have some exciting news. I have been in discussion with Deepak Chopra, the Alliance for New Humanity, and the Association for Global New Thought, an umbrella organization of New Thought churches, about having their members band together to run a giant Peace experiment in the autumn 2008 . The New Thought churches are planning their own consciousness initiatives, but as one giant supergroup with enormous publicity, we would have the largest experiment of all time.Of course an experiment of this magnitude may have many challenges, most of them technical — chiefly, how to create server power large enough to support thousands of people from all around the world joining forces on the same web page at the same time.
The biggest challenge with these experiences is not in demonstrating the power of intention (that seems to be the easy bit).
The difficulty is in finding an internet system sophisticated enough to allow thousands of people around the world to stare at the same image on a single web page at the same time. Allowing in such sizeable simultaneous traffic requires a vast amount of extra web capacity. The ability of a website to handle simultaneous web traffic is completely reliant upon the size of a web system’s server power.
As many of you remember, we learned this the hard way with our very first Intention Experiment, when the website crashed after an estimated 10,000 people attempted to participate in the experiment.
Three web teams so far
We have had three teams handling these experiments. Our second team attempted to avert a homepage overload by holding the experiments on a special page, away from the main website. That web team also controlled the flipping over of pages, rather than having readers click to other pages themselves, so there would be no possibility of the site freezing when everyone clicked the same button at the same time.
We also rented server space from a company that supplies the servers for Pop Idol, the British equivalent of American Idol, and was well versed in preventing a massive cyber traffic jam. Nearly 7000 people from thirty countries participated in the experiment, and only a handful had problems logging on. Nine linked servers were on hand to distribute the load. For the first few moments of our experiment, they were almost full.
Unique use of a social network
The technology of the second experiment had worked, but afterward we’d been presented with an extraordinarily large bill. The server power alone had cost us $6,000 for a half hour and the special web pages many thousands more – far too much for me to donate on a regular basis.
So we turned to a third web designer, Nick Haenen, who came up with an ingenious solution to our need for vast server power. Instead of renting our own servers, Nick said, why not make use of the giant capacity already created by a social network portal, like MySpace or Facebook? He’d constructed some sites using the Ning social network portal. Ning offers individual organizations instant facilities for a community based website.
The main advantage of Ning, for our purposes, was its server capacity — some 500 linked servers — to cope with the organization’s 20,000 social networks.
When Nick contacted the Ning creators they were enthusiastic about using their equipment to run intention experiments (Ning, by the way means ‘love’ in Chinese), and began working with Nick to modify the system slightly to cope with our special needs. By the time they were through, they said, our system would be able to cope with a hundred thousand simultaneous users.
However, we will still have the problem of having thousands of people registering all at once and participants that exceed even Ning’s enormous capacity.
So we will be meeting with some technical people from the Alliance for New Humanity to resolve some of these unique issues presented by attempting to run such a unique and uniquely large experiment. Watch this space for new developments.