SixApart admit greed causing TypePad outages

Filed as General on October 27, 2005 9:56 pm

by Duncan

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After strong criticism from TypePad users, SixApart’s Ben Trot has responded by (to his credit) apologising for the problems with the service, but also admitting that the company over extended itself.

In a post on his wife’s blog, Trott writes:

For some background: TypePad-hosted blogs are, to say the least, incredibly popular, and growing at an incredible rate. We’re currently pushing about 250mbps of traffic through our multiple network pipes, and that’s growing by 10-20% each month. (If you’re more familiar with bandwidth stated in terms of transfer allowances, that’s a transfer rate of almost 3TB (terabytes!) per day.) And because TypePad customers are so invested in their blogs, we see activity on the service-both reading & writing-that equals services with 100 times the number of users on TypePad.

Because of the growth of the service, we’ve been increasing our capacity steadily, but a few months ago the data center we are in ran out of space and power, limiting the amount of equipment we could add. After some shopping, we found a great new data center and have been building it out for over a month. We’re currently in the middle of that move, and that’s when the trouble started.

The question then is: if you ran out of space and were having problems, why did you continue to take on new customers during this period? Surely a responsible business with serious capacity issues would have closed their doors to new business to assure that its current clients were taken care of.

Its called greed.

Responding to criticism and not being upfront and honest about a serious problem in the first place doesn’t really bide well for SixApart’s overall trust factor with the blogging community now, does it?. It could literally make a Dilbert cartoon….had the Dilbert blog been contactable on the day of launch.

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  1. By Mark Boudreau posted on October 28, 2005 at 1:36 pm
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    While the recent outages were frustrating to say the least, Typepad still allows people like me an easy way to publish content to our blogs without getting too caught up in technical details. Maybe WordPress is a better platform but for my needs and probably a lot of people out there, the advantages of Typepad far outweigh the disadvantages. That being said, they had better start becoming more upfront with issues like this in the future but their support department still rocks!

  2. By Jay Allen posted on October 29, 2005 at 1:25 am
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    Duncan, putting aside for a second the ultimate irony in calling Six Apart greedy while simultaneously linking with your Dreamhost affiliate ID to an ad using a registered TypePad trademark, I will say that this is not at all about greed, but by a confluence of varied unfortunate events, only some of which could have been foreseen.

    Maintaining and growing a data center with such a robust and powerful application as TypePad isn’t such a cut and dried exercise. I think that Barak’s (CEO, Six Apart) his post explains the difficult sitaution very well.

    See http://www.sixapart.com/typepad/news/2005/10/to_our_customers.html

    All I can say at this point is that there are a LOT of people working very hard to get TypePad back to the level of service that our customers have come to expect, but also to prepare it for the long road ahead. Very soon, these problems will be a thing of the past.

  3. By Hans posted on November 8, 2005 at 11:10 am
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    It seems to me a distinction should be made here between “fact” and “opinion”. Fact is a provable thing, something that has occurred and can be demonstrated as such–it can be proven. Opinion is something that may or may not be based in fact, such as how one feels about an issue or someone’s “two cents” on a matter, etc.

    I point this out because your statement that it was “greed” that lead to Typepad’s growing pains should be underscored as _your_opinion_. However, you write it as if it were a fact–as if it were something Typepad had confessed somehow–as some sort of proven, conclusive actuality.

    If this sort of reporting were valuable to me, I’d go buy National Enquirer or maybe even L.A. Times. I expect much more from bloggers of the world, though.

    If you’re going to state an opinion, couch it as such. Doing the opposite only serves to lessen your own credibility. That, of course, is just my opinion.

    Further, and here is another one for you, the idea that they should have stopped taking on customers is quite preposterous. If you’ve ever been in a similar situation you know that you NEVER stop taking on customers if there is any possible shred of hope that you can service them despite your growth.

    Have you ever run a business that was growing at breakneck pace or been responsible for 10s or 100s of employees and 1000s or millions of customers? I have (from 100 employess to 7,000 in less than 4 years) and honestly that “just stop taking on customers” idea is devoid of any real business reality which would come from true experience.

    If Typepad had told me “we’re growing, sorry, can’t take you on right now”, I’d have considered it madness and proceeded to their nearest competitor. It’s a de facto “given” that a growing company is allowed some growing pains and meanwhile they had just better work out whatever the problems is, make it go right and meanwhile stay in close communication with their customers. To send the customers away, the ones you’ve worked so hard to attract, is equivalent to commercial suicide.

  4. By Justin Baeder posted on November 12, 2005 at 8:14 pm
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    Hans-
    When Subway is out of bread, they don’t let you order a sandwich. When Jiffy Lube is out of oil, they don’t let people come in for oil changes. The same should be true for a blogging service that is out of electricity. (The fact that the two franchises mentioned don’t usually run out of their core products is another lesson in itself.)

    I would agree that it would be terrible to pass up new customers, but it’s not worth angering thousands of existing (paying) customers. You need to take care of the customers you have before you go diluting their service level with new customers (who are sure to be disappointed with the service right off the bat).