What’s up with Typepad / Six Apart?

I really like the folk at Six Apart, purveyors of both Movable Type, the application that powers this very weblog, and Typepad, a nice hosted weblog option for entrepreneurs and small businesses. In fact, I’ve even written some articles for an as-yet unannounced SixApart online information center and have a discount code so my clients and students can receive a discount on the Typepad product.
On the other hand, I’m a businessman and I’ve also run startups and managed the hiring of executives post-funding, and I just don’t get what’s going on at Six Apart and why they’re still experiencing the effect of a badly managed infrastructure.
Today the Typepad system has been offline for hours and hours, and those Typepad weblogs that are limping along have had days worth of entries and comments vanish into the ether. (The company reports, however, that they will restore everything that seems to be lost right now, but many bloggers are skeptical)

This is very reminiscent of eBay‘s growing pains a few years ago where they’d suddenly go offline for an hour or two at a stretch in the middle of frenzied auction bidding. They grew beyond it and are now rock solid, able to handle a staggering traffic load.
If SixApart were still a little startup experiencing a huge surge in growth and traffic, it’d be easier to accept, but the company has raised significant capital and if it’s not using its millions to entice the best and brightest in the industry to join the team, if it’s not investing heavily in backend solutions, I have to wonder where it is being spent.
Hopefully there’s a light at the end of this tunnel, as word I get from inside SixApart is that “this downtime was related to one of the last steps in our move to a new data center, which is precisely for dealing with our past performance issues.”
I’m glad to hear that they’re moving to a new data center, and I can only hope that the company is going to get through the tough, but critical growth stage of replacing the neophyte startup entrepreneurs with seasoned executives who can help the firm grow big while retaining both investor and customer confidence.
Meanwhile, I’m glad to be hosting my SixApart-based weblogs on my own server, not theirs, and I strongly encourage people to have a serious look at the new Yahoo-hosted Movable Type business blogging solution, which looks like a sweet deal at less than $10/month. (more information)
(Om Malik and Jeremy Popper both have interesting perspectives on the Typepad outage too)

7 comments on “What’s up with Typepad / Six Apart?

  1. The URL is ironic – you may or may not get to my MT-TP site. If you do, it may or may not have the most recent posts.
    Dave’s post is, as usual, pretty close to bang on the money.
    I’m gone from 6A just as soon as I can get reliable access to the TP server and can suck off the entries to a CivicSpace site. If CivicSpace doesn’t do it then I’ll move to WordPress where I have another blog. I’ve explained in detail my decision to Barak and Loic Lemeur. I’ve done so in what I hope is a clear but polite manner. Despite the fact the lack of service could not have happened on a worse day for me. Let me explain.
    I’m an old school ex-partner in a British firm of Chartered Accountants who fell into IT in 1983 and has made a living from it since 1992. I’ve seen a lot of ‘stuff’ and I’ve written thousands of articles about technology in Europe.
    This blog malarkey smacked me in the face in mid-2005 when I saw Tom Feremski’s site. It was what I had wanted to do in 1997-98 and again in 2000-02.
    My first efforts were pathetic. My next were OK. The current effort is good. Not great. Good.
    Late yesterday (12/15 – 1800 CET) I’d reached an important milestone. Yesterday saw the result of a landmark UK tax case. It was mega. I didn’t report it as news but created an analysis.
    By 6pm (1800 CET), I was no.1 on Google search for the case in question. And no.6 about a related post. All legitimate posts in the Google top 10 were blogs. One of which I know I influenced into starting. Page views were through the roof. I took a whole 5 percent readership points from the UKs leading non-RSS etc specialist site. It’s what we call a ‘red-letter day.’ Great. I’d proved to both mmyself and the community I write for – which is relatively small, but valuable and influential – that this is not madcap tech-blown marketing BS. But a genuine lens on what the future could hold. That’s massive step forward for this most conservative of professions.
    Today? I’m toast. Why?
    Because I chose to put to the back of my mind all the warning signs I’ve seen with companies on the far edge of their capability. For example:
    1. When Mena fell off her perch at Les Blogs 2.0 and ended up in tears outside the auditorium I knew there was a serious problem. Competent CEOs are not reduced in that way unless there is something more. I was there. I saw it.
    2. When the last outtage occurred, I specifically asked Barak about the planning situation. He said it was something they’d looked at but were affected by circumstances beyond their control. I should have probed more deeply because in hindsight, that was not a totally satrisfactory answer. And I knew it at the time.
    3. 6A is selling a service. Anything involving cash means there is an expectation of fair value. Going back to the previous outtage, I could live with it because it was intermittent. But 6A kne they were in the last chabce saloon. This time, it was a blackout for some 18 hours from where I am sitting – Spain.
    4. Earlier in the week, Ismail Salim and Dave Canter were punting Structured Blogs. I know something about structure. I had listened to Tom Raftery’s podcast interviews of Ismail. It was clear that while Tom was doing his level best, he didn’t know how to ask the hard questions. The Canter presentation was a world apart from what Ismail said. I’ve been trying to get hold of Ismail the rest of this week.
    I heard Ismail talking about real time complex event process management. That’s not what he called it but that was my interpretation. I know something about that as well. I know it represents some of the most complex problems being solved in the real world. Where real money changes hands on a global scale. Ismail’s discussion was about SCALE. The fact I couldn’t square the very different things I heard or interpreted (I’m quite happy to be shown to be wrong) was a red flag. It still is.
    Is this a confluence of events over a short period of time that I am magnifying into a singularity with the benefit of hindsight? No.
    I am thankful that when my community has asked me about platforms that I have said 6A-TP is a place to start but do it safely and behind the firewalll. Unless you feel confident. I made the classic mistake of not eating my own dog food. I was too busy ignoring the warning signs.
    But that cannot forgive 6A for not delivering on its promise. No amount of refund to those wanting to make this ‘stuff’ commercial can recompense for striking the hand that feeds it.

  2. If Yahoo! would integrate their entry level blog hosting with the starter ecommerce package they already offer – that would be a winner. YOU tell them, Dave. No one listens to me.

  3. Dave,
    You make a strong point about 6A and Typepad. As do Om and Jeremy Popper. Care to comment on next steps? Moveable Type on Yahoo could be a worthwhile option. But in your opinion how would such a move be for committed but neophyte bloggers in terms of the learning curve on Moveable Type versus the ease of use on Typepad in the context of such a move?
    Or is this a question for Ask Dave Taylor?

  4. This did not have to happen. Redundant sys at remote locs go a long way to prevent any lapse in service. Redundant clone servers and alternate gateways. What’s so damn hard about that?
    Redundant databasing is a simple, cheap, and actionable solution. Much like how the human body behaves when something is injured or destroyed.
    Too bad, but nothing is inevitable but non-inevitability itself.

  5. additionally, i attended one of your seminars in oct and registered my cc for their ‘content mgmt system’ in order to participate. happy to do it as i value your teaching. later, because i already use another cms software, i filed their ticket to notify them of my intentions for registering and too cancel. several calls, several email, two tickets and lots of frustration later……still billing me each month. “bummer 6A.” chris

  6. Congrats to the whole TypePad team on the launch! It’s especially cool to see TypePad Connect seamlessly integrated into this MT blog already.

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