As many of you have noticed, during the last couple of weeks TypePad performance has not been what we aspire to and you pay for. While I am as displeased as you, at the current time I can do nothing more than apologize -- a weak sentiment without action to back it up. Ben has been in the midst of understanding and fixing the problems so I have asked him to write an update on the situation and tell you what we are doing to get back to the great service you have come to expect.
This has been a bad month for TypePad's performance and general availability, and I'd like to talk about a number of the issues we've faced, how frustrated they make us, and what we're doing about them.
For some background: TypePad-hosted blogs are, to say the least, incredibly popular, and growing at an incredible rate. We're currently pushing about 250mbps of traffic through our multiple network pipes, and that's growing by 10-20% each month. (If you're more familiar with bandwidth stated in terms of transfer allowances, that's a transfer rate of almost 3TB (terabytes!) per day.) And because TypePad customers are so invested in their blogs, we see activity on the service-both reading & writing-that equals services with 100 times the number of users on TypePad.
"Building on Movable Type" is a series written for those who want to dive a little deeper into the Movable Type code base and learn how to build more integrated and dynamic plugins and applications on top of the Movable Type platform. In the second article of the series we learn how to re-use parts of Movable Type's code to store and retrieve custom user preferences.
In my first iterations of Media Manager I had display preferences that allowed the user to select how many items the user would like to be displayed on a page, and also to select between one of two display modes: a compact tabular view, or a more detailed view that included thumbnails of the items on the user‚Äôs media queue. To be honest, the implementation was somewhat of a nuisance, because:
- It required me to persist the state of the user‚Äôs options across multiple forms and pages using hidden form elements and query string parameters, which was highly error prone and fragile if I ever forgot to do it properly.
- The user‚Äôs selection was forgotten as soon as they left Media Manager.
- The options crowded and already cramped user interface.
Then my friend and co-worker Jamison made a very good suggestion suggestion, ‚Äúwhy don‚Äôt you create something like the ‚Äòdisplay options‚Äô widget found on any of Movable Type‚Äôs tables?ÔøΩ?
I must admit, I was hesitant at first because I didn‚Äôt want to cut and paste large pieces of code from MT into Media Manager when I already had a solution that worked. But a couple of iterations later, maintaining my first implementation finally took its toll. I finally relented and decided to take a look into what it would take. What I found is that reusing the display options widget is not only easy, it can be done with virtually no copying and pasting.
For the first four years of Ben's life, Ben would just point and grunt as his preferred method of communication. As a result, Ben's parents worried that he was developmentally challenged in some way and that he'd never learn to talk.
Then, one day he suddenly started speaking in complete sentences and all was well.
This story sums Ben's personality up perfectly. Unless he can form a perfect thought or statement, he won't usually talk. And, unless he feels like he has something worthwhile to say, he's fine just listening.
Then, there's me. I often find myself blurting out whatever comes into my mind, be it relevant or a complete non sequitur.
While Ben and I are extremely different in our conversational behaviors, we do share two major traits: (1) We're both horrible at making small talk with acquaintances or strangers (2) We're sometimes painfully shy to the point that we can't approach anyone -- no matter if we really want to speak with them.
During the last four years, we've had to learn to get over these shortcomings and it's been fairly difficult. I think it's only been in the last year that I've gained enough confidence to be able to approach someone at a conference or event and not feel paralyzed with the fear that the person has no desire to talk or interact with me.
The reason I write about this is because of an observation I made during Web 2.0. In reflecting on why more people seemed to speak me, I realized that it was directly related to the amount of effort I made in reaching out to other people. It's a "no d'uh" sort of discovery, but one that has taken a long time to reach.
From my experiences attending marketing conferences and executive conferences, I can say that when I attend technology conferences, the attendees are a very unique beast. You've got brilliant people mixed with brilliant, wealthy people mixed in with brilliant people who have an ample sprinkling of socially dysfunctional traits. I won't claim that I'm brilliant or wealthy, but I've got my good share of social dysfunction. The bad part is that this dysfunction can come across as standoffishness.
