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by Mike Endale
The United States Government has shutdown — for the first time in 17 years — on October 1st, 2013. According to estimates, some 800,000 government employees were furloughed on that day. For those people, the shutdown created an incredible amount of uncertainty and financial pressure. As one of my friends who is among the furloughed said, “… [it] doesn’t mean the mortgage and car loan payments aren’t still due.”
We thought about how we can help and the answer was obvious to us: leverage our technical capabilities to good use by connecting these furloughed employees with freelance gigs. So, we started looking around and sure enough people were creating Facebook groups, tweets, etc... looking to generate some income while they were furloughed. We came across a couple of cool resources, but we especially liked what 1776 — a DC based startup incubator — was doing. They created a Google Spreadsheet and were having people and companies add their information. We thought this was a great idea and it led to the birth of Unfurlough.us.
We had our team focus on the task and sketched, designed and built the site in under 5 hours using Drupal and launched it around 12:30 am on Friday, October 4th. We sent a couple of tweets, added the site to the DC Drupal groups and posted it on Hacker News. But, we were not prepared for what happened next.
Within hours of the launch, we started seeing a steady growth in traffic. By 9 am on Friday, some 2,300 people had checked out the site with over 4,000 page views and our server went down.
We realized that Unfurlough.us was quickly becoming a main resource for those employees who have been furloughed. We sent a tweet to Acquia to see if they can help with hosting the site and in a very short order the team at Acquia came to the rescue. Meagen and Jessica jumped in to help while Rohan quickly spun up an instance on Acquia Cloud, giving us all the access we needed. In less than an hour, we migrated the site over to the Acquia Cloud using the awesome Acquia Network Connector module, tested it and deployed it on production. The transition could not have been any smoother.
Throughout Friday, the tweets kept coming as more and more people were learning about the site and were adding their information. CNET’s Eric Mack picked it up and published a blog post highlighting how “...a few days after the Web sites for NASA and many other federal agencies went offline, a new site, Unfurlough.US, popped up to connect furloughed employees with part-time or freelance work...” Business Insider also ran a story this morning highlighting the steps “local DC business have taken to ease the impact on some 800,000 furloughed federal workers.” It was astonishing for our team to see a site we built in one evening getting this much interest. This was a testament to how open source tools can be used to quickly turn ideas into action.
Moving forward, we believe the site will continue to be useful during the government shut down, and the connections made on the site will last even longer. We are continuously working to improve the site’s security, performance and mobile experience to make Unfurlough.us the best resource possible for those furloughed employees.
About BLEN Corp
BLEN Corp is a small, veteran-owned information technology firm specializing in Drupal development and based in Washington, DC. Since 2004, BLEN has been ahead of the curve in early adaption and implementation of cutting edge technologies, from web site design & development to development of innovative web based solutions.