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About that Second “S” in SaaS – Awesome Service

pressharbor ”There is an app for that” – say the Apple commercials.  “There is a plugin for that” – was my conclusion, while lookin for the rigth tools to move the Enterprise Irregulars blog to WordPress a few months ago.  Seriously.  The WordPress ecosystem is simply amazing, things that a few years ago required messing with code are now a click away: – modern themes are no longer just pretty layouts, but perform quite a bit of processing, and whatever they don’t have – well, there is a plugin for that.:-)

Such is the power of Open Source and a thriving ecosystem. But all this openness and richness of choice comes with a price: it takes a lot of digging, testing, and even more luck to find the right ones that actually deliver what they claim without messing up your theme and other plugins.  And even if you find the right ones, they all come out with new releases from time to time, and every single update, be it WordPress itself, the theme, the plugins is a hidden trap. Things can stop mysteriously overnight – as they did over @ Enterprise Irregulars a week ago, when I was alerted that our feed was all blank. The EI blog is based on the powerful but rather complex Hybrid News Theme with 21 active plugins which work in concert to aggregate the writing of 40+ authors.  And sometimes one little wheel gets stuck – what happens next is what separates good hosts from poor ones.  Or should I say, separates simple hosts from service providers. Service, as the second S in SaaS. :-)

Normally the choice is simple: you either use WordPress.com – free, powerful, great platform, with preset choices for themes, widgets..etc – or opt for self-hosting in the Open World – with all the power to install whatever you want, but also out in the wild alone in a complex world.  (Geez, where did I hear that last… ahh, the great  iPhone vs. Android debate, perhaps? :-) )   Now, back to hosts: I’ve been blessed with a smaller, but amazingly good host providing extraordinary, personalized service for five years now. Owner and jack-of-all-trades John Keegan helped my with the old (dying) Blogware platform, then through the migration of my personal blog to WordPress, and ever since – so moving EI to Pressharbor was a no-brainer.

So last Sunday (yes, a SUNDAY) I turned to John again… he dug into the problem, and soon found that a rogue plugin attached custom enclosure fields to some posts, with garbled content that Feedburner choked on, wiping out our RSS feed. John then got on Skype and held my hand step by step removing the erroneous fields, until the feed got cleared up.  Sounds easy enough… in hindsight.   It would have taken me hours / days of research and frustration to restore the lost functionality.   It’s not the first time and likely not the last I received support way beyond what can be expected of a regular web hosting company.  Help with security, performance, database tuning should be standard (is it?)  but detailed plugin-level help?  No way.  How about WordPress upgrades?  I don’t even  know what they are.  In fact I got upgraded to WP 3.0 while writing this post. Not amongst the first .. only after thorough testing did  Pressharbor upgrade all of us, centrally.  I’m lucky enough to have the best of both world – the power of Open Source and great, personalized support.  A big, capital S – the second S in Software as a Service.

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Implementing DISQUS

SIERRA MADRE, CA - MAY 29:  Seventieth anniver...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Quick note: I’m in the process of implementing DISQUS now.  (Thanks for the help, Daniel!) Thousands of comments are being imported, but they don’t show under the relevant posts yet. Also, DISQUS labeled a few hundred comments as spam – I need to manually comb through those.

So if you commented here before and don’t see your comment now – apologies, hope to sort this out soon.

Update (1/29):  Pre-DISQUS comments are in the system but they don’t show for some reason.  Bear with me for a while – either we’ll have a fix or I’m removing DISQUS soon.

Update #2: Removed DISQUS, due to ongoing SPAM trouble.  I may write more on this one day…

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Is There a New Twitter to Blog Spam Bot?

An older post, If Scoble Thinks He Found Bad Startup Marketing, He Ain’t Seen Nothing received several comments, all showing the same structure, pointing back to Twitter accounts – some are clearly spam accounts with only this one update, but others appear to be real users, although I am not following any of them.

lbfd (LBFD) | January 13th, 2009 at 6:58 pm e

This is a test.

(This appears to be a spam account with no real content.)

aleslie2 (Art Leslie) | January 13th, 2009 at 7:59 pm e

Hmmm … tweet completely disappeared. This is a test.