I've been trying to figure out what exactly made Web 2.0 different enough that I was more comfortable approaching people. Funnily enough, it wasn't the attendees or the schedule or anything about Six Apart -- it was something quite accidental, I think. The conference was incredibly crowded and the space didn't accommodate the numbers of attendees well. It was almost impossible not to bump into someone. Stressful at times, if you're a tad bit claustrophobic, the confined space forced people to mingle more. I'm not sure I'd recommend small spaces, large groups as a recipe for interaction but I think that for this conference (going for the vibe that there is a lot of buzz and activity right now), it worked.
Many of you have seen the Fuji blimp hovering above your cities and big sporting events, but did you know that it's got a blog of its own? Indeed.
The Movable-Type powered Fuji Blimp Captain's Blog (insert Star Trek joke here) details its trips around the U.S., including what has to be the best view for whale watching. What's more, it gives you an opportunity to ask all of those questions about blimps that you may have saved up over the course of your lifetime, including "Hey buddy, can I get a lift"?
We at Six Apart would just like welcome the crew of the Fuji Blimp to the Movable Type community and extend a gracious invitation to visit our offices if you're ever in San Francisco. Or, you know, we'd be happy to try out a little moblogging from the air...
As promised, I offer some brief impressions of the Web 2.0 conference that O'Reilly held last week in San Francisco. A very worthwhile conference with a buzz I've never quite experienced before. There's definitely a lot of life right now in our space and O'Reilly and Battelle were able to capture it well.
That Stepford Feeling
Picture a combination of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Stepford Wives. But instead of aliens or robots, they were Yahoo! and Google employees. Where did all my friends go and who are these people now wearing purple and yellow?
Can you believe it's October already? Time has flown by at an incredible pace and we're a little late putting our September monthly update up. But as the saying goes, better late than never.
Project Comet unveiled at DEMOFall Conference
We gave the audience at the DEMOfall conference a sneak preview of the developments of Six Apart’s Project Comet at this year’s DEMOfall. Mena, Ben and Mena’s Mom did a great job on stage and Mena's mother even won a coveted DEMOgod award! You can watch the DEMO yourself and read about Mena’s experience at the conference. Be sure to sign-up for all the news about our exciting new platform.
The Webzine conference came to town this month and we really enjoyed participating and getting a chance to spend some face to face time with the Zine crowd. The Six Apart staff was in full force and our Jay Allen and Brad Fitzpatrick participated in sessions.
LiveJournal – it’s cool to blog at school
With school starting again, the LiveJournal team launched an overwhelmingly popular new schools feature -- a new feature that enables LiveJournalers to add a school to their profile and easily create school-oriented communities. Check out the Schools Directory to see if your school is listed.
TypePad - Give a gift and get a tip
The TypePad Team launched the Give the Gift of a Blog promotion -- a great gift to give to those friends and family members whom you've been trying to get to keep a blog.
The TypePad team also unveiled TypePad's Tip Jar feature this month. With the tightly integrated Tip Jar, TypePad members can receive monetary tips from their readers, a great way to subsidize your TypePad account.
Over in Europe
The European team continues to evangelize weblogging throughout Europe and have launched four new TypePad services, including a brand new portal for VNU UK. Additionally, plans are underway for the second Les Blogs conference on December 5th and 6th.
The August release of Movable Type 3.2 generated great enthusiasm here in the states, and interest continues to build. Our Japanese subsidiary launched Movable Type 3.2 in Japan during the last week of September. Our own Dash-san was over in Japan to participate in the launch.
We were proud and amazed to see the role that blogging, and specifically LiveJournal, TypePad and Movable Type have played in the hurricane relief efforts. We have featured a number of these blogs on the TypePad home page and Movable Type news. For those of you who wish to add a Hurricane Relief badge to your weblogs, we created a badge to help you in your donation efforts.
See you in October!
I've got a lot to say about the Web 2.0 conference that I've been attending this week in San Francisco. But before I take time to write a longer post, I've just got to clarify one thing I said in my panel today.
