High Performance everywhere

July 30, 2012 2:01 am | 6 Comments

I started writing High Performance Web Sites in 2006. I got the idea for the title from High Performance MySQL by Jeremy Zawodny. I had lunch with Jeremy before starting my book and asked if it was okay to borrow the “High Performance” moniker, to which he immediately agreed. Jeremy also gave me advice on becoming an author, including an introduction to Andy Oram, the fantastic editor for both Jeremy and my books.

I suggested to O’Reilly that they create a series of “High Performance” computer programming books. Although this wasn’t adopted explicitly, there have been several O’Reilly books that use this naming convention:

I’d love to see other High Performance topics including mobile, PHP, node.js, CSS, video, and graphics.

The point is: I think about “High Performance” a lot.

During my summer travels I’ve noticed the use of “High Performance” is getting wider adoption. This first struck me in an Accenture billboard at the airport. Accenture has an entire ad campaign based on the slogan “High Performance. Delivered.”. They even have TV commercials with Tiger Woods, reef predators, triathlons, and analytics.

On the plane I saw an ad in Stanford Magazine for the Graduate School of Business, “Turn High Potential into High Performance”. The ad is for an executive leadership program called Analysis to Action highlighting the need for critical analytical thinking tools.

Given that we’re in the middle of the Summer Olympics the most exciting High Performance reference was in Wired’s article, One One-Hundredth of a Second Faster: Building Better Olympic Athletes. The article itself is intriguing, discussing the role of technology in athletic competition. What really caught my eye was the mention of two people with the title of Director of High Performance:

  • Andy Walshe, former US Ski Team sports science director, is Red Bull’s Director of High Performance. (Red Bull sponsors Lolo Jones to the tune of 22 scientists and technicians with 40 motion-capture cameras.)
  • Peter Vint is Director of High Performance for the US Olympic Committee.

Given that Velocity Europe 2012 is being held in London (Oct 2-4) I’m trying to contact Andy and Peter to see if they’d like to deliver a keynote address. (If you know either of them please contact me to help make an introduction.) Although athletic performance and web performance are different disciplines, they have in common the process of defining a success function, gathering metrics, and analyzing data to identify best practices for optimizing performance. In both worlds hundredths of a second can make the difference between success and failure.


6 Responses to High Performance everywhere

  1. I’ve been noticing the phase “high performance” in advertising and wondered if it was a coincidence.

  2. Hi Steve,

    I ran some optimization of the images in this blogpost, and I saw the first image can save 80kb (23.63% decrease), 2nd image can save around 32kb (49.43%), and last image can save almost 34kb which is 52.72% :D

  3. @Lucas: I resized the images in Preview on my Macbook so that’s unfortunate that it produces oversized images. But it seems like your reductions are significantly greater than those suggested by Page Speed. Did you use lossy techniques? If not, please provide the specific steps for those size reductions.

  4. For the jpg images I used a lossy optimization using jpegoptim at 80%.

    Then PNG itself, was lossless, and was done using advpng for optimizations (which was 80kb). (I used the commandline tool, to speed up the process to about 11 seconds in totalt for all 3 images).

  5. Glad to see the High Performance mentality spreading. :-)

  6. @Lucas & @Steve: page speed doesn’t pick up on the Accenture image because it’s full-colour PNG. But, as with the other images, it actually has a fairly restricted colour range and is a good candidate for an indexed image. JPEG will squeeze it to about 40 kB but you have to be careful that the white text doesn’t go blue. webp brings it down to 25 kB with no loss of quality.

    I suspect the Stanford image would compress heavily as an indexed bitmap if you have the original. While the Lolo Jones image can also be shrunk, the biggest improvement for the page would be to put the images into sprites as mod_pagespeed does.

    @Steve: Accenture has been using the claim of “High performance. Delivered” since it was forcibly renamed from Andersen Consulting. As an outsourcing joint of dubious reputation I’m not sure if the claim is justified.

    HPC, standing for High Performance Computing, is the successor to the super computers of the 80s and 90s as embodied by the Top 500 list.

    Linguistically, performance is sufficiently vague as to be ideally suitable for marketing campaigns whether it be for Intel’s power-guzzling chips or their ARM antithesis; Oracle promises more performance than IBM but had to withdraw the advert. The ineluctable reference to theatre just brings the necessary irony so that looking for any kind of meme would be embarrassing. Nevertheless, I think your suggestions for the Velocity keynotes would be very interesting.