(This appears to be a real account.)

bisfourbritt (bisfourbritt) | January 13th, 2009 at 9:52 pm e

This is a test. Nd it ends with no friends. We will go on…..untl it hurts

Zonin with loud shit tonightt hah

(This appears to be a real account.)

radiomanmic (Michael Grider) | January 13th, 2009 at 11:28 pm e

This is a test. Don’t mind me, I’m just passing through.

(This appears to be a real account.)

deborahgtaylor (deborahgtaylor) | January 14th, 2009 at 6:10 am e

Is going to Brenham for a quilting lesson. This is a test.

(This appears to be a real account.)

cineola (cineola) | January 14th, 2009 at 7:14 am e

This is a test.

(This appears to be a spam account with no real content.)

Is there some new Twitter-to-Blog spam bot that I am not aware of?

Update:   There’s more now, on another post:

lbfd (LBFD) | January 13th, 2009 at 6:58 pm e

This is a test.

aleslie2 (Art Leslie) | January 13th, 2009 at 7:59 pm e

Hmmm … tweet completely disappeared. This is a test.

bisfourbritt (bisfourbritt) | January 13th, 2009 at 9:52 pm e

This is a test. Nd it ends with no friends. We will go on…..untl it hurts

Zonin with loud shit tonightt hah

radiomanmic (Michael Grider) | January 13th, 2009 at 11:28 pm e

This is a test. Don’t mind me, I’m just passing through.

deborahgtaylor (deborahgtaylor) | January 14th, 2009 at 6:10 am e

Is going to Brenham for a quilting lesson. This is a test.

cineola (cineola) | January 14th, 2009 at 7:14 am e

This is a test.

sztelzer (Rodrigo Sztelzer) | January 14th, 2009 at 11:18 am e

Só bebo tequila. This is a test.This is a test.
http://tinyurl.com/7jww4a Só beberei tequila.

In the meantime I disabled the Tweetbacks WordPress Plugin, which had not properly installed anyway, to see if it has anything to do with the attack.

UpdateFollow-up thoughts @ CloudAve.

Related posts:

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Credit Crunch Has Reached Bloggers

The Credit Crunch has reached the Blogosphere: it is now a WordPress Theme by Ericulous, developer of the lightweight theme I use here.

I have not found a "Recession" WordPress theme (yet), but there is one called Depression.smile_omg

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Am I Really So Sexy? C’mon…

Well, thank you all for finding me so sexy (blush, blush) that even my face pic is considered x-rated.  From somebody else I might even consider it a compliment, but it comes from  Gravatar, an “Automattic Joint”:

Which is why my gravatar does not show on WordPress blogs.  I’ve never thought one day I’d be caught by porn-filters. smile_sad

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Cloud Computing and Open Source are Not Enemies

Richard Stallman at DTU in Denmark 2007/03/31

Image via Wikipedia

Are Open Source and Cloud Computing anachronistic enemies? You’d think so, if you read GNU creator Richard Stallman’s interview in The Guardian:

Cloud computing was simply a trap aimed at forcing more people to buy into locked, proprietary systems that would cost them more and more over time.

"It’s stupidity. It’s worse than stupidity: it’s a marketing hype campaign," 

Sure, there’s a lot of marketing hype as it is typical with any major technological advancement, especially as it reaches the peak of its hype cycle.    But I think Stallman loses sight of who the “enemy” is.

Read more here

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Google Chrome is Now a WordPress Theme, Too

Here’s a lightweight WP Theme inspired by Google Chrome – by ericulous, author of my current theme, Genkitheme:

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Why Can’t WordPress 2.5.2 Display Bulletpoints?

  • They show in the wysiwyg editor – wordpress or offline
  • The proper code shows in html view
  • The bulletpoints flash up for a split second when displaying the blog post…
  • Then they disappear

The above lines are all bulleted – except WordPress 2.5.2 can’t display them. Does anyone know why?

