GoDaddy’s bad buffness day

Last week Kim Cameron wrote about a problem at Flickr that resulted in wrong photos being displayed. Flickr’s acknowledgement and explanation of the problem earned this commendation from Axel Eble, which Kim cited:

Folks, this is one of the best pieces of crisis management I have ever seen! It states the problem; it states the solution; it takes the blame where necessary and it gives a promise to the future. Now, if we could set this as mandatory teaching for all companies worldwide I would feel so much better. [The Quiet Earth]

Kim went on to note that while this new transparency is a great thing, it’s not enough to be transparent, you must also be competent. And he borrowed this wonderful phrase from Don Tapscott: “If you are going to be naked, you had better be buff.”

Yesterday my DNS provider, GoDaddy, had a bad buffness day. My site was offline for hours, during which time the blogosphere speculated wildly about problems related to Daylight Saving Time. GoDaddy had nothing to say about it when I checked yesterday, and has nothing now, though it seems that at some point a note about technical difficulties was posted.

Scanning the commentary on various sites yesterday yielded no conclusion. The outage either was, or wasn’t, a denial of service attack unrelated to DST. I never knew which, yesterday, and I still don’t today.

The corollary to “If you are going to be naked, you had better be buff” is clearly not “On a bad buffness day, cover up.”

14 Comments

  1. Such transparency is routine at my webhost. They have a blog giving very timely indication of even relatively minor issues.

    http://www.dreamhoststatus.com/

    The blog is targeted at techie types, like myself, and I’ve had mixed feelings about their blog in the time that I’ve been a customer.

    One problem is one of scale: I don’t know how big Dreamhost’s overall operation is, so I don’t know if the frequency of messages about outages, errors, failures, and downtime is high or low relative to the number of servers that they manage. I asked, and while I don’t remember the actual number of servers (easily hundreds), my impression is that they have a pretty well-oiled system.

    I’ve been a customer for over a year now, with few (but not zero) problems. Over time, the effect of the blog has been to instill a basic confidence that even though there are regular glitches, my web host has their finger on the pulse of their operation, and they are indeed buff, i.e. competent, in their handling of these problems.

    As a programmer and a “power user” of my systems, I know that computers are unreliable, and that some level of bugs and glitches is perfectly normal and predictable. It comforts me to know that Dreamhost is comfortable being naked.

    On the other hand, I use Dreamhost to provide web hosting to my own web clients, and some of them can be pretty alarmist about these things. They don’t have the same understanding of technology that I do and I’ve found that I can do little to persuade them that the sky is not falling in some cases. The first reaction of these people is to want to jump ship–go somewhere else–which is precisely why so many companies don’t publicize their problems.

    It occurs to me that in light of everything you’ve been saying about RSS not being ready yet for the “masses,” it makes it a perfect venue for the type of technical transparency that GoDaddy did not display yesterday. They can get the technical details of their downtime out to people who understand and will not freak out via RSS, and keep the rest of their customers in the dark.

    I know it’s not an ideal compromise, but it seems expedient given the current state of things…

  2. Thanks for linking to that, Jon. I’ll have to share with my co-workers; we’re trying to be as transparent as possible with the pros and cons of what we’re up to and it’s good to keep in mind that looking good is vital if you’re going to go that route.

  3. “we’re trying to be as transparent as possible with the pros and cons of what we’re up to”

    I couldn’t help noticing that what you are up to is inventing the space elevator. Wow.

  4. I couldn’t help noticing that what you are up to is inventing the space elevator. Wow.

    You know what’s interesting? Ten years ago that sentence would have been in the realm of science fiction. Now it’s referring to a idea barely on the edge of being a viable business.

    It sure ’nuff beats digging ditches for a living.

  5. You realize, of course, that when talking about real nakedness that the corollary to “If you are going to be naked, you had better be buff” IS “On a bad buffness day, cover up.” At least that is what they tell me… when I’m having a bad buffness day… which is more often that I’d like to admit…

  6. Similar thing happened to me with Interland ten days ago (and they were completely down including their own Web page). Prompted me to propose that there be a Web host code of conduct in such events: http://binstock.blogspot.com/2007_02_23_archive.html

    Further to your point, Dreamhost (as mentioned by a previous poster) does acknowledge service outages and explains their cause. The problem is that Dreamhost is down so often, that customers are now starting to complain about the company’s frequent mea culpa’s and explanations. As you state, you not only have to be honest, you have to be competent.

  7. I’m of two minds about Dreamhost – yes they’ve had some major outages. That irks me as a customer.

    On the other hand they’re really selling a lot of service for the price. As a customer I like that.

    On the gripping hand, the problems _they_ have mirror the problems that any large data center has. But just try and explain that to the boss …

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