My DIY Disqus hack for blog discovery

I discovered disqus about a year ago while enjoying one of my favorite blogs, Fred Wilson’s AVC.

Believe it or not for a while I had it installed on my wordpress blog and thought it was pronouced DISK-OUS.

Join 5100 others and follow Sean Hull on twitter @hullsean.

[mytweetlinks]

What disqus does beautifully

Disqus does a lot of things great. The first thing you realize is they remove a huge hurdle for users across the web. Managing multiple logins on blogs here and there, when you just want to comment. This is your first of many wins.

Bloggers can count on an increase in discussion, commenting & overall engagement. What’s more it reduces spam. Great!


Bloggers want traffic, thats one reason they spend their valuable time sharing their knowledge. Jumping in to Disqus is one great way to do that. More robust discovery can push this much further. Driving traffic traffic for all of us will drive adoption of disqus across the web.

Disqus provides a one-stop dashboard for all of this, and it’s wonderful for bloggers.

What i wanted more of…

I found myself using disqus, but wondering…

o bloggers – who are the big shots?
o how do I find opinion minded people?
o how do I find intelligent discourse?
o can I encourage more discussions on my blog?
o I want web audiences discovering Sean Hull’s Scalable Startups
o How do I search – for this article, a comment that I posted?

I found myself keeping a list of disqus blogs. I would follow these blogs around the web, and thought – Why am I doing this? Why isn’t this part of the software? What am I intuitively searching for?

Why is database administration talent in short supply? They are the Mythical MySQL DBAs

A call for @disqushelp on twitter

I posted a request for info on twitter. @disqushelp was quick to point me to their Disqus Gravity Project. As I commented on the designing disqus gravity blog post it is a wonderful tool and proof of concept. It sure illustrates where disqus is taking things and the important visualization possible. But unfortunately it wasn’t helping me. :-(

Also take a look at: Why Generalists are Better at Scaling the Web

How I hacked disqus digest emails

I was receiving the disqus digest emails. I think when you signup you automatically get those. I was mostly just deleting them, as they didn’t have much of interest in them. Then I started clicking through, and realized – hey wait, Disqus is kind of doing what I want already. They just need a little help.

I decided to go to some of my favorite blogs. I visited AVC, RWW, Wired, HBR, businessweek, computerworld, chrisbrogan.com and scrolled down to disqus comments. I then clicked “community” tab. Along the right side you’ll see the most active commenters. I then clicked through to their disqus profiles, and “followed” them just like you might do on Twitter.

Also: How I increased my blog pagerank to 5

After doing this for the top 5 commenters on ten to fifteen blogs, my disqus digests emails started bringing me new blogs! This is super cool. I’ve discovered some Venture, some technical and some iPhone blogs I never new about.

What was missing – discovery

Discovery is tech vernacular for what I was doing. Scouring the web for subject matter experts was exactly what I was doing. Picking the ones that used disqus allowed me to share my thoughts and weigh in across the spectrum of topics I knew well.

Disqus digests came up short for some people. But after I started using the follow feature, suddenly blogs and authors were popping up on my radar. Exactly what I wanted.

Keep up the good work guys. Would love to see the iPhone app if in fact it’s under development!

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NYC Tech Firms Are Hiring – Map

Made In NY - Startups Hiring

If you haven’t noticed how much the NYC tech scene has grown recently, I’m afraid you’ve been hiding under a rock. It’s simply incredible.

Take a look at Mapped In NY a google maps mashup of the growing list popularized by the NY Tech Meetup called Made In New York.

Join 5000 others and follow Sean Hull on twitter @hullsean.

[mytweetlinks]

Having been around during the first dot-com boom back in the late 1990′s this is even more exciting to see. Despite the recession, New York’s economy is truly thriving!

[quote]
New York’s Startup scene is truly thriving with a whopping 1263 firms, many of which are hiring.
[/quote]

Why is database administration talent in short supply? They are the Mythical MySQL DBAs

Also take a look at: Why Generalists are Better at Scaling the Web

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A Pagerank of 5 Is Possible – Here's How

Join 4500 others and follow Sean Hull on twitter @hullsean.

