Why we built Firecracker & what's happening to Gunner Training

Posted by chat@firecracker.me on Dec 21, 2012 1:20:53 PM

Dearest Firecrackers,

Many of you are wondering why we invested so much into the new Firecracker platform, why we didn't just update Gunner Training (GT) and what's happening to GT. This post should answer your questions, but free to ask us anything in the comment section below. First, we will discuss GT's underlying technology platform and its shortcomings. Second, we will illustrate why we had to build a new platform. Third, we will tell you where we are with Firecracker and where we're headed. Finally, we will talk about why we need to shut down GT.

As you might imagine, modeling and predicting the way we learn and forget is tremendously complex. The way GT tackled this problem worked well when we had a few hundred users, “just” millions of data points and a fairly humble vision. Today, we’ve grown well beyond that and routinely handle billions of data points. At this level of performance, GT's technical infrastructure just doesn’t cut it. The chart below shows GT's server response times, which is a good proxy for application performance, programming code efficiency and page loading times.

There are two problems here. First, the average server processing time is around 1 second. This may not sound that bad, but this can result in page load times over 20 seconds long. Second, GT's performance is highly variable with server processing times spiking up to 3 seconds. Fundamentally, GT's codebase doesn't fit what we're trying to do.

Fortunately, we've learned a lot since GT was first launched. That's where Firecracker comes in. In addition to changing our name, we built a cutting-edge platform from the ground up. Firecracker uses the latest programming technologies including NoSQL databases, the latest frameworks, and best programming practices. This makes Firecracker the platform we can build our future on. This is best demonstrated by the fact that in the three weeks since Firecracker launched, we've updated it with Search and Review Schedule Customization. In the coming weeks you will be able to create a custom quiz, do any scheduled review questions in advance and track your performance by subject, sub-subject and even topic.

Another thing we’re very proud of is Firecracker’s lightning speed. Compare the graph below of Firecracker’s server response times to the one for GT. The average response time is around 1/6th of what it was on GT, and there is far less variability.

This brings us to our final topic: closing down GT. We need to close down GT because keeping it up consumes valuable time and resources that should be dedicated to Firecracker. But, and I can’t emphasize this enough, we will not close GT until we transfer everyone's notes, review schedules, score histories, and launch new and improved versions of every feature that you guys love on GT. If you have additional questions about the transfer of your GT data to Firecracker, please read this blog post.

Thank you for supporting our team during this transition. We couldn't be more excited about the future and look forward to being a part of your success.


Ben Williams
CEO, Firecracker

Topics: Platform, User Interface, New Features

Welcome to Firecracker

Firecracker is an adaptive learning platform that uses amazing content coupled with spaced repetition to help medical students crush their exams. We offer programs for both individual students, and entire medical schools. If you'd like to learn more contact us at chat@firecracker.me.

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