During the course of talking about weblogging and how communication has evolved, I made a comment that (as usual) didn't come out as I planned. Instead, I sounded like I said using LiveJournal is like smoking pot. What I meant to say was a summary of what Andre Torrez said on his weblog the other day:
Webloggers of 1999 don't equal bloggers in 2005. I really need to accept it and move on. I recently found out that a few people had migrated to LiveJournal (yes, LiveJournal. Really!) because they could set controls on who could read and have more freedom to write about things they didn't want etched in Google for eternity.
I was kind of shocked when saw the names of people who were on it. It's like when you're wandering around the party thinking people had gone home and then you find them all in the back-room smoking pot and giggling at a television that isn't even on.
The way we blog and communicate is changing and our own online practices are changing. The idea that there is still a conversation going on -- it's just morphing into something different -- is something worth talking about.
Anyway, just a clarification. More to come later.
When people hear the words ‚ÄúMovable Type" more often than not they think about blogging. This is, of course, absolutely correct, because in its heart Movable Type is first and foremost blogging software. But at its core, Movable Type is so much more than that.
Ben and Mena envisioned Movable Type not just as a piece of blogging software, but as a ‚ÄúPublishing Platform." But what does that mean?
Movable Type provides a number of different mechanisms for developers to extend Movable Type‚Äôs functionality in order to create cool new template tags and text filters to control the content published to a blog, callback hooks for data pre- and post-processing, and plugin actions to surface links and functionality deep within the application.
This is the first in a series of articles in which I relate some of my own experiences while building Media Manager, a Movable Type plugin that allows users to manage a queue of books, CDs, DVDs, and virtually anything within Amazon‚Äôs product catalog. In the process I will share with you what I have learned about Movable Type‚Äôs architecture, tips and tricks on how to integrate with Movable Type more seamlessly, and how you can make the most out of the Movable Type as a software platform.
Movable Type is far more than blogging software, it is a publishing platform. And for developers, it offers a robust framework for building not just "plugins" but entire applications.
This is the first in a series of articles where we discuss how more complex applications can be built using the Movable Type Platform. Using the Media Manager plugin as an example we will share code samples, discuss the underpinnings of Movable Type’s architecture, and show how you can make the most of Movable Type as a software platform.
It's October, which means it's officially be-retrospective-about-the-company month at Six Apart. We've got a lot of big milestones to celebrate in October, including the release of Movable Type in 2001, the release of TypePad in 2003 and the August Capital funding in 2004.
It's quite unbelievable that we've been doing this for four years.
In the last four years, I've told the story of Six Apart a lot. To keep the story somewhat fresh, I often try to recount a different anecdote each time I tell it. Often this causes me to go off the rails and start talking about the actual food I ate when we first met with Joi and Barak or the price of the first mini-refrigerator we bought when we moved into the first office.
One question I haven't been asked in long time was asked yesterday: At any point, did I ever want to just walk away from the company?
Until now, I don't think I have publicly written about many of the details of my life within Six Apart during the early years -- namely the four months prior to and after the initial TypePad launch. During this time, the stress that Ben and I experienced caused me to fall into a major depression in 2003 and I often did want to walk away from it all.
I often joke that entrepreneurs must have the same sort of hormone that tricks women into forgetting just how painful childbirth can be. If you can't remember the pain, then you'll reproduce again and again. The fact that I could even imagine starting another company leads me to think my brain has secreted enough chemicals to block out the fact that running a start-up or web service can really suck sometimes.
But it's amazing as well -- that's why we've been doing it for four years.
When I started my first blog, dollarshort.org, in April of 2001 I was twenty-three and in a nice little rut. Writing dollarshort.org was probably one of my biggest life-changing events -- not only did my blog allow me to make some of my closest friends but I was finally given that creative outlet I so needed. I think the same thing can be said about Six Apart.
Now that we're in October, I'd like to write a series of posts about the past the four years -- posts about the lessons we've learned and the experiences that we may not have talked about in too much detail.
And if you've got a question that you'd like me to answer about the past four years of Six Apart, I'd be interested in hearing it as well.
Ning has just launched their namesake service. Though it meets all the superficial standards for Web 2.0 buzzword compliance, including tag clouds, a beta badge, and name-checks of Flickr and del.icio.us, it looks like there's some real substance to this new application-building platform as well.