ActiveRain Technology Update: May 13

By
Services for Real Estate Pros with Trulia
http://actvra.in/9NM

Nikesh Parekh's DeskEveryone,

I hope everyone had a GREAT week and has amazing plans for the weekend.  I have actually had a great week.  I have made some amazing new friends, spoke to amazing people (Greg, Donna, Craig, David, Karen, Tammy, Katerina, Mimi, Maureen, Todd, and many others), AND I am more energized by ActiveRain than ever before.  It's a beautiful day in Seattle.  It feels like summer is around the corner, which is a big deal in Seattle.

As I mentioned in my blog post last Friday, improving the stability of our technology and communication about our technology here at ActiveRain are jobs 1, 2, & 3 for me.  I am committed to talking to everyone here on ActiveRain regularly about our technology, even when there may not be anything earth shattering to say.

We are making great progress in building a stable foundation for ActiveRain and improving its performance.  As I mentioned before, there is no silver bullet and we may experience further outages in the future.   We are taking it one step at a time.  We are learning what we need to do.  We are investing in the right resources to make sure get to the root of the problem and solve it.

Here's this week's progress (you may want to grab a cup of coffee, tea, beer or beverage of your choice):

Chris And EliseOur Team - Where There Was One, Now There Are Six: 

  • To-date, my greatest failing as CEO of ActiveRain was not notifying everyone upfront that our CTO had resigned and walked out the door on the day I started at ActiveRain (actually within one hour of my walking in the door).  He had come to ActiveRain to work with Jon.  I am not Jon.  I spent three weeks in vain trying to convince him to come back and give us a reasonable transition.  I failed.  At the point I knew in my heart that we would not come to terms with him (probably end of last week), I should have openly told the community.  I am sorry I did not and have learned an important lesson about ActiveRain. 
  • I apologize.  I own the drama of the week.  Period.
  • We have assembled a great team that is tackling the core technology challenges underlying ActiveRain. 
  • Chris Paredes is our technology lead here at ActiveRain.  He started several weeks before I did.  Chris has a great background in the technology that ActiveRain was built on.  Chris is committed and doing a stellar job, learning ActiveRain and troubleshooting problems as they arise.  Here is a pic of Chris and his dog Elise here in the office.   Here is a link to Chris's blog so you can learn more about him.
  • Alex Lange is stepping in to play a more hands-on role to help us with the technology at ActiveRain.  Alex is the current CTO at Market Leader and is the former CTO at Roost and Chief Architect at Art.com   I have worked in and with many technology companies and Alex is probably the most capable CTO I have ever seen.  He delivers.  He is realistic.  His is on or ahead of time.  It is great to have him in our corner.
  • Chris Beahm is the Production Operations Manager and Patrick Lesher is the  Sr. Linux Systems Administrator at Market Leader.  With our systems and database issues, Chris and Patrick are digging in to figure them out and help get the site back up.  Just to be clear, in the tech world, there are lots of different kinds of specialists.  In technology, there are user interface and front-end developers, there are middleware guys (how does the user interface talk to the database and the infrastructure?), there are database specialists (how does data get stored, how do we access it?), and there are operations and infrastructure specialists like Chris and Patrick (and Alex Lange) who design and maintain your infrastructure (boxes, cables, bandwidth and other hardware) to have optimal performance.  Prior to four weeks ago, ActiveRain had one talented developer straddling across many different technology specialities. 
  • We have hired one consultant who is a rockstar Ruby on Rails developer who actually worked at ActiveRain from 2008-2009.  He is awesome.  Smart, fast, humble.
  • We have also hired an incredible technology infrastructure consultant that is going through all the technology plumbing here at ActiveRain to help us create the plan to improve the technology.  We are learning that there are some basic things that can be updated to improve the performance and reliability of ActiveRain.  
  • Once we have all the information and the plan in place, we will communicate that plan as much as we can.

