USS Clueless - Relying on Pyra?

Stardate 20011228.1712

(On Screen): I just read this article by Ryan Boren where he considers the fact that far too large a part of the Web Log community depends on Pyra's dual products of Blogger and Blogspot. He wrote it yesterday during in response to Blogger being down, silencing thousands of sites; it's interesting that I read it while I was waiting for other IE windows to load various sites from Blogspot, which as I write this seems to be totally wedged.

Ryan used to use Blogger but switched to using Greymatter which he runs on his own Linux server. When I decided to find a better solution than RoadRunner's server (which would have limited me to 5 MB of online storage) by buying my own server, I never even considered Blogger. In fact, I've never even looked at it; I have no idea what the use experience is or what features it has, because the mere fact that it runs on a remote server is a lockout feature for me. I was quite willing to buy a solution but I insisted that whatever it ended up being would run on equipment I owned.

Greymatter fit the bill, with the added benefit that it was free. It's not as polished as a commercial product might be and it's not as friendly to use as it probably could be, but it is quite good all things considered, in the three most important characteristics I valued: it is very reliable, it did everything at composition-time (as opposed to at page-serve time), and it ran locally on my server.

What it didn't do was to scale well; Noah never expected it to be used by sites with as much activity as USS Clueless or Little Green Footballs. So those of us with that kind of composition traffic have started to move to other solutions. Kevin Whited is looking into Movable Type. Charles wrote his own alternative to Greymatter which uses the same file system, and which is customized for LGF. I purchased Citydesk. On the other hand, a lot of people continue to use Greymatter quite comfortably.

The problem for all the people who rely on Blogger is that Pyra, the company behind it, is hanging on financially by its fingernails. There was a time when it was a thriving (though small) dot-com with maybe 8 employees and great plans and a lot of red ink. Now it's just Evan; about a year ago he had to lay everyone else off. And it's an indication of the situation there that the server on which most of this runs now was purchased about 13 months ago with donations.

The problem with the solutions that Ryan and Charles and Kevin and I have selected is that they're more expensive. I'm out of pocket about $2000 on this plus about $100/month for bandwidth, which I don't mind because I've got it to spend and this is my hobby. I blow through more than that every time I go to Vegas on vacation. I can't say how much Ryan spends, but if he's got his own Linux box and is paying for his own broadband then it's not going to be a lot less.

But you get what you pay for. I spent a lot of money, but because of that I'm also only at the mercy of RoadRunner (my cable modem company) and my name server. And if RR went away, I could have DSL in here (however long it would take PacBell to install it) and be back up again. And I am also capable, if I'm willing to do the work to learn how, of making Regulus (the server I bought) its own name server. All of this was deliberate.

It means that Ryan and Kevin and Charles and I and a few other folks like us are invulnerable to the vicissitudes of Pyra's perilous business plan. And so it was that when Blogger went down, one of the people using it emailed me and asked me to spread the word because I had one of the few sites he could think of that was unaffected. That's a bit scary.

I was quite willing to do so, but I became a bit shocked by just how many of my favorite sites turned out to be hosed by the failure. It is a bit worrisome that there is so much dependent on this one shaky pillar. As an engineer, I don't like single points of failure.

I have nothing against Ev. He's a hard working guy with a dream who is doing the best he can. He's created something fantastic, and has helped create a small revolution. He's even achieved fame; but fortune continues to elude him and his financial situation remains grim. If he finally throws in the towel, a hell of a lot of work by a hell of a lot of people may well end up in the bit bucket. Ryan is right: at the very least, people using Blogger should be keeping local archives of their work so that they don't lose it all if Blogger goes away. And maybe they should consider other alternatives. It would be nice if we didn't lose 80% of the blogs out there if Pyra finally goes tits up.

Captured by MemoWeb from on 9/16/2004