Hazel 5 Launch Postmortem

As promised, I thought I’d write about my launch. While not disastrous, it had its share of bumps. I had hoped that I had learned something from the Hazel 4 launch four years ago. One of the issues was server capacity. This year, I deployed an extra server. It was an asymmetrical setup, with my main setup handling the website and doling out free upgrades to recent purchasers, while the second server handled the store. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. The store still got swamped. Given how busy I was handling requests and trying to troubleshoot other issues, I didn’t have time to test and deploy yet another server, plus they would all be hitting the same database so it was unclear if it would help much. Given that this type of load tends to subside within the day, I rode it out.

One thing I could have done to help alleviate this was to spread out sending messages to the mailing list. Before sending anything to the list, traffic was quite manageable. Once the list got blasted, so did my site. I’m not sure if my email campaign provider supports it, but sending messages in chunks or just slowing down the sending rate would have probably minimized the problems.

Then there were packaging issues. Hazel is codesigned and notarized yet on some people’s systems, it would reject Hazel, either wholesale or in parts. This is worth a whole post on its own so expect one later. Suffice it to say, I did fix some of the issues and came up with workarounds for the others.

And finally, there were actual issues with the software.

First was a bug with trial mode expiring soon after install. I had Hazel reset the trial period for people coming from a previous version but it contained a bug which I did not catch. I did have a beta period but the version used then accepted Hazel 4 licenses, which meant that trial mode was not tested.

The other major bug was black backgrounds appearing in some views on 10.13. I take total responsibility for this as I did not test for 10.13. I did have a 10.13 partition on a drive I keep with various macOS versions, but it got nuked by an early Big Sur beta install which went awry. I tried reinstalling but my installer was corrupt. Add to that that Apple doesn’t allow you to download old installers and you can see how this fell by the wayside as other issues came up. It is ultimately my fault and my apologies to those running 10.13. As for the issue, it seems that 10.13 has problems with certain named/system colors when the app is linked against 11.0. Solution was to do special-case code for 10.13 using non-named colors.

There were plenty of other bugs but those were the most apparent and the ones I had to address quickly.

And with all of the above issues, I had to deal with thousands of people reporting them. Especially in the first few days, it was a frantic balancing act of being responsive to users while trying to carve out time to investigate the issues they were reporting. Logic would dictate stopping the bleeding first (i.e. investigate and address the problems) but it’s hard to ignore the huge number of messages piling up. Some would say that having all that attention would be a good problem to have, but when it was happening, it sure didn’t feel like it.

Lessons to be learned:

  • Try and slow down or space out announcements. Having everyone find out at once is asking for trouble. One idea I toyed with before launch but didn’t implement was to have a preview for those on the mailing list. Have a separate store that was available early where they could purchase an upgrade before the release to the public at large. That might have helped with the initial crush.
  • When running a beta test, be mindful of the holes in your testing, including differences between the beta and final product and missing demographics in your pool of beta testers.
  • Keep your priorities straight. Not everything needs to be handled immediately. It’s ok to ignore stuff.
  • Accept that no matter how much you prepare, you are never fully ready for what comes next.

Oddly, I found that the press was noticeably absent. It seems that even though the Mac market keeps growing, there are fewer and fewer outlets reporting and reviewing Mac products. Hazel has enough of a following that it didn’t matter as much but it feels as if things have regressed on that front, which is a bit sad.

Next time, I’ll be talking about my journey into the nightmare world of code signing and notarization. Fun times to be had by all. Until then…

Category: Hazel, Noodlesoft, Software, System Administration 2 comments »

2 Responses to “Hazel 5 Launch Postmortem”

  1. Roustem

    Hi Paul,

    Happy New Year and congratulations on the new release! I just found about it from https://mjtsai.com/blog/2020/11/25/hazel-5/#hazel-5-update-2021-01-04

    Do you have a mailing list by any chance? I find that email is still the most reliable way to stay in touch.


  2. mr_noodle

    Sorry about the late response; been forgetting to check my blog comments. Thanks, and yes, there is a mailing list. If you go to noodlesoft.com and scroll to the bottom, there’s an envelope icon. Clicking that should start the process.

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