He made a Bernie Meme viral site. Now he must continue

At 21h AND last night Nick Sawhney knew he was in trouble.

Just half an hour earlier, still imbued with the afterglow of Joe Biden’s inauguration, Sawhney had uploaded a website that allows you to put a viral image of Bernie Sanders – sitting, mittens, alone – at the top. any Google Street View image. The meme had already come to a head, with Photoshop loyalists placing the Vermont Senator in everything since Mortal combat at Nighthawks at Diner. But Sawhney’s creation, born out of a group chat with friends, added layers of personalization, ease of use and absurdity; because he fixes Sanders in the same coordinates regardless of his location, he sometimes appears to be floating, or sitting on a car, or in an otherwise unlikely orientation.

The site first gained ground on Twitter; friends retweet, then friends of friends. A few verified accounts have joined us. And then, as wonderful, perfectly synchronized internet creations do, it snowballed.

Bernie near the Golden Gate Bridge.

Photograph: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / Getty Images; Nick Sawhney; Google

“I was freaking out because I was like, oh my god I’m going viral,” says Sawhney, who is a New York University graduate student by day focused on artificial intelligence and the machine learning. “And then I panicked because I had to stop the site from crashing.”

By 9 p.m. ET, it had already passed the free tier offered by Heroku, the cloud platform Sawhney uses to host the site. At 9:27 p.m., as requests piled up, he tweeted, “Oh my god oh god damn google dot com how to quickly scale the heroku app.” A Heroku employee saw it by chance; within an hour, Sawhney was on a video call with one of the company’s engineers, seeking to keep his hastily built ship afloat.

“If I had known it was going to be trafficking, I would have made each decision completely differently,” says Sawhney. “When it blew up, I realized that a website isn’t just about writing the code and putting it there.

Bernie at Walmart.

Photograph: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / Getty Images; Nick Sawhney; Google

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