A highly trafficked website is a valuable asset indeed. For a services business it helps you build reputation and reach prospects.

Here’s how to get there.

1. Longevity

We’ve been around for a while, as you can see from a quick whois search below. I’ve owned the web property (aka domain name) iheavy.com and used it for the same purpose, since July 1999! Google notices this and ranks accordingly.

Until 2011 I wasn’t blogging much. I had a pagerank of 3 though. That’s attributable to two factors:

o 12 years owning the domain at that time

o Writing a book for O’Reilly which got a strong backlink

[code]
$ whois iheavy.com

Registered through: GoDaddy.com, LLC (http://www.godaddy.com)
Domain Name: IHEAVY.COM
Created on: 14-Jul-99
Expires on: 14-Jul-15
Last Updated on: 18-Feb-13

Registrant:
iHeavy, Inc.
Box 5352
New York, New York 10185
United States

Administrative Contact:
Hull, Sean hullsean@gmail.com
iHeavy, Inc.
Box 5352
New York, New York 10185
United States
+1.2125336828
[/code]

2. Authored a Technical Book (pagerank 3)

I authored a book for O’Reilly in 2001 called Oracle and Open Source. This bumped up our ranking from a flat 1 because we got backlinks from O’Reilly’s author blog, a strong authoritative signal to Google.

Why is database administration talent in short supply? They are the Mythical MySQL DBA

Here’s Why I Wrote the Book on Oracle & Open Source.

[quote]
Consistent ownership and use of a domain name, along with backlinks from other authorities in your area of expertise weigh strongly in your favor.
[/quote]

3. Started blogging weekly

In Spring of 2011 I started blogging regularly. This was an effort to build out my services business, solidify my voice, and bring prospects and customers to my site.

[mytweetlinks]

4. Installed Google Analytics & Feedburner

It might seem crazy but to that point I didn’t track much. Without metrics you don’t know which pages users are visiting, how long they’re staying, or where they’re converting.

Also take a look at: Why Generalists are Better at Scaling the Web

A conversion – for those out of the analytics loop – is when a user does something you want them to do. For an e-commerce site, they buy or start the process of buying. For a services website it could be visiting your about page, downloading a pdf or e-book, or signing up for a newsletter.

5. WordPress SEO plugin

WordPress is a great publishing platform. Among the many plugins to choose from, Yoast SEO is a very important one to include. It exposes all the hidden SEO fields and functions in a powerful way. Edit your short description, keywords & categories, and a lot more.

Check out: A CTO Must Never Do This

It also helps you frame and think about how your content is seen both by search engines, and searchers alike.

6. Keyword research

A little keyword research goes a long way. You might be a subject matter expert in a given field, but if you don’t know how your customers search, you can’t help them find you. Remember they don’t know what you do, so likely don’t know jargony terms or the vernacular your expertise uses within.

SEO Moz has some great tools to help you, along with Wordtracker and Google has a keyword research tool for adwords.

[quote]
Strong titles should make you click to open the post. A dash of keyword research and regularly watching your analytics should be revealing. Give your readers what they want!
[/quote]

See also: My Blog Traffic is Growing Using these 5 Killer Tactics

7. Watch your analytics (pagerank 4)

After about six months of regular blogging, and a few viral hits, our pagerank went up to 4. What was I doing? All of the above, plus watching analytics closely. I asked myself questions about visitors:

o Which pages do they like and why?
o What causes them to stick around?
o What causes bounce rate to go down?
o What causes them to convert?

I found that adding links to relevant content right in the text helped reduce bounce rate right away. This was a real discovery that I could apply everyday.

Hiring a Cloud Engineer? Get our 8 Questions to Ask an AWS Expert for Recruiters, Managers & candidates alike

I also noticed that good content helped, but directly imploring readers to signup to the newsletter got regular conversions daily. Huh, that was a surprise since all along I had the signup form along the right column. Go figure.