AR ViewCommunication with the Community When ActiveRain is Down

  • One of my greatest frustrations coming into ActiveRain is that there was no defined communication plan when the site is down.  Communication is critical and we have heard that from the community.
  • I personally don't like hearing that things have gone "pear shaped" or that I can't "find my keys."
  • We want our community to build their businesses and lives on ActiveRain.  
  • On Monday, we had a meeting and defined how we are going to communicate with our members when the site is not functioning.
  • Here is the current plan (we are open to feedback):
    1. We will put up a page on ActiveRain notifying you of the status of ActiveRain (so you don't need to go somewhere else to understand where we are). You can see a sample version here.
    2. We will continue to communicate on FaceBook and Twitter.
    3. We encourage you to contact us if you have any concerns.  There is a contact form on the maintenance page as well people can contact us by FaceBook, Twitter and phone.
    4. We will send out an email to the base if we believe there is an unusual circumstance where downtime may be significant (I am not sure what the time period is right now to be honest.  We are figuring this out.)
    5. I will post after an outage on my blog in terms of what happened and what we are doing about it.

Relationship with Rackspace

  • We currently use Rackspace as our "managed hosting provider."  In other words, our 8 servers sit in a temperature controlled building in Chicago owned and operated by Rackspace.
  • We pay a premium for their "fanatical support" - their tag line.
  • I notified Rackspace that we are not happy with the level of support and service we are getting from them.  I have been on the job for 4 weeks now and the site has been down several times since I started and this is not acceptable.  We will look for other solutions if they are not able to solve this problem.  
  • They are now scrambling to gather data and put together a plan to give us better support and stability.
  • We should have a phone call in the near term to discuss how our relationship with Rackspace continues in the future.

What We Have Learned This Week

  • We have made great progress this week.
  • I talked with Alex Lange and our technology team about what we have learned from a deep dive into the "plumbing of ActiveRain."
  • In general, my take-aways from the discussion are that the settings of our hardware at Rackspace need to be evaluated (as the traffic and requirements on the site have grown/changed), our database needs a regular vacuuming and maintenance (as I mentioned last week. Technical peeps: click here for more information about vacuuming a PostgreSQL database), and we are setting up the right monitoring to further understand the underlying issues.

Going Forward Plan:

  • We will be implementing changes over the next week to not only stabilize, but improve performance.
  • Over the next month, we'll continue to find the issues that have plagued our performance.   You should be seeing ever increasing improvements very soon.
  • We plan on implementing a new architecture that can scale for years to come.  Part of this will include separating the community technology from the internal systems.
  • Once we finish these items, we'll start improving ActiveRain and add new features.

Just to clarify, our jobs 1, 2, and 3 are stabilizing and improving the performance of ActiveRain.  Once we are confident in the foundation, we can start addressing bugs and building new features.  I want our team laser focused on the issue of stability and performance.

I reassure you that ActiveRain is NOT going anywhere and it is getting better everyday.  We are learning and our approach to the technology will bear fruit.  I have seen a number of members looking at WordPress as a complement to their ActiveRain blog.  We have ALWAYS enabled you to move your content from ActiveRain to WordPress if you want a back-up or feel like you want more control over your content.  ActiveRain and WordPress are complements AND I believe ActiveRain exists for a completely different reason than WordPress.  If you don't believe me, check out my collage competition in terms of what ActiveRain means to our members.  I wonder what a collage would look like if WordPress asked its members what WordPress means to them. 

ActiveRain has always been about the people, the connections and the community.  We need a strong foundation to build a house, a village and then a city.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you.  Call me or email me - 206 470 2908.  I pick up the phone.  I am also on our sales and customer service phone queues, so don't be surprised if you call in at some point and talk to me, like Fred Ehmann today.

Niki

 

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Nikesh Parekh

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Re-Blogged 4 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Barbara-Jo Roberts Berberi & Corinna Birgit Cromartie 05/14/2011 08:53 AM
  2. Tim Peterson 05/15/2011 08:20 PM
  3. Wallace S. Gibson, CPM 05/16/2011 06:05 AM
  4. Donna Foerster 05/20/2011 06:22 PM
Topic:
ActiveRain Community
Tags:
activerain technology
nikesh parekh
ceo

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Ambassador
1,493,740
Anna Banana Kruchten
Phoenix Property Shoppe - Phoenix, AZ
Arizona's Top Banana of Real Estate!

