Premature launches – or bumping into the mousetrap

Bumping the mousetrap

Every now and then incomplete web content gets launched completely by accident.  I call this nausea-inducing act “bumping into the mouse trap” because it always takes longer to gingerly reset the trap then it does to trigger it.

Oh, and there is usually a lot of flinching involved.

It usually starts with someone noticing a new design live on the website – weeks before the scheduled launch. This person will usually turn to the person in the cube next to him and says “hey, did we launch early or did someone slip on a banana?”

Within a few seconds you’ll usually see another designer or developer who is clearly turning pale, stand up in his cube and utter a string of expletives.

“Uh, guys.  I think I just [expletive] pushed the [expletive] new redesign live by accident.  How quickly can we [expletive] roll it back?”

The solution could be as simple as replacing the wrong files on the server with recently backed-up versions.  (You *did* make back-ups of your work, right?)  If so, no harm, no foul.

However, the situation always gets more complicated the more pieces you have involved.

For instance, your position becomes much more complex if you happen to use a combination of flat files, databases, content management systems, distribution networks, automated data feeds, vendor APIs and advertising platforms (like we do).  A mistake could interact with any of those things, compounding your problems in a big way.

Fixing these issues becomes much more complicated and usually involves several different people (and skill sets) to fix.

We’ve done our share of “bumping into the mouse trap” with varying degrees of impact.  We usually recover gracefully with little disturbance, but every now and then someone notices just as they did when Twitter bumped into the mousetrap earlier this week.

I’ve always wondered if other companies suffered these same accidents.  With a touch of schadenfreude I was genuinely happy to see Twitter prematurely launch an incomplete redesign earlier this week.

It makes me feel a bit better knowing we’re not the only ones to drop our pants in front of a few million people by accident.

Have you survived any launching blunders like this?  If so, let me know in the comments.

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