8. Guest posting

Guest posting is great. It allows you to work with real publications who have paid editors. These folks with provide you with a more professional view, and that is great for your own writing and understanding your audience. The hardest thing to learn is how to write to a broad audience.

You’ll also of course get a backlink which is a major authority signal to the search engines. You might get paid a bit too, but your mileage may very.

I managed to do some regular writing for INFOWORLD and Database Journal. I wrote one piece for ChangeThis.com called Get Out of the Technology Hex.

From there I signed a syndication deal with Developer Zone. Since I have embedded links to content, that brings me regular traffic, even besides my profile, and the authoritative backlink.

Lately I’m working on some stuff for Gigaom and ACM’s Queue. Steady as she goes!

9. Get on the aggregators

Most likely your industry has some sort of aggregator site which will carry your RSS syndication feed. Get on those. That will drive regular traffic and RSS feedburner subscribers. We’re on Planet MySQL and it’s been great!

10. Patience, rinse and repeat

Easier said than done, I know. If you want this to happen overnight, you had better get onto the real world celebrity track. Otherwise work on your content, work on your voice, write clicky titles and keep your audience interested with solid content. And watch your traffic grow!

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Make MySQL clustering work for you

We’ve told you all about MySQL mult-master replication’s limitations. If you write to two masters it is bound to fail for myriad reasons.

Now what? Do what the pros do that’s what.

A. Don’t write to both masters

Using multi-master replication works great as long as you do so in active-passive mode. Never write to two masters at the same time. When you promote a new side to being a master, do it carefully:

o Put application into read-only mode temporarily (disable editing)
o Set current master to read-only mode
o Change all webservers to point to new master
o Change new master to read-write mode
o Turn application edit back on

B. Use Statement based replication

Statement based replication has been around forever, it’s proven and it’s limitations are well known. It’s been tested for many many edge cases. You know what you’re getting.

o supports online schema changes

Perform alter tables, add or drop columns or modify indexes on the inactive master. Once those changes are complete, promote the inactive side to being primary master and perform the changes again on that master. All with zero downtime to your application. Statement based replication makes this easy as differences to columns, column order and so forth won’t break things.

o facilitates point-in-time recovery

With the SQL of all your queries being written directly to binlogs, the forensic process of reconstructing things during point-in-time recovery becomes much easier.

o perform regular checksums against current master

Use the pt-table-checksum tool to verify data. Integrity checking will help you avoid any data drift and keep everything tightly in sync.

C. Degrade gracefully – build for a read-only mode

- facilitates failover
- facilitates maintenance
- insurance plan
- disaster recovery
- levers & dials for the operations team

D. Put Memcache between application and database

- reduces load on database
- reduces latency for remote write master
- key value stores are easier to scale
- continue to get fast application response

E. Misc recommenations

o use provisioned IOPS for the database servers
o use percona server 5.6
o use multi-threaded slaves
o use semi-syncronous replication
o using percona toolkit checksum tool to provide data integrity checks
o using percona toolkit heartbeat to check slave lag
o use percona xtrabackup to do hotbackups
o perform firedrills to restore backups
o perform firedrills to do point-in-time recovery

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Sales sucks, but then I learned

Are you a developer or startup entrepreneur? Have you ever been frustrated with some of the claims made by the sales team or lacked the patience or ability to communicate across departments?

Join 4000 others and follow Sean Hull on twitter @hullsean.

Just out of college

Just out of college I got a job as a Macintosh Software Developer for a small firm outside of University at Buffalo. It was a ten person company, and half of us were on the technology side of the house. I was doing C++ & Graphical Interface design & coding.

Why is it so hard to find operations & devops talent? Enter the Mythical MySQL DBA!.

Sales is “ahead” of engineering

Besides coding, I also fielded support calls from customers which brought me perspective on both what they wanted, and where they struggled with the software. Our app helped consumers and nutritionists track diet & exercise.

[quote]
The sales team made promises of technology the company wasn’t capable of delivering. Meanwhile the engineering team was sent scrambling to answer to those promises.
[/quote]

Soon I was fielding questions from customers asking when the new heart rate monitoring would be available. I followed up by talking with the team lead & chief architect. He had no plans of building such a feature, nor did we even know how it would be possible!

