An interesting day in the neighbors and family department. My parents told me that they want to start a website. My father is a college professor, my mother a school psychologist. They both write and teach. They have ideas about how education can work better. When I saw them in October, I said they could start a website. They didn't seem to understand why. My mother called today to say she had a great idea. "I want to start a website!" she said. "Good idea," I said. So now you're going to get two more Winers. Oy. I wonder if they have a clue what they're getting into. Actually, I wonder if I do.
BTW, my uncle, who is not a Winer (he's a Kiesler) already has a website. I think it was the third Manila site, after Dan Gillmor's and Buck's.
Meanwhile a neighbor has been trying, in his spare time, to build an application on Windows that connects Filemaker and Microsoft Chart. He wants to build orgcharts of all his companies and keep them current. He called today to find out if I knew how to do this. I don't, I'm a Web-scripter-only these days. But I said I'd try to find someone to work with him. If you know VBA or something like that and have time this weekend, I promise it'll be interesting. I asked if he would pay, he said yes. Send me email if you can help. (They also use Macs, so if you have a way to do it with AppleScript or Frontier, that would be OK too. Hmm. I wonder if it would work with Frontier on Windows? Now I'm getting interested.)
Finally I'm going to a SuperBowl party at Woz's with Paul Andrews formerly of the Seattle Times. Should be an interesting weekend.
Brent: "Here's a real-life tale of customer support. The URLs have been changed to protect the innocent."
Guardian: "Old hands of the Clinton administration yesterday said that when they took over the White House from Mr Bush's father's administration in 1993, they also found a few unpleasant surprises left by the previous tenants - including in several desk drawers a prophetic note inscribed: 'We'll be back.'"
Tonight's song: The Other One, instrumental, very rhythmic and spacy, you can listen to it many times, enjoy something new every time. Tomorrow's song is going to be Crazy Fingers from Blues for Allah. Totally mesmerizing. Very Weather Reportish. Jazzy and bright.
Like Vignette, Broadvision has become gloomy.
I obscured this guy's name for obvious reasons.
News.Com: "People who want to throw stones at Microsoft should realize that they also live in glass houses."
Scott Rosenberg: "When Microsoft fell off the grid, its first reaction was to cover its butt."
Wired: "Microsoft's practice of staying silent until -- and if -- it's ready to speak angered many who felt that they'd been left to pick up the pieces this week after the software giant took a tumble."
OK, in the spirit of the above article, while Microsoft was scrambling to put its online empire back together, we were doing the same with our little village. We were pretty lucky this time. But..
There were three sites we weren't able to fully recover in yesterday's crash. One of them was Rollberg News by Jorg Kantel. In a post on the Manila-Newbies list I said: "We tried to piece it together the best we could but major parts of the site were damaged beyond repair. We didn't know who to contact or if the site was active. Same with the other two sites. I'm sure this is no consolation for you, but I wish it had been my site instead of yours."
Where we're at
Now as CEO of UserLand, I want to comment. Take the current motto of this site seriously. As you use Manila daily, it's easy to be lulled into the belief that there's a magic thing going on that keeps your data safe. There is no such magic. We back up every night, but it's possible for us to back up a bad version of a database. At that point we cannot restore from a backup, and content, perhaps whole sites, will be lost. It happened yesterday to Rollberg News. It could have been any site. It was totally random.
Further, the system is only as good as the people running it. We have very good people at UserLand, but we're just human, and we make mistakes. We have been working long hours without enough compensation or vacations for years. It takes a toll, we get less reliable as time goes by. Human error was a factor in yesterday's outage. A database reached its size limit. The software does a somewhat decent job of dealing with this situation, but it could do better. We're going to put in some new alarms that go off as yesterday's situation approaches. And if it happens that we miss the alarm, the server will shut down immediately and automatically so no further damage will occur. (Murphy-willing of course.)
Now that's a band-aid, what are we really going to do about this situation?
There will come a time, probably not that far away, when we will ask people to transition to a new way to work on their UserLand-hosted Manila sites, where the data is stored on your computers, and only renderings are stored on ours. You will be able to back up your own data, and you will be able to transfer it to other software if you choose to, or render it through a variety of protocols, including FTP, to another server altogether. We think this is the responsible way forward, and one that will be good for our business. That's why we're working so hard, while keeping the servers running, to get Radio done, with its "desktop website" approach to content creation
Yesterday I received a few emails from people asking where our Tipjar is. I appreciate the sentiment, but.. I'm not interested in tips, yet. Think about it this way. When you go for a meal at a restaurant you get a bill, which you pay, and you may if you choose, leave a tip. I'm interested in earning money, not having it given as a gratuity. Think about Stephen King's experiment last year to get paid for writing stuff that's distributed through the Internet. He wasn't asking for tips, he was asking to be paid. That has integrity. Asking for only a tip acknowledges somehow that the work itself isn't worthy. Our work is very good and worthwhile. So I will appreciate tips from paying customers who are happy with the service, but first we have to bill for it.
Another option open to Manila users is to purchase a license for Frontier and operate a server yourself. It's not that hard to do, and it's not very expensive. One $2000 W2K box can serve a thousand sites. Add connectivity and software expenses, I would guess the first year the server would cost about $5000. That's $5 per site in the first year. In the second year it would be even less expensive. Such a server would carry a much lighter load than UserLand's servers. A safer backup policy could be implemented.
Someone's going to say we should offer $5 sites, but no way. We're not a service business, although almost by accident we have become one. Oy. We make software. We love doing that. Operating free or even inexpensive public servers is a whole different thing.
There will be more to say about this in the coming weeks as we Get Real, and back onto a solid foundation, professionally, financially, and personally.
One thing is really noticable -- no flames. Thank you.
A couple of questions came about Manila. Its future is strong. Only now is it becoming clear to so many others how rational a product it is. Unlike other free hosting services, we license our software. We want people to start Manila sites. But it isn't rational for us to offer free hosting indefinitely -- for a lot of reasons.
Anyway, thanks for the good vibes. Let's keep diggin and writing.
Doc's friend Craig
Doc Searls quotes a friend of his, Craig Burton, who sees the Internet as a donut.
I immediately understood and agreed. It is a donut. It's a layered donut.
At the core, where there is nothing, is the first TCP packet to go from one place to another.
One ring out, again, empty space, is the first email message.
In the same ring, the first DNS lookup.
Then the first Usenet group, then the next 10 Usenet groups, then the next 1000 groups and so on, and at the edge of these rings, it's starting to gain some substance, not just be empty space.
Then we start getting into the solid rings, the Web browser, email clients, chat systems, content tools, scripting languages, the things that most people use now.
There are rings beyond, that are starting to form, and as they gain substance, the next-inner rings will start to fade. At the edge of substance is Manila. It's coming into existence. In the last few weeks there has been a deluge of new free sites, the same wave that hit Blogger earlier. We see it in the migration of people from other communities. As word spreads "Hey there's something neat going on here" more and more sites get created.
And that's cool, we just need to deploy the servers more fully.
Imagine if everyone used one mail server or one DNS server.
You wouldn't want to do that.
So here we go!
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