Burndown for Trello gets flame decals!

Not literally… but we made the site faster! Our app that makes burndown charts for Trello has received a number of improvements in the past couple of weeks. A couple of days ago, we made the AJAX requests take about 1/7th of the time that they took previously. The enormous Trello board that we used for testing went from taking 14 seconds to load, to taking 1 to 2 seconds.

The changes that we made only took a couple of hours, so I figured I’d share a few quick tips so that you can get a Pareto-style improvement in your backend-performance too.

We started with a simple open source PHP profiler that I released a few years ago. The only catch is that our slow request was an AJAX call… so I added a small javascript function that can be used to wrap AJAX urls, so that the URL parameter for profiling gets passed to those calls to.

 * Makes the URL profilable by the same system as the pages:
 * if profling was enabled via URL param on this run, adds the param to the URL.
function profilable(url){
		var delim = ((url.indexOf("?") === -1) ? "?" : "&");
		url += delim + "RUN_PROFILER=" + getURLParameter('RUN_PROFILER');
	return url;
// From http://stackoverflow.com/a/8764051/684852
function getURLParameter(name) {
	return decodeURIComponent((new RegExp('[?|&]' + name + '=' + '([^&;]+?)(&|#|;|$)').exec(location.search)||[,""])[1].replace(/\+/g, '%20'))||null;

Then anytime that you make an ajax call, just wrap the URL in “profilable()” like this:

$.post(profilable("./myAjaxEndpoint.php"), { someVar: 'someValue' }, callbackFunction, "json").error(errorHandler);

That will pass the RUN_PROFILER=true url params to the ajax endpoint. The other half of the equation is to make sure the profiling info comes back in the ajax request. As you will see from the a original post about the profiler, to get the profiling output as HTML, just call profiler_printResults() somewhere that is safe to output HTML. If the profiling isn’t enabled (eg: by the URL parameters), there will be no output.

Fortunately our ‘ajax’ is not using XML, but rather JSON which contains some HTML… so we just called profiler_printResults() right in our AJAX endpoint and the HTML in the result gets injected into the page along with the rest of the result.

To see the profiling in action, hit this URL:


php_profiler_outputThe initial page is very light (all of the heavy lifting is done by asynchronous javascript), so there is only a small table on the first request. Once you “Connect to Trello” and then view one of your trello boards, there will be quite a bit of detail below your board’s info. Just remember that the “Totals” row is the sum of all items, and since many functions are nested inside of each other, there will be a lot of double-counting… the actual time for the backend request is what comes after “Total runtime” below the table of data.

It took only a couple of hours to pull in the open source PHP profiler, add the _begin/_end hooks to our code, write the javascript code to pass the variable along to the backend, and then actually use the profiling output to identify some easy-win hotspots and get an 85% reduction in runtime for that request.

I hope it has a similar return-on-investment for you! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *