FRC Blog - FIRST Choice: Take Three!

From Kate and Collin, the Kit of Parts Team

A team of dedicated, smart people from AndyMark, FIRST IT, and the FRC community have been working to revise the FIRST Choice site so that it’s robust for when we launch. We’re excited to tell you that our ongoing testing is confirming that the site is greatly improved, and we’ve decided to schedule the FIRST Choice launch for this Sunday, 12/29/13, at 3pm Eastern. You will be able to visit the FIRST Choice site before this, but team credits will be loaded at the scheduled time.

There are some things we want you to know…

  • Load Time: While we’d love to provide an experience with imperceptible page load time, it’s impractical given the resources that would be required. Testing has indicated that the average page load time is approximately 13 seconds, but very few testers reached a maximum load time of almost 60 seconds (but, the site doesn’t crash). Given that, we ask for even more of your patience, and discourage you from trying to refresh while the page loads.

  • Caching: One way to minimize page load time is to cache the pages you’ll be visiting ahead of time. You can cache the pages by clicking on them and allowing them to load in advance of the launch time.

  • Post-Launch Adjustment: One of the steps AndyMark took was to increase the amount of processing capability for launch day. Because this is only important during rush periods, they will be scaling back a few days after the second round of credits is loaded after Kickoff. This will result in the page being down for approximately two hours on Wednesday morning 1/8/14, 1AM Eastern, while this adjustment is made and will be scheduled for a time when few users are expected.

  • Keep it Simple: Please do not use a bot, script, army of people, or other method to cause multiple order attempts for your team. While we appreciate and respect the ingenuity in doing so, it will likely reduce the quality of the experience for others using the site by bogging down the system.

  • Prepare Your Account Information: Because you’re able to log in now, you can go in and set up your shipping address and other account information before your credits are issued. This will reduce the number of things you have to do to complete your order. If you’ve already done this, please log in to your account and verify the current information.

The printer lottery process will be executed as planned, with the lottery expiring on Tuesday morning, 12/31/13, 8am Eastern. If you’re planning to enter the printer lottery, you don’t have to log on right when FIRST Choice opens on Sunday as there’s no advantage to placing your order on Sunday afternoon vs. waiting until Sunday evening or even Monday.

AndyMark is planning to publish a whitepaper to provide more detail what happened and the steps that have been taken to improve the site. Once that’s published, we’ll let you know.

We thank you again, and sincerely, for your tolerance, patience, support, offers to help, and empathy.

3ET/12PT on Sunday. Just in time for the late NFL games! (Go Packers!)

Cool! It also looks like AndyMark has fixed the certificate errors too. :]

Is there a plan for a pre-launch test again, or are we just going for it?

I hope that whitepaper gets published before kickoff so I actually read it…


It looks like the items are now spread across 5 pages rather than all on one page.

I hate to rain on the parade…but 13 seconds is the minimum load time? Seriously? That’s like 56k modem slow.

When I look at the preview page, not logged in, it is all on one huge page, as before. Where are you seeing the 5 pages?

It is also in multiple pages for me at

Ah, OK.
Try this page:

Clik on any item to go to the ‘add to cart’ page.

Edit: OK, when logged in, you automatically get redirected to the \everything\ page. Well, just cache the
ewproducts\ page.

I believe it says average, not minimum.

Working on websites professionally, I certainly agree with FIRST and AndyMark that striving for shorter load times could take ridiculous (and expensive) resources for what we really need. So it’ll take you 10 minutes instead of 2 to finish your order. I would rather FIRST invested those resources into other areas (like regionals, growing the program, preparing the new control system, etc) than use them to strive for perfection on a system we’ll each use for less than 30 minutes this year.

Too bad they don’t fund regionals

Didn’t anyone else notice? Take three? Clearly a game hint. :stuck_out_tongue:

On a more serious note, I don’t quite know what to make of this:

Please do not use a bot, script, army of people, or other method to cause multiple order attempts for your team. While we appreciate and respect the ingenuity in doing so, it will likely reduce the quality of the experience for others using the site by bogging down the system.

They “appreciate the ingenuity?” Are they serious? I would have expected (and been much more pleased with) “we condemn the lack of sportsmanship and gracious professionalism in doing so.” Then again, that they’ve yet to go to some sort of quasi-lottery system sort of indicates that they themselves don’t really appreciate why people doing this is unfair/undesirable in a far greater capacity than “bogging down the system.”

I don’t do this professionally but in 5 minutes of browsing Amazon’s webhosting services it looks like you can pay $1000-2000 plus an hourly cost (a dollar an hour or so) based on utilization. I’m willing to bet Amazon can handle a few thousand people logging in at once and FIRST only has to pay extra for a few hours of high utilization (and let’s be real… “high” utilization for Amazon is probably a lot more than 3000).

Maybe there’s some reason that makes it not that simple… But historically FIRST has never been able to handle heavy website traffic in a fast and reliable manner.

I think they were trying to be nice. It’s been stressful for everyone, so they appear to be putting a lighter touch out.

Besides, saying “you are not showing gracious professionalism” always starts a battle on what GP is, when it is, why it is, etc. etc. etc. You are not new mentor here, you know how thing can fling themselves into a downward spiral.

Bold text to highlight the point. It’s never that easy. If it was that easy we would all have websites that could do 2.3 million hits per second.

Once again, these people are doing the best job they can manage. The season ends in April, that means you have May-November (7 months) to plan, design, build, implement, test and you too can be the 2015 FIRST Choice site.

Thanks for the heads up, and thanks for all the work into making this work for everyone.

I truly hope I’m not mistaken in thinking that claiming “using a bot to get as many of your preferred FIRST choice parts as possible is not GP” is a pretty tame, uncontroversial claim. My intent isn’t to start a debate, it’s to express disappointment in the attitude FIRST seems to be expressing towards actions I think betray the core values of FIRST.

First could probably get it for free if they asked…

Would a team(s) really have more then one person login to FirstChoice to improve their chances of getting items?

Getting web sites to scale is not a simple “pour on the horsepower” problem. If the solution was dropping a couple $000 at AWS or Azure to increase compute, they would have done it by now.

My previous comment on the scaling issues of this site still applies, particularly in light of the 'bot request from FIRST.

Just wanted to bump this back up, in light of it opening tomorrow at 3pm Eastern.

T-19 hours

Mmmmm, First Choice day. I can already taste the latency.

Everyone got your pages cached?

  • Sunny G.