Nothing like getting in the frying pan right off the bat with the gas tuned on high heat.  Heat happens and it's how we deal with it that keeps stuff from getting burned.  Good job - taking care of the customers is key in any business - especially your raving fans. AR has a lot of raving fans that trust in your vision and ability to move us into a more stable future. I am confident you will.  With that there are some things I've been asking for help with for quite some time and still no fixes or answers. Who should I call? 

May 15, 2011 01:36 PM #104
Rainmaker
117,206
Barrie Clulow
My Time Is My Own - Uxbridge, ON

Nikesh - I for one am glad that the new Active Rain management has indicated they are listening to the members of the community ..... communities are better built with co-operation, rather than confrontation.

Hopefully there will be a replacement for Nikki Jenson who had recently taken on the challenge of encouraging Canadians. Some great Canadian members seem to have disappeared and now only post occasionally if at all.

Your Canadian contingent may be small in the overall picture but I believe we are well represented based on our comparative populations.

May 15, 2011 02:05 PM #105
Rainmaker
263,036
Pat & Steve Pribisko
Keller Williams Greater Cleveland West - Westlake, OH

Great update!  I have been very concerned lately about the number of times ActiveRain has been down lately. 

May 15, 2011 02:23 PM #106
Rainer
8,343
Taher Kasubhai
Canoga Park,Simi Valley,Northridge,Tarzana,Reseda,Encino,LA - West Hills, CA
West Hills,Woodland Hills,Chatsworth

I have been learning a lot from Steve's webinars. He has a great ability to explain difficult concepts in net marketing of real estate. Keep the good work alive. Good luck!

May 15, 2011 02:38 PM #107
Rainmaker
586,746
DeeDee Riley
Lyon Real Estate - El Dorado Hills CA - El Dorado Hills, CA
Realtor - El Dorado Hills & the Surrounding Areas
Thank you Niki for the updates and your commitment to this great community as we know it!
May 15, 2011 04:48 PM #108
Rainmaker
391,037
Elizabeth Cooper-Golden
Huntsville Alabama Real Estate, (@ Homes Realty Group) - Huntsville, AL
Huntsville AL MLS

Niki, Now THIS is Active Rain.  Transparent and honest.  This is why I joined and why I shall remain a member.  I believe in AR and we will all grow to trust you as we did the previous AR Gods.  It just takes time and we all have plenty of that.  Thank you for your play by play plan...sounds like a winner to me.

May 15, 2011 06:40 PM #109
Rainer
165,236
Ray Waisler
Evolve Bank & Trust-Atlanta, GA Lending Nationwide - Atlanta, GA
NMLS #6621 - Specializing in Jumbo FHA & VA

Niki, thank for the update and I look forward to a much improved platform under your guidance. I am however wondering when you'll implement an update that will write the blogs for us as we're thinking about them?  

May 15, 2011 06:43 PM #110
Ambassador
416,930
Susan Goulding
Crown Key Realty, Tracy & Mountain House Real Estate - Tracy, CA
Northern CA - Tracy & Mountain House Real Estate

Thanks for the update.  Knowing what's going on is a huge comfort.

May 15, 2011 08:26 PM #111
Rainmaker
282,933
Steven Pahl
Keller Williams Tampa Properties - Tampa, FL
Real Estate Consultant Tampa, FL 813-319-6423

Not sure if vacuuming the database includes deleting member accounts that have not posted or logged on for months and/or years, but it would be a good starting point to gain a more accurate count of current members and regain valuable server space that is housing unnecessary information and costing money.

May 15, 2011 11:33 PM #112
Anonymous
Anonymous

Okay.. thanks for the update... we need to keep informed....

May 16, 2011 12:01 AM #113
Rainer
68,804
Robert Courtney
Lihue, HI
Century 21 All Islands, RA, CDPE, MCRE, CIAS

Thank you for keeping us updated on what is happening and what to expect.

May 16, 2011 02:07 AM #114
Rainmaker
1,089,089
Wallace S. Gibson, CPM
Gibson Management Group, Ltd. - Charlottesville, VA
LandlordWhisperer

What a great intro - thank you for the update and for keeping us informed!

