Quizlet Founder Shows His Team the Power and Speed of New Relic Insights

Quizlet-team small

Call it serendipity. The very day New Relic CEO Lew Cirne was debuting Insights in New York City, the young founder and CTO of Quizlet, Andrew Sutherland, was holding a hands-on demo for his programming team in San Francisco.

The leading digital study brand for U.S. students and a top 100 Web site with more than 20 million unique visitors, Quizlet lets students and teachers input material, and then automatically builds study tools, like flash cards, games, and audio prompts.

Quizlet has been a New Relic user for “so long we can’t remember what it was like before,” said Sutherland.  But after being an Insights beta user for just about a week, he was ready to gather his programming team and get everyone to log on to see for themselves just how powerful and easy it is to use Insights.  As the team clicked away on their laptops, he walked them through using the New Relic Query Language (NRQL) to create their own queries and dashboards, and fielded questions on how New Relic Insights can address the real-world issues facing the fast-growing company.

Sutherland-point smallAs an example, Sutherland showed how Insights addressed a problem the company has been trying to solve for a while. Quizlet generates text-to-voice lessons in 18 languages, and had struggled over the last week with a caching bug as they deployed a new server cluster to host the audio files. “We deployed [Insights] and right away it starting helping,“ Sutherland said. As the company worked to diagnose and fix the problem, “we were constantly checking this graph” to see how the changes they made were affecting caching performance. It was “super useful,” Sutherland said.

The CEO Perspective 

DaveMarguiles-quizlet small“This is really cool,” remarked Quizlet CEO Dave Margulius, who wanted to know if Insights could let him see user segmentation by activity or engagement: “What are the power users doing? What are their characteristics?  I want the software to tell me the answer by looking at the data and identifying coherent segments. To look at the segments and automatically create profiles of them.”

Sutherland replied that Insights can already get close to that, identifying the 10 users with the most activity in the last day. “I don’t know how to do that,” he said. “Let’s figure it out.”

He quickly sorted the data to find the 10 people who had the most page views in the last day, with the top user logging a whopping 3,000 page views! “What are they doing?” his team wondered. Is it a bot? Or someone sharing an account?

Deep Dives Into Data

“We can totally deep dive on this one person,” Sutherland said, “which is pretty fun.” With suggestions from the team, he quickly figured out that this user had 87 user IDs in a single day, most likely a teacher letting all his students use his account. “I don’t know if there’s anything we want to do about that,” laughed Sutherland. 

Sutherland also showed the team how to create dashboards in real time, and answered questions like, “What percentage of study sets are created by apps vs. created on the Web?” In less than a minute, he built a pie chart showing that 80% of sets were created on apps, just 20% on the Web. “Better yet”, he said, “I can just give this a name and add it to a dashboard and it will always be there.”

We love New Relic, said Margulius. “It’s always enabled us to do great stuff…  and Insights is awesome and really powerful.”

Read More

Read a blog post and case study on how Joyent and New Relic help Quizlet scale to meet user demand and diagnose performance issues in real time.


Fredric Paul (aka The Freditor) is Editor in Chief for New Relic. He's an award-winning writer, editor, and content strategist who has held senior editorial positions at ReadWrite, AllBusiness.com, InformationWeek, CNET, Electronic Entertainment, PC World, and PC|Computing. His writing has appeared in MIT Technology Review, Omni, Conde Nast Traveler, and Newsweek, among other places. View posts by .

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