[Warning, uninteresting details about the inner life of a blog to follow]
Habitual readers may have noticed that the site was down for just over two days. Having a hosted WordPress site allows one the freedom to configure a blog in ways that some ready-made services such as Blogger simply cannot match. However, this freedom comes at a price, as I just found out. Blogger relies on Google’s staggering hosting and processing power in order to guarantee almost limitless space, bandwidth and uptime, while a hosted blog relies on one’s hosting service. I will not name and shame my old provider, as they worked quite well for almost a year, but it became obvious that I needed to switch providers.
On Sunday 21st I wrote an article about the music industry. This blog has a plug-in that will tweet all articles, and this got retweeted quite a few times. It has become evident that if one is serious about blogging, one must try to accompany it with Twitter, as it fulfils the same function as RSS feeds to many people. One interesting feature of Twitter is that it perfectly exemplifies network theories about link propagation, six degrees of separation and the small world phenomenon which make it a perfect tool for disseminating information. As with many other things in life, blogs and Twitter users observe a strict hierarchy based on the number of people that can be reached. That is why getting mentioned in high-traffic sites such as Slashdot or BoingBoing can increment one’s incoming links. In the case of Twitter, there are individuals who carry a lot of influence, and once they retweet or link to something, then that page will get more hits. The aforementioned article was communicated by two influential twitterers, Glyn Moody and CopyrightLaw. Their followers kept linking to the original article, and the post got 70 retweets, which was a record for any of my posts. What happens then is pure mathematics, each retweet translates into hits to the site. 70 retweets may not seen like much, but I immediately noticed a spike in traffic.
This alone is not enough to explain what brought down the site. The next day I wrote an article about an outrageous submission by the International Intellectual Property Alliance against open source software. I was already amazed by the number of hits the site was getting, but of course I could not foresee the strength of the reaction this got. As with the previous day’s post, this was retweeted by several influential tweeterers, and the numbers started climbing. However, it was then picked up by several news and comment aggregators such as Reddit and Hacker News. After that, the item started making the rounds in the blogosphere (Ars Technica, yay!) and then on Tuesday it was picked up by the always excellent Bobby Johnson in The Guardian. By then, the llamas went on strike and the site went down (you didn’t think I’d pay for electricity, did you?). Interestingly enough, some boards even linked to the Google Cache page of my post.
So what happened? When setting up the blog I made sure to choose a service that would give me “unlimited bandwidth”. However, this does not mean that they will accommodate large traffic spikes. My webiste was suspended on suspicion of abuse, as apparently I was in contravention of the terms and conditions of service. Interestingly enough, they were correct. One clause allows for the service to be suspended because “sites must not use excessive amounts of server resources. These include Bandwidth, processor utilization and / or disk space.” Wait, I have unlimited bandwidth, but if there is excessive use, they will shut down the site? What did me was not bandwidth however, but processor use.
Anyway, I would have stayed with the provider, but I found customer service pretty bad, and I was upset with the fact that the site was placed on probation for a week. So I have spent all of today changing providers and exporting the site to a new location, which has reacquainted me with the intricacies of hosting, MySQL data export and WoprdPress php files.
If you are a new reader thanks to the incoming links, welcome! Thanks to all the people who have tweeted and emailed about the blog. Your interest, recommendations and support are much appreciated.
[OK, self-referential uninteresting bit over, now back to our normal schedule]