Update on Me, b5media, Future Plans

I hesitate to write this because it’s somewhat personal, and this blog has become anything but a personal blog. However, I’m going to write it anyway because people understand that, though there’s multiple writers here, this blog is largely still associated with me. And frankly, I’ve been asked a million times what is next.

Back at the end of March, I announced my resignation from b5media. At that time, I did not know what would be next but I was going to take an approach of “Wait and see” and figure out what opportunities were out there. Crazy talk, I know, quitting your job without having something lined up – but it had to be done that way. Let’s face it, it’s not right for me as an executive to be out soliciting work behind the company’s back. I’m not leaving on bad terms, nor do I want to ruin relationships in a company I helped build. It was the right thing to do. Gutsy. Ballsy. But proper.

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Since then, the question has come up, “Well, what do you want to do?” That’s been a question I’ve actually wrestled with quite a bit. Identifying and targeting the space I want to be in. Something somewhere in the bizdev, social media, blogging relations world – yet, with my hands in the operational side of things as well, whether development or otherwise.

See, if my experience at b5media has taught me anything, it taught me something about the growth of a startup and the phases those startups go through. I’ve learned something about scaling a business. Not everything. I’m leaving the network in the hands of someone else who can bring that experience in. Anyone who knows WordPress knows that out of the box it doesn’t scale well. How do you do hundreds of millions of requests and keep ticking? How do you run WordPress on 350 blogs and keep it all ticking?

Yeah, I couldn’t have done it by myself – and I haven’t. That’s where “learning how” comes into play.

However, my rolodex is thick. I love meeting people and it seems like everyday, the rolodex gets thicker. I can help people get access to influencers, networks, businesses. Not everyone, but then no one can do that. Unless you’re Scoble (Hey, nice new design, Robert!).

The economy is in a weird place right now. No one knows if we’re in a recession or not. If we are, it seems the web/tech space is largely unaffected. Investments are still happening. IPOs (the death of the dot-com era) are few and far between. The space keeps plugging along even if we have to tighten our belts a little bit. So, though the phone has been relatively silent, I have gotten a few “Hey, Aaron, we want you to come work with us” calls so far. I think it’s fascinating when someone else calls me, but thats neither here nor there.

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All this to say, b5media has hired my replacement. We’ll talk about him more in the coming week. However, my last day is Friday, May 16. Effective Monday, May 19th I am an independent contractor, consultant, “Web Strategist”, WordPress freelancer, Communications strategist, advisor.

This is scary actually. Not really what I had planned. Not really what I want. But it seems to be the direction life is going. Plus it seems like the only way that I can retain a healthy degree of independence, not have to go into an office every day, and be involved in lots of various things going on around the web. Currently, I have a verbal agreement with a Web 2.0 company, a pseudo-Web 2.0 company, and a PR firm for work with more in the pipeline.

If you’d like to be in contact with me to help you out, drop me an email at aaron@technosailor.com. Let’s talk.

Solving the WordPress Traffic Overload Problem

Anyone who’s been around WordPress for a “Digg effect” or other massive influx of traffic knows that it can be a real problem. From a technical standpoint, the problem is that PHP is entirely loaded into memory for every pageload. That includes the 99% of PHP that is not being used to actually render the page.

On low traffic sites, this problem is not necessarily noticed. It doesn’t have a huge impact. However when there are hundreds of requests hitting a server in a single second, that kind of overhead builds up very fast.

There are solutions to this sort of thing and depending on what the scale of the environment is, some might be more excessive than necessary. The WP Super Cache plugin is a quick solution that will cause pages loaded on WordPress to be cached meaning that if subsequent page loads can pul the HTML from the cache without having to load the overhead of PHP as well, everyone wins. On the more extreme end, server configurations can be made to send requests for different types of content (for instance, images) to specialized servers optimized for that content type.

Very geeky stuff. It’s important to note that WordPress gets a black eye all the time for it’s caching mechanisms and ability to handle the load of a “Digg effect”, etc. In fact, Instapundit Glenn Reynolds is the latest to take a stinging swipe at WordPress and trust me when I say, we heard it loud and clear.

At b5media (where I’ll be leaving as the Director of Technology soon), we’ve had to deal with this as well and have managed to develop really sound solutions to some of these problems. However, for WordPress as a whole, it is a well recognized problem that not everyone can solve by following in our footsteps (or WordPress.com footsteps).

We’re going to do what we can to help solve this problem once and for all as two of our developers, Mark Jaquith and Brian Layman will be mentoring a Google Summer of Code intern to develop a robust caching engine for WordPress. We hope that this exercise will result in a more reliable (and sane!) caching mechanism.

Integrated Caching Solutions will improve WordPress’s speed and reliablity out of the box and allow people to “Digg Proof” their sites without the struggle of installing plugins on a site that is virtually unreachable. (Source: WordPress Google Summer of Code 2008)

Glenn, I hope that the work that Mark, Brian and our intern will be doing will improve the WordPress problem. In the meantime, let me know if I can help you with anything (though I believe you are using Movable Type). It is a known issue and it’s one that needs to be solved and hopefully some steps can be made toward that this summer.

Technosailor Maintenance Today

To give everyone a head’s up, at some point today, this blog will go into “maintenance mode” while I move to a different server. While Technosailor has been a part of the b5media network, I also announced my departure from b5 last week and so the blog is moving to a colocated server at Defender Hosting. They have been gracious enough to work out a fantastic arrangement with me, and I’m happy to have my own box to be able to fiddle around on.

So comments will be going off at some point to prevent data loss and mail might bounce sporadically. I hope to do this as smoothly and as transparently as possible though. Probably this evening.