[mytweetlinks]

Searching for a database expert? MySQL DBA Interview Guide.

We checked in at our weekly meetings, and the CEO explained that the sales team was simply “ahead” of engineering. Years ahead apparently even of the technology that was possible at the time!

Fast forward 5 years to professional services

A half decade later I’m doing independent consultanting for dot-coms. Much of my business came from word of mouth. Helping a firm out of a pinch, speeding their site so they can handle 10x customers on the same servers and suddenly everyone is your friend!

Too many customers is a good problem to have right? For hyper growth companies there are 5 Things Toxic To Scalability .

But all is not smooth sailing in the freelance consulting world. The dot-com crash comes along and budgets are squeezed tighter. Business spend is reduced and every dollar is scrutinized. I learned to speak to prospects about savings and personalized service, advantages of lower overhead, and real return I could provide. At the end of the day if they’re not buying, your services aren’t worth their cost!

[quote]
The sales process should inform the business about what customers really want. In a successful startup there is communication back and forth with engineering and business units so all are working in harmony.
[/quote]

Full Circle

Now coming full circle I have a wide perspective on business. I understand the engineering fundamentals, and the limitations of technology. I also have a grasp of product, and how business units must manage the bottom line, and deliver to customers or else perish in the marketplace.

Looking for a top flight cloud engineer? Grab our Amazon EC2 Interview Guide.

For the two to achieve a happy marriage, you must bring a balance of execution & technical debt, with satisfying a real customer need in the marketplace. And therein lies the innovation & startup sweet spot!

You might also like our piece Why generalists are better at scaling the web

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Dinner, dollars & devlishly creative thinking

Efficiency at Dinner?

I just finished reading Tyler Cowen’s opus, An Economist Gets Lunch. I have to admit I’m already a fan of his writing, getting a daily dose on from his blog Marginal Revolution.

Join 4000 others and follow Sean Hull on twitter @hullsean.

What I like about this book is that it is unconventional by definition. Further economists like scalability engineers like to think about efficiency. How can I squeeze out more from less? Like the business question how do I get better ROI or more bang for my buck? Questions spring to mind like – What does an economist know about food? Or – What does food eating have to do with economics? Well on both points you’ll get some surprising answers.

Hiring or job seeking? Check out our MySQL DBA Interview questions which is useful to managers, candidates and human resources alike.

To the former question, Cowen has some really good insight because he brings the fresh perspective of an economist. His sort of mantra throughout the book is:

[quote]
Food is a product of economic supply and demand, so try to figure out where the supplies are fresh, the suppliers are creative and the demanders are informed.
[/quote]

Economists & engineers talk shop

What about the second question, how is the food we eat related to economics? Further does it have an impact on environmental and energy consumption questions? As it turns out in a rather big way yes it does. Let Tyler say it in his own words…

[quote]
When it comes to relieving climate change problems, there are two approaches. The first to put it squarely is to have everyone memorize facts about boats & bananas, and update that analysis as often as is necessary. The second approach is to rely on the price system, specifically to modify prices so that they reflect more information about the value of the environment. That’s the economically smart way to address climate change. The first method is wielding a pea shooter and the second is more like a bazooka.
[/quote]

Interested in web speed? Why generalists are better at scaling the web.

What he advocates more specifically is taxing the things we want to reduce. Biggest on the list are fossil fuels he says and next up meat production which through methane emissions contribute to climate change problems. These taxes will naturally curb our use, cause us to take fewer trips, be more efficient with our use, and tighten the wallet naturally.

Applying an economists eye to food & environment yields some excellent insights. For those of us in the startups & internet these fresh takes may well give us some insight in business too. If nothing else it’ll help us find the best meal for dinner!

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No tools to reconcile MySQL with two masters

Here’s the last nail in the coffin. We hope this convinces you not to write to multiple masters with MySQL replication.

