SparkFun Freeday

January 7th, 2010. SparkFun Electronics makes the coolest gesture in the world by offering $100,000 in free stuff, given in $100 increments to 1000 of their best and most loyal customers.

SlickDeals, FatWallet, and virtually every other technology site carries the news of this story, thousands of geeks (and presumably all their family members) load up shopping carts and prepare to accept SparkFun's philanthropic gesture with open arms (read palms).

Like the lottery, nobody considers the statistics of the matter, everyone thinks he will end up lucky - myself included.

Here is a summary of my Freeday experience...

Free Day Money Flow Plot

The distribution of wealth over time. The plot shows all the data points I have from refreshing the SparkFun page and attempting to submit a Free Day order. Not much happened until over an hour into Freeday (past 10am, MST). Over the next 45 minutes, more people were able to login and complete orders. Thankfully the SparkFun stimulus was limited to $100,000, otherwise - as the plot shows - the demand for free electronics started to approach infinity. Nothing is good about a divide by zero.

In retrospect, there appear to be three types of SparkFun Free Day people.

1 - Those who tried and were able to order. They are gloating and have free stuff.

2 - Those who tried and were not able to order. They are sad and having nothing but a wasted morning....

3 - Those who did not try. They are gloating at not having wasted any time trying and spent a productive morning doing something useful, although they still don't have any free stuff.

Shopping Cart Ready...

Here's my shopping cart, 1 second before the start of Free Day. I've got this thing covered... just click checkout and I can score a brilliant discount...

Network Timeout Denial!

Hmmm.... strange. The server does not seem to be responding. Perhaps it will work on subsequent "Try Again" clicks.

Somebody has tasted sweet sucess.

7.5 minutes into Free Day and only $175 have disappeared. This is great, I should totally be able to squeeze in an order in the next few minutes. If only Firefox wouldn't give me this timeout error...

Into the thousands... 2.1% of the money gone

We're over 20 minutes into freeday and only a couple thousand dollars are gone. 20 lucky people now gloat and proclaim that SparkFun is the best thing ever. Thousands of people question the effectiveness of the server upgrade.

At last! The sweet sight of the login screen

We're now nearly at the 12% level, but at least I have left my shopping cart and am now logging in. Just a quick entry of login credentials then I'm golden. It's been nearly an hour, hopefully everyone else has given up, although the server still seems like frozen molasses.

19% Gone, having trouble logging in

I keep getting bounced from the login process. I enter my email and password, then I wait, get a timeout, try again with resent data, then always return to this screen. It's been 70 minutes... surely all these jokers have to get back to work soon. How important is it for them to get a measly $100?

Denied... maybe this time it will work.

20 minutes and $40,000 later...

I'm still at this confounded login screen. Am I typing in the wrong password? Why can't the server process my simple login request. All I ever asked for is a free handout?

Yikes, nearly all gone...

Free Day is nearly over... 870 people are delirious and high-fiving. Surely thousands of people have given up and have left me and this one obnoxious guy in his mom's basement fighting for the rest.

You need to give up on the F5 key pal.



Free day is gone, over 1,000 are waiting for their orders to be processed... ... the rest of us are still waiting for the SparkFun server to load a page.