Custom EBT (2018)

TL;DR: I made a custom, private, hacked up Easter Bunny Tracker based on WordPress to use for my 2018 Easter Bunny Tracker Live Stream. Which in turn became the most popular tracker stream for Easter 2018.

The reason that this page is called “Custom EBT (2018)” is to prevent you from probably laughing out loud when you hover over projects, and saw “Custom Easter Bunny Tracker (2018)” as the first project.

But make no mistake. I made a custom Easter Bunny Tracker. As it turns out, everyone wants me to put it online.

 

Let’s start with a bit of a backstory. As you may recall from a post I made in December, I managed to host an extremely popular Santa Tracker live stream in 2017. To my surprise, it amassed 117,000 total views, 1,300 concurrent viewers at peak, and was something I’ll always be strangely proud of.

I can generally attribute my success to following the KISS rule: Keep it simple, stupid. So I followed that, by keeping the stream very simple with a white info box in the upper right, two trackers (NORAD on the left, Google on the bottom right), and with some nice Christmas music. People like that, so people flocked to my stream.

After the stream, I had gained 400 subscribers, now all tracking fans who probably wanted an Easter Bunny Tracker. So, the preparation begins. I planned to use a site called The CP Trackers. Track Easter Bunny sucks. It still sucks.

That is…until the site went down. The domain was up for renewal! What do I do now? I did probe the site some time ago, and it ran on WordPress. I have some experience with WordPress, and I’m a developer. Well, sort-of.

I’ll make my own!

And I did that, by making a fully-functional Easter Bunny Tracker in 16 days. And I broke the WR for peak concurrent viewers on an Easter Bunny Tracker live stream.

 

For this tracker, I kept to the same KISS rule as I usually did. I started off with WordPress, and eventually found Geo Mashup as the plugin for displaying the map. Most of my time was spent inputting The CP Trackers data, which I got from the web archive, and modified for the tracker. I also corrected some route glitches, and pushed the start time of tracking up a few hours. I also added a stop at the International Space Station, along with 1 preparation and 1 descent stop to prevent a 20-minute data gap to occur during the live stream.

My tracker was going to be exclusively on a stream, so that meant I could cut corners. There wasn’t going to be a pretty homepage, or extra features. I made the tracker just for the stream, and I eventually found out how to get the map iframe. I displayed that during the stream.

Through development, I made lots of modifications to the plugin to enlarge the window text, get rid of date and category information, and get custom icons. I wanted to have an automatic categorization plugin that would categorize the most recent post, and all other posts would be in a different category for iconography. The “Current Location” category had a bunny icon, the “Uncategorized” category had a basket icon.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything, so I made my own Python script to categorize the most recent post based on the UNIX timestamp of when it was posted. There were times during the stream where the basket icon showed instead of the bunny icon, as the Python script fetched (and potentially posted) data every 9 seconds. In the end, the time it took for the API to fetch and post data (if necessary) was under 100 milliseconds as the server was on my local network. Next year, I plan to lower the refresh time to 1 second, as the effect for refreshing so often is negligible.

 

Just before the tracking began, I decided to make a baskets delivered and carrots eaten metric. I made a Python script to do this, by adding to a variable every second, and writing to a text file. I got approximate numbers of how much to add the metrics by per second from Track Easter Bunny. The addition of the metrics was a success, and kids watching the stream kept an eye on the metrics during the entire stream.

 

So, the stream came around, and even though I overslept for 4 hours and the stream was stuck on the countdown page, it was a wild success! Everything worked to plan, the entire tracker was 100% believable, and I can officially say I had what appeared to be the best Easter Bunny Tracker. It was evident by the amount of chat messages wondering what the site was, and that I broke the world record for most concurrent viewers during an Easter Bunny Tracker live stream. The stream amassed a little over 10,000 total views, about 120 likes, and a peak of 107 concurrent viewers.

 

For next year, I plan to stick to the fundamentals that made the tracker as popular as it was. I’ll change nothing, except for the data. I am considering to host the tracker publicly in 2019, using this VPS and a free Google Maps API key. I’ve decided not to go with getting a temporary VPS and a paid Maps API key if the tracker fails to get any ground.

Overall, a pretty nice success. I plan to remake the website for this upcoming Easter using the same data.