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All CTO/CIO Startups

What can NYFW teach Chad Dickerson about net neutrality?

net neutrality

Here we are again discussing Net Neutrality… Chad Dickerson CEO of well renowned Etsy.com, has come out strongly in favor, and wants everyone to take action.

Join 27,000 others and follow Sean Hull on twitter @hullsean.

Honestly when I read his wired piece Etsy CEO to businesses: If Net Neutrality Perishes, We Will Too, I was struck by one statement:

The FCC proposal will threaten *ANY* business that uses the internet to reach it’s customers.

Any business? Quite a sweeping statement. Strikes fear into me that’s for sure… And if you read through the comments, the debate is equally fierce. One side says net neutrality is socialism! The other side says anyone against net neutrality is a shill for Comcast or Verizon! Battle lines drawn!

1. Are all businesses at risk?

Isn’t the idea that ETSY will perish overstated? Are they a high bandwidth company? Are they trying to stream video?
Is the entire Etsy community alarmed? Isn’t that a rather broad statement?

To be sure ending net neutrality will impact some businesses. Perhaps one reason VC’s like Fred Wilson are so concerned about Net Neutrality isn’t for the freedom of millions of internet users, but the threat to disruptive businesses, the startups that VC’s directly invest in.

Read: Which tech do startups use most?

2. Will all internet users be impacted?

Here again some of this debate seems overstated. I remember using the internet on a dialup modem. 300 baud, was about the speed at which you can type. Then along came 14.4, 28k and upward speeds climbed. All the while the internet was usable. Could I do all the things I can today, nope.

Even if these horrible Comcast’s & Verizon’s reduce speeds by 100 times, they will still be plenty fast for most internet users. Sure streaming video would be impacted, and yes streaming music would be impacted. But for end users, I would argue most would not be impacted. It is rather the disruptive startups & businesses that would be most impacted.

Also: Is automation killing old-school operations?

3. Are there anti-EDU parallels

In the mid-nineties, before the dot-com bubble, there was a huge raging debate about even having commercial entities on the internet at all. Enlightened internet cognoscenti considered it an abomination.

But the real world pushed it’s nose in, and today we take as a given.

Check this: Is Hunter Walk right about operations & startups?

4. Is google right about millisecond delays?

“Research from Google & Microsoft shows that delays of milliseconds result in fewer page views and fewer sales in both the short & long term”. Yep, that’s a fact. The research shows this. But what do we take away from that?

As a performance and scalability consultant I see a *TON* of websites that have huge delays, well over tiny millisecond ones that Google frets over. Internet startups struggle with performance every day.

What’s the irony? Slowdowns that Comcast or Verizon might introduce to end users pale in comparison with these larger systemic problems.

Also: 5 Ways startups misstep on scalability

5. Any lessons from sites of New York Fashion Week?

I like the Pingdom speed test tool. I used it to track the speed of some of the websites & blogs that are big for NYFW. Here’s what I found:

nyfw speed test results

What do you see? Take a look at the SIZE column. Notice something strange? The LARGEST sites, in terms of images, css & assets aren’t necessarily the SLOWEST! That’s a funny result if you consider net neutrality. If you think the network speed is the same for all websites, shouldn’t the smallest pages load fastest?

Not true at all. It’s a very simplistic way of viewing things. Fashionista.com for example is doing a ton of tuning behind the scenes. As you can see it is making their site far and away the fastest! Network bandwidth and net neutrality be damned!

Related: Are SQL Databases Dead?

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All Book Review Book review iHeavy Newsletter

Pro Blogging with the Pros

I picked up a copy of the Problogger book and flipped to the Blog Promotion chapter.  In it they recommended – Create compilation pages.

I tried it

I crafted a new post, selected some of my blogs most popular material, organized it with nice punchy one line summaries, and after about 20 minutes posted it.  Hey what the heck, I’ll give it a try.

It Worked!

  • interlink within your posts – this is huge!
  • highlight related posts
  • quote important points as excerpts
  • ask questions and invite comments

There are other great chapters on Social Media to get your posts going viral, and of course the ever important monetization topic is covered nicely.

Go pickup a copy of this book.  It’s worth much more than the cover price for sure!

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All Book Review iHeavy Newsletter

Review: Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky

Here Comes EverybodyClay Shirky tells a great story. Here Comes Everybody begins with a case of a lost phone in a taxi cab, and the extraordinary turn of events that led to the owner retrieving it. From photos posted online, to NYPD who were uninterested in following up, to taking it all online. Through that online publicity, the story got picked up by the NY Times and CNN, which put pressure on the police to track down the taxi.  It’s a great example that illustrates the nuances, both good and bad, powerful and persistent that the Internet can unleash.

Throughout the book he weaves stories about the network effect, friends and friends of friends, and how that impacts information, organization, and the spread of ideas. Citing examples such as the SCO vs Linux court case and Groklaw, flash mobs and political organization, Shirky notes how all these events were influenced and facilitated by the Internet.

