The mailing list? Twitter feed, a special sign up for lotto list? All possible, but extremely easy to cheat, I have no less than 5 unique IP addresses that I can easily use with unique addresses to cheat a lotto system. Or maybe using a raffle to do the lotto? That's unfavorably biased towards the rich.
I think it would have been reasonable to just quietly announce 'Raspberry Pis are here! We're going to do a lottery for them! Sign up before 2012-xx-xx here:' and collect information. It could be gamed, but it should be easy to cull all but the most dedicated. You could mitigate it a bit, and bias it towards the long-waiters by giving those on the various mailing lists precedence in the lottery or such. If you took it all the way to collecting billing information it should be easy to cull most duplicate orders.
Alternatively you could just do a 'pre order lottery' where you'd take orders for x days, and after that time, close the ordering and fulfill what you got in random order. Pretty easy and fair.
Anyway, the main point was just to do something to spread the load around and reduce the 'everyone at once' effect, which honestly would bring down almost any online retailer that didn't specifically plan for the event in advance (which clearly these two did not), and would have at 'mailing list' levels too. There are of course other options, but spreading the load out is the simplest, cheapest, and least likely to fail. Dumping those users on a web store that really doesn't handle huge volumes of transactions with vague instructions is about the worst choice possible.
it was 700 people per second on just one of the sites and that was the people that could get through, the rest of us who wanted to express interest on that site were stuck seeing a connection error screen!
Right, which is totally expected given the way the launch was done. Saying 'oh we had too much load' when the way you launched was pretty much engineered to generate that kind of load is pretty disingenuous.
With only a bunch of people dedicating their free time, that regrettably did not lend itself to a host of solutions.
Yeah, I heard this deal was put together relatively last minute as well, and with the launch 'delays' already I can see how it got to the point where they just decided to get the thing out the door. Still don't think anyone should have been surprised (except the poor sysadmins at Farnell and RS, mind you) though.
Anyway, I agree. There's really little point in discussing the way it was handled. It's done, the first boards are spoken for. I'm actually pretty impressed how quickly Farnell got its site back on its feet. I'm sure their load was still many times normal for the rest of the day, and a few hours after the *ahem* event, they were responding pretty well. Those poor guys that got paged at 6:01 though, gotta feel for them, what a terrible way to wake up . Done that - but definitely haven't been there.