May 16, 2011 06:03 AM #115
Rainmaker
1,396,145
Maureen McCabe
HER Realtors - Columbus, OH
Columbus Ohio Real Estate

#112 says "Not sure if vacuuming the database includes deleting member accounts that have not posted or logged on for months and/or years, but it would be a good starting point to gain a more accurate count of current members and regain valuable server space that is housing unnecessary information and costing money."

I think vacuuming the database is under the hood. Not something we see on the face of AR.  Or am I wrong? Look at the link Niki has  to vacumming

#112 Were you here for the fiasco last summer when AR ungrandfathered founding members?  I thought of it as a census.  ActiveRain  did not intend to delete content or members but some founding members removed their content because of that fiasco... to me the biggest fiasco to date, bar none but perhaps my perspective is different because I was here in 2006 and KNOW the people who took down their content.

Ungrandfathering was more about fees and not about purging content but I am not sure a lot of us understood that... if you were not using something and would continue to not use it you would NOT be incurring new fees, but they would have stayed in the #, their OLD content would have remained public. New content would not have been public unless they participated regularly,it was a reward for checking in.   Some great members got in a snit and removed their content. 

I do not think you will ever see the # in the top right corner of AR rolled back.   Today 207,395.

Public content is what feeds the traffic here, I think ActiveRain was trying to get those who were so inclined to participate...  ActiveRain is inclusive... not exclusive.

May 16, 2011 08:27 AM #116
Rainer
55,495
Pamelyn Meller
The Property Shoppe Team LLC - Lyndon Station, WI
CDPE (Certified Distressed Property Expert)

Thanks for the update, and keep up the good work to keep us up and running, when AR is down, it is like a day without coffee.

May 16, 2011 11:00 AM #117
Staff
171,932
Nikesh Parekh
Trulia - Bellevue, WA
VP of New Ventures, Trulia

Everyone,

Thank you so much for your words of support and encouragement.  There is nothing like coming in on a Monday morning to a voicemail box that is filled with positive messages about ActiveRain.   I am really learning what ActiveRain is all about. :) 

I am committed to open communication with everyone here.  There is a lot of work to do to achieve the nearly unlimited potential that ActiveRain has.  We will get there.  I am confident of it.

A number of members above have asked me what is my vision for ActiveRain and have suggested great features, fixes and additions.  At this point, I am focused on: 1) the technology and the building the right technology team, 2) listening closely and 3) learning everyday to really understand the community and products (the good, the bad and the ugly).   Rather than walking in the door and proclaiming that I have any of the answers, I would much rather work with the community and the team here at ActiveRain to build it together.

Niki

May 16, 2011 11:40 AM #118
Rainmaker
496,039
Jan Green
Scottsdale, Phoenix, Cave Creek, Carefree, Fountain Hills - Scottsdale, AZ
RE/MAX Excalibur Scottsdale REALTOR®, GREEN

Niki:  Thank you for your positive outlook and improvements.  I'm excited to see new changes and am hopeful for AR's future.  I'm always vocal to those in my community about AR and what a great platform it is with such veterans.  Best of luck in your position!

May 16, 2011 01:08 PM #119
Rainmaker
42,689
Michael Barrow
Keller Williams Realty - San Diego Metro - San Diego, CA
Realtor, San Diego CA Real Estate

Thanks for the update!  It is much appreciated!

May 16, 2011 03:09 PM #120
Rainmaker
167,712
Elisa Uribe Realtor #01427070
Wells and Bennett Realtors - Oakland, CA
California Homes for Sale in the East Bay

I especially like this comment: I want our team laser focused on the issue of stability and performance.

If you don't start with the basics, the rest won't matter much.

A good analogy is we wouldn't take a buyer shopping for a home without being pre-approved:)

May 16, 2011 05:13 PM #121
Rainmaker
549,523
Cynthia Larsen
Safe Haven Realty - Cotati, CA
Independent Broker Serving Sonoma County, CA

Sweet! Good to hear AR will be here for us, some of us were getting worried :)

May 17, 2011 02:27 PM #122
Rainmaker
366,823
Sylvie Stuart
Keller Williams Check Realty 928-600-2765 - Flagstaff, AZ
Home Buying, Home Selling and Investment - Flagstaff, AZ

Thank you for the update! I love how you are always striving to make things better!

May 20, 2011 12:41 PM #123
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Nikesh Parekh

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