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All Book Review

Macrowikinomics book review by Tapscott & Williams

Macrowikinomics follows on the success of the best selling Wikinomics.  It hits on a lot of phenomenal success stories, such as the Linux project, which has over a roughly twenty year history, produced 2.7 million lines of code per year and would have cost an estimated 10.8 billion that billion with a b, dollars to create by conventional means.  What’s more it’s estimated the Linux economy is roughly 50 billion.  With huge companies like Google, and Amazon Web Services built on datacenters driven principally by Linux it’s no wonder.

They also draw on the successes of companies like Local Motors who use collaboration and the internet in new and innovative ways.

In total this book speaks to the disruptive power of the internet and new technologies, and offers a lot of hopeful stories and optimism about where they are taking us.  Food for thought.

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All Website Basics

Open Source – What is it and why is it important?

Open Source, a term understood well by the technology set, but not enough by everyone.

Open Source for the software industry is like generic drugs for the pharmaceutical industry.  It enables more players to come to the table, it is a huge driving force behind internet infrastructures, which are built on Linux, Apache and many other technologies.  It is the backbone of companies like google, and facilitates cloud services from the likes of Amazon EC2, Joyent, Rackspace and many others.

It is the rising tide that lifts all boats, if you will.

Sean Hull’s writing on Quora.

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All Business iHeavy Newsletter

iHeavy Insights 69 – Fewer Moving Parts

In a lot of different kinds of systems there are moving parts.  Electronics, automobiles, bridges and even living systems.  As it turns out in many if not most of these systems, the simpler designs tend to have various advantages over the more complex designs.  These benefits ring true in the business world as well.

Rock Climbing

Take the extreme sport rock climbing as an example.  I’ve been rock climbing off and on for about five years, though mostly indoors at rock climbing gyms.  One thing that you learn a lot about in rock climbing is safety.  There is a discussion of the harness, and how to double-back the waist cinch, and using multiple carabiners to lock into the rope, and then how to tie the rope in such a way that it tightens as it bears weight.  Both the person climbing and the person balaying – gathering the rope below – each have to take care of these things.  So generally they both check their own rope, harness, carabiners, and then check the other persons.

With indoor climbing this is all rather simple, and with just six checks for each climber to make, generally quite safe.  Plus there are monitors in the room watching people climb, and further checking for mistakes or oversights.  So over the years I’ve heard of practically *no* injuries in the gym.  It is so-called top-roping, and their are few moving parts.

With outdoor climbing you can do top-roping, however more advanced climbers prefer lead climbing.  It is much more challenging, and as I’ve described above there are many more moving parts.  The lead climber has to place “protection” into the rock every few meters.  These are special camming devices that grip into the rock.  Obviously all these components are not fool-proof, hence you want to add as many as possible.  But there are limits to endurance, and statistical averages at play, and more importantly many more moving parts.  So unfortunately lead climbing outdoors although possible to be on the safe side, tends to be much more prone to accidents.  More moving parts increases the statistical chance of a system breakdown.

iPhone

Something similar is at play when it comes to interface design.  With user interface or UI design, there is often a discussion of how many steps it takes to perform a function.  The more steps, the deeper the function is hidden.  Fewer steps means simplicity of design.

The iphone is a great example of this.  By simplifying the user interface, the machine works better.  At the Mobile World Congress last year Google announced that they get 50 times more searches from the iphone than *any* other mobile device.  Fifty times!  Think about that statistic.  This is more that flashy glitz and a pretty package.  This is a device that has fewer moving parts, not only in terms of buttons, but in the virtual interface components that a user navigates on the touch screen.

Internet & Engineering

Many of the same truisms that apply in the examples of rock climbing or smartphones also apply to internet systems, and the operations side of the business.  Can we use a web-services solution such a mailchimp.com to handle our email newsletter?  That means less to manage in-house, so our IT staff can focus on more important tasks.  Or how about outsource all email handling through a service like google’s Gmail for Business, or salesforce.com for CRM.

Simplifying your operations can also mean going with managing hosting solution, or better yet embracing the cloud with Amazon Web Services or Rackspace Cloud.   For that matter what database platform are you running on, or what computing platform?  Does it embrace the complexity and more  features philosophy?  Or does it strive for simplicity, and fewer moving parts?  And for that matter how many of those endless features are you actually using for your application?

Conclusion

As it turns out, engineers as much as business folks are wowed by endless features and the appeal of glitz and shine of a fancy new car.  But often in business what you need is reliability, simplicity, and fewer moving parts to get the job done, and get it done well.

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All Business Scalability Technical Article

5 Tips for Scalability

Your website is slow but you’re not sure why.  You do know that it’s impacting your business.  Are you losing customers to the competition? Here are five quick tips to achieve scalability

1. Gather Intelligence

With any detective work you need information.  That’s where intelligence comes in.  If you don’t have the right data already, install monitoring and trending systems such as Cacti and Collectd.  That way you can look at where your systems have been and where they’re going.