Reason 10 – No tools to reconcile inconsistent masters

For all the endless reasons we’ve already outlined MySQL replication is prone to failure. We know it’s going to happen, you now know too.

When replication breaks, your application may still be writing to both sides, both masters. Now you have data differences on both sides, random rows, in random tables.

Percona Toolkit checksum tool is great when you have a single authoritative master. It can compare & show you diffs. But when you’ve changed two masters, you have no authoritative side. Neither one is the last word on your data. You’re then faced with an intractable problem of reconciling your data in some manual or do-it-yourself method.

Not only would such a scenario be hairy and prone to error, but you would effectively have an outage for the duration. All ugly scenarios to be sure.

Click through to the end for multi-master solutions that work with MySQL.

PREV: Reason 9 – Temp tables can break replication

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Temp tables can break replication

If you’re not convinced yet that writing to dual masters is a bad idea, we have a couple more reasons.

9. Temp tables break replication after restart

MySQL’s replication is sensitive to temporary tables. You shouldn’t use them. If your queries create them to work against, and a node crashes, the temp tables will be missing upon restart. You can imagine what this will do to all those queries which expect to see a temp table. That’s right, they’ll fail.

Theoretically you could have a start script which creates and populates such temp tables. However this may add operational complexity if not carefully coordinated with developers & change management.

NEXT: Reason 10 – No tools to reconcile inconsistent masters

PREV: Reason 8 – Crashed nodes can corrupt your cluster

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Crashed nodes corrupt your MySQL cluster

Writing to two masters is like walking around with a loaded shotgun. Eventually one of your instances will fail and when it does, replications position & synchronization information could easily become corrupt!

Reason 8 – Crashed nodes cause big problems

MySQL instances, unfortunately can crash. When that happens, they don’t always sync the replication position properly. That’s a big risk. It’s one of the reasons why operational DBAs know that replication slaves need to be rebuilt from time to time.

If the replication position doesn’t sync properly when MySQL restarts it may do so at the wrong position and replay or miss some transactions. What this would do to an active-active setup is unpredictable. Again no single authoritative master means trouble!

MySQL 5.5 has introduced some parameters to address this. During my tests I’ve seen a performance hit, so use them with caution.

[code]
sync_binlog
sync_relay_log
sync_master_info
sync_relay_log_info
[/code]

NEXT: Reason 9 – Crashed nodes cause big problems

PREV: Reason 7 – Can’t add third node easily

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Transaction isolation breaks when writing two masters

Continuing our discussion of multi-master replication, we hit on five more reasons why writing to two masters aka active-active replication is very dangerous.

Click through to the end for multi-master solutions that work with MySQL.

Reason 6 – You lose transaction isolation

This may sound like a theoretical point to some. But hopefully we can all appreciate that while you’re making changes to your data, you don’t want another user or session with their fingers in the pie, right?

This is implemented in all relational databases, MySQL, Oracle, and SQL Server included as transactions or transactional isolation. While you’re operating on rows they’re locked for other sessions to write to. If they want to do so, they wait in line until you’re done.

In master-master replication, this principal is completely broken. Altough your MySQL instance enforces this on the source side, the second master knows nothing about what you are doing. All of the transactions on that side may do whatever they like to your data.

Let’s give an example:

[code]
mysql> select * from a;
+------+
| c1 |
+------+
| 5 |
+------+
1 row in set (0.00 sec)

masterdb1> set autocommit=0;
masterdb1> update a set c1 = c1 + 5;

masterdb2> set autocommit=0;
masterdb2> update a set c1 = c1 * 5;

masterdb1> commit;
masterdb2> commit;
[/code]

Depending on the order you commit one side will then have 10 as the value, while the other side has 25! Strange indeed.

There’s no way to prevent a myriad of scenarios like this without locking. That’s why relational database introduced shared and exclusive locks, and that’s what’s missing in active-active multi-master replication.

Isolation is big, it’s serious, and without it you’re doomed!

NEXT: Reason 7 – Can’t add third node easily

PREV: Reason 5 – Cannot do integrity checking with active-active

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