No, I’m not starting a podcast, that’s better left to professionals. But I can show up on one, on occasion.
I’m proud of the work I did at WashU. They hired me to be “the WordPress guy,” and over time I built up a platform that was efficient, resilient, highly available. The main bottleneck was the “I” in that first sentence. Especially in the first year or two, there wasn’t a lot of not-Windows experience around, and most of the design decisions that I made were inherently limited by my own knowledge and skillset at the time.
Pagely is larger than WashU, in terms of the volume of traffic on their WordPress sites. As I write this, their home page lists clients including Disney, Cisco, and WB. They only started a couple years before I started at WashU, but they had the benefits of being a “they” — a group of smart people are going to generate better ideas than any one smart person can alone.
Obviously, some of the complexity is a matter of scale. The WashU environment I built effectively only had one customer (WashU itself), and only hosts a few hundred sites. Pagely has more customers than that, and many of them are bigger than WashU’s biggest sites. And they have to worry about things like “getting paid,” whereas being internal-only saves a lot of paperwork. But in the past week and a half, I think I’ve learned more about how to host WordPress sites at scale than I did in the ten years previous. I’m being exposed to so many new-to-me technologies and ideas. I feel overwhelmed and a bit stupid, and I’m fighting my fair share of impostor syndrome this week. But it will pass, and I’ll learn All. The. Things. and it will be great.
Just, please, host that site anywhere but here.— email received from Nearly Free Speech support staff
Well, if you insist…Continue reading “Review: Nearly Free Speech”
I recently worked, briefly, for Automattic (the company that hosts this Web site, and approximately a zillion others, and whose founder created the WordPress software that powers roughly 1/3 of the whole Web). This is part of their hiring process — they believe the best way to see how a candidate would work with them, is to have this candidate actually work with them on a trial basis. Given the unique nature of their work environment (they’re a global, distributed company with no offices to speak of), this is not only possible, but essential.
Automattic has a company creed (like a mission statement but longer), and part of it is:
I will communicate as much as possible, because it’s the oxygen of a distributed company.
That sentence, more than anything else, made me think the whole project might work out. Regrettably, my experience was utterly unlike anything I might have hoped for.
While most of Automattic uses Slack, the team I worked with is a holdout and communicates primarily with IRC — think Slack, but ephemeral, if you’re not old enough to remember IRC (also, get off my lawn). Because of Automattic’s globally distributed nature, most of the folks on my team were unavailable when I was able to work on my trial project, probably asleep. (I could only work on things during my evenings and weekends; most of this team is a few hours ahead of me.)
The other mechanism this team used for communication is a WordPress blog (of course) using the P2 theme. Nothing wrong with this in and of itself, of course; I’ve used P2 for other projects before. It’s good for status updates and checkins, but not so good for a knowledge base or for documentation. When I wrote posts describing my progress, and asking for information I needed to proceed with my project, in general I was met with silence. Once, after a week, one team member provided partial answers to some of my questions, which was as good as I ever got.
I don’t know if this was a unique trait of this team, or if the “creed” is a bit of overblown puffery, but if they treat communication as oxygen my experience was nothing short of suffocating.
No, not that Enterprise.
Nope. Try again.
This is about “the enterprise,” the notion of organizations that upgrade software less often than once every six weeks, and one vendor that wants to push things along, no matter the cost to the users…
Here’s a link to my slides for the #wcstl presentation “Making Simple Things Really Complicated: High Availability for WordPress”. Enjoy!
Someday soon, I’ll try to pull out the most important notes from the slides and put them here, to make the search engines happy. (Or can Google and friends handle PDFs these days? I really don’t know.)
If you have anything to do with building or maintaining a Web site these days, there’s a decent chance the site uses WordPress. One study shows WordPress being responsible for over half of the 100 most popular blogs online. Another source from two years ago says WordPress is the engine for over 60 million Web sites. If you’ve used it, you probably aren’t too surprised by that; WordPress is pretty awesome.
Like any software, WordPress has to be maintained (at least a little bit, for security updates and such). And if you only have one site, or a few sites, that’s easy enough – log in every so often, hit the “Updates” link in the dashboard, and call it a day. But what if you work for a hosting company, or you’re a consultant/freelancer, and find yourself with fifty or more sites? That’s a lot of clicking.
Continue reading “Managing Dozens of WordPress Sites with InfiniteWP”