2. Identify Bottlenecks

Put all that information to use in your investigation.  Use stress testing tools to hit areas of the application, and identify which ones are most troublesome.  Some pages get hit A LOT, such as the login page, so slowness there is more serious than one small report that gets hit by only  a few users.  Work on the biggest culprits first to get the best bang for your buck.

3. Smooth Out the Wrinkles

Reconfigure your webservers to make more connections to your database, or spin-up more servers.  On the database tier make sure you have fast RAIDed disk, and lots of memory.  Tune queries coming from your application, and look at possible upgrades to servers.

4. Be Agile But Plan for the Future

Can your webserver tier scale horizontally?  Pretty easy to add more servers under a load balancer.  How about your database.  Chances are with a little work and some HA magic your database can scale out with more servers too, moving the bulk of select operations to read-only copies of your primary server, while letting it focus on transactions, and data updates.  Be ready and tested so you know exactly how to add servers without impacting the customers or application.  Don’t know how?  Look at the big guys like Facebook, an investigate how they’re doing it.

5. A Going Concern

Most importantly, just like your business, your technology infrastructure is an ongoing work in progress.  Stay proactive with monitoring, analysis, trending, and vigilance.  Watch application changes, and filter for slow queries.  Have new hardware or additional hardware dynamically at-the-ready for when you need it.

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About

Heavyweight Internet Group is a boutique technology consulting firm operating in New York City. In business for over ten years, we have weathered the dot-com storm, continuing to provide our clients with the very best expertise. Concentrating on client needs & their business bottom line, we let needs and value drive technology solutions, not the other way around.

Our many years in the business have brought us perspectives and experience which we bring to the table with every new client. The value is obvious. What’s more we provide individual attention and focus to each client, another tremendous benefit.

Selected Clients

Active Reasoning

Advance Publications

American DBA Online

American Law Media

Ariane Anthony Dance Co.

Community Connect, Inc.

Conducive Corporation

Cyber Logics, Inc.

Database Journal

Dotomi, Inc.

DownloadCard, Inc.

DBA Online

DBA Zine/BMC Software

Efferent Corp.

EFY Group – New Delhi, India

Far Countries, Inc.

firmView, LLC.

GL Trade, Inc.

IN2, Inc.

Infovest21, LLC.

Inside Cinema

Integrated Media, Inc.

Independent Oracle User Group

Kaplan, Inc.

Marketing Technology Solutions

Method Five, Inc.

MIDORINOSHIMA

Missing Pixel

Money-Media, Inc.

NBC/iVillage – NeverSayDiet.com

NBC/BravoTV.com

Nechsi, LLC

Net Creations, Inc.

New York Oracle User Group

Oracle Technology Network

Physical Arts Center

Proteometrics, Inc.

Real Estate Online

Riptide Communications, LLC

Robichaux & Associates, Inc.

Solbright, Inc.

Starmedia, Inc.

Streamedia, Inc.

Susquehanna International Group

Timeout NY

TSI, Inc.

Wireless Generation

Workspeed, Inc.

Xceed Corp.

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All Business Company Services

Success Story–Media and Entertainment Conglomerate

The Business

A website aggregating twitter feeds for celebrities, with sophisticated search functionality.

The Problem

Having been recently acquired by a large media and entertainment conglomerate, their traffic had already tripled.  What’s more they expected their unique pageviews to grow by 20 to 30 times in the coming six months.

Our Process

We worked closely with the lead architect and designer of the site to understand some of the technical difficulties they were encountering.  We discussed key areas of the site, and where performance was most lacking.

Next we reviewed the underlying infrastructure with an eye for misconfigurations, misuse of or badly allocated resources, and general configuration best practices.  They used Amazon EC2 cloud hosted servers for the database, webserver, and other components of the application.

The Solution

Our first round of reviews spanned a couple of days.  We found many issues with the configuration which could dramatically affect performance.  We adjusted settings in both the webserver, and the database to optimally maximize the platform upon which they were hosted.  These initial changes reduced the load average on the server from a steady level of 10.0 to an average of 2.0.

Our second round of review involved a serious look at the application.  We worked closely with the developer to understand what the application was doing.  We identified those areas of the application causing the heaviest footprint on the server, and worked with the developer to tune those specific areas.  In addition we examined the underlying database structures, tables and looked for relevant indexes, adding those as necessary to support the specific requirements of the application.

After this second round of changes, tweaks, adjustments, and rearchitecting, the load average on the server was reduced dramatically, to a mere 0.10.  The overall affect was dramatic.  With 100 times reduction in the load on the server, the websites performance was snappy, and very responsive.  The end user experience was noticeably changed.  A smile comes on your face when you visit your favorite site, to find it working fast and furious!

Results

The results to the business were dramatic.  Not only were their short term troubles addressed, as the site was handling the new traffic without a hick up.  What’s more they had the confidence and peace of mind now to go forward with new advertising campaigns, secure in the knowledge that the site really could perform, and handle a 20 to 30 times increase in traffic with ease.