per day, it would take them three days to reach that amount of visits.

Every single person in Belgium, their fathers and mothers, their grandmothers and grandfathers, all of the babies and everyone’s friends – and three days.

Google Analytics Pageviews

Wait, what project?

I recently launched a project about Pokémon Go (RareSpawns.be). The concept is simple: in the Pokémon games, there are some Pokémon that are considered rare; they are hard to get or rarely appear in the game at all.

In Pokémon Go, a rare Pokémon is even rarer than in the regular games because we can’t control the spawns: we have to wait for Niantic to create one, and we’ve all seen what happens when this happens in a dense area.

A rare Pokémon can move the world.

The website is a realtime, crowdsourced platform that shows where some of the rare Pokémon have spawned in the world – it includes their coordinates, their potential (called their IV, displayed as a percentage) and the in-game moves the Pokémon can use.

The secret to getting so many visitors?

There is no secret.

The project did what it had to and it supports a huge amount of concurrent visitors without delay. During the peak of the activity, I remodeled and rewrote the entire program’s structure to support the activity and the inevitable 24/7 DDoS attacks – in the end, it took ~2 weeks of full-time development to make it what it is today (the tech stack deserves a separate article).

I launched, went to bed with ~250 concurrent users, and I woke up to a few thousand.

I worked, went to bed again, and woke up with hundreds of thousands of visits.

Google Analytics Realtime

What did we learn? The more I go to bed, the more visits I get.

People loved it so much, they started to attack it.

After a certain amount of popularity, the attacks started. 24/7 DDoS attacks that just never stopped.

After the rework of the structure, I had separated all of the work/responsibilities between multiple instances. There was no single point of failure and the most important ones (i.e. the data entry points and API) were no longer running on the same instance as the instance which serves the real-time feed on the front-end.

In simpler terms, it means they could attack all they want and they could even send it all as web traffic, it still wouldn’t increase the load on the most important instances. Oh, and the front-end feed was being served separately from the webserver that was hosting the files – every server/instance does exactly what it has to, nothing more.

OVH DDoS

And the number of active database connections I was using during all of this? One. A single connection. Built almost entirely on Node.js, I needed only one instance with a single database connection to handle all of it.

And I’ve got to hand it to my host: OVH has an amazing infrastructure.

Up next…

It’s been amazing. I’ve learned a lot and I couldn’t have hoped for it to get as popular as it did.

I’ve met a lot of interesting people along the way (PokemonGo-Map team, pogoapi and all of our regulars) and I want to add a special thank you for the people that have always helped me to stay on track and work on my goals every single day.

Up next is a completely different project. Another day, another challenge. 🙂

And what about you?

Do you have any projects you’d like to talk about, or any challenges in your near future?

Let me know in the comments, I want to know all about it!

Psst, in the meantime, enjoy this song from twenty one pilots. Time to relax.