Update (6/5): Well, apparently Stuart does. In a comment below he explains:

The Newsgator widget is inserting the following CSS which is disabling the bullets:
li {
list-style-type: none;
list-style-image: none;
list-style-position: outside;
}

Oops. I thought it was specific to the latest WP release, as I’ve only noticed this error recently. The Enterprise Irregular badge (the one from NewsGator) has been on my sidebar for a long time without causing any problems, so they must have changed something very recently.

I temporarily disabled the widget and bullets are displayed correctly, which confirms that Stuart is right. I am going to re-enable the widget (and thus kill bullets) hoping that NewsGator will soon fix the problem.

Update #2:  NewsGator fixed the issue in a  matter of hours.  Thanks, guys, now we have our ammo bullets back.

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Facebook Runs a Sweatshop – Literally

Facebook runs a sweatshop – literally. The evidence is in the yellow circle on this Valleywag-supplied photo of their Palo Alto office space.

While employees are struggling with the heat, CEO Mark Zuckerberg is clearly wearing shoes instead of his trademark Adidas flip-flops at the D6 conference in Carlsbad (photo by Dan Farber):

Therein lies the solution: bring the flip-flops back. But don’t stop there: mandate beach-wear in the office. An amazingly simple solution to many of Facebooks problems:

  • - No more heat problem
  • - Increased employee morale, probably enough for them to forget about revoked housing subsidy
  • - Additional incentive to stay in the office longer
  • - Reduced energy bill
  • - Going Green is trendy, there’s another $5B added to their valuation.

I’m a genius. Sending Zuck a $10K consulting invoice. island

Update: Why can’t WordPress 2.5 dislay bulletpoints properly?

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Matt Mullenweg and other Celebs on the SVASE Panel: Funding 2.0, How To Build A High Growth Startup Fast And Cheap.

  For all my love and support of SVASE, I sometimes complain that the monthly “Main Events” are a bit cut-and-dry.  Well, that will certainly not be the case tomorrow: star-power, money, frugality are all well represented on the panel discussing  Funding 2.0 – How To Build A High Growth Startup Fast And Cheap.

Matt Mullenweg started Automattic on a shoestring, and his product, WordPress became the most popular blog platform  before he and his company accepted major funding.  

Peter Yared, ActiveGrid’s Founder isn’t exactly unknown, either, although he is no listed as Founder & CEO, wdgtbldr.  WTF? – you might ask, but that’s a company name. His website says: ps: pls snd vwls.  We don’t get a lot smarter from this… but his LinkedIn profile reveals the company name as iWidgets, and his motto is:

The first rule of iWidgets is you don’t talk about iWidgets.

Naval Ravikant has been called a lot of names: Venturebeat labeled him: Crazy Man, his website is StartupBoy, and he is a Partner, at The Hit Forge:

The Hit Forge is a group of entrepreneurial engineers building mass-market web properties. We are owners of our companies, share common tools and code, and have enough money to fund dozens of attempts to find the next big hit. We don’t get locked into failed projects, we replace pointy-haired MBAs with modern web marketing, and we share stock so that if one of us wins, everybody wins.

Oh, and since I am a SaaS fanboy, here’s another acronym: CaaS, as in Capital as a Service (although Shai Agassi would disagreesmile_wink) .

Mike Cassidy has co-founded and sold three companies: Stylus Innovation, Direct Hit and Xfire. He is currently Entrepreneur in Residence at Benchmark Capital, one of the Big Brand Names on venture capital.   Traditional VC firms have to change: the capital efficiency of software startups means they cannot easily invest tens of millions in one startup anymore, and their traditional model is does not allow them to participate in much larger portfolios.  But Mike is not a Partner: the Entrepreneur-in-Residence title means he is there fishing for his next Big Hit, and will jump back as entrepreneur quite soon.

If you’d like to hear these four superstars discuss issues like:

• Can any fundable startup really get to breakeven on less than $1M venture capital?
• What does a “Capital Efficient” startup look like?
• Where do you find the people & resources for next to nothing?
• How can you generate revenue straight out of the gate?
• If I can generate revenue, and I have minimal expense, why do I need Venture Capital?
• If $1M “hardly moves the needle,” what returns are VCs now looking for?

- hurry, register here, before the event sells out.  See you tomorrow, at 6pm in Palo Alto.