I spent the past few days in Las Vegas for the Layered Tech LTPact 2008 Conference, an event sponsored by Layered Tech, the second largest web hosting and reseller in the world, among WordPress luminaries and experts and a lot of server geeks and serious online business folks.
I got a chance to spend time with Elie Khoury and Jad Younan, co-founders of Woopra, the web analytics program that was the talk of WordCamp Dallas. They arrived from Lebanon only two days before landing in Vegas and were still jet-lagged and culture-shocked from what they had seen so far in the United States – not your normal introduction to this country. Their English is great, though they were nervous speaking it at first, and I was privileged to be the first to interview them. The exclusive interview will be featured on the next WordPress Podcast with Charles Stricklin, discussing how Woopra works and the Woopra API for WordPress Plugins.
I also learned a lot about what goes on under the hood of a blog or website, something we often forget about until our site crashes, goes offline, or the blog borks. One of the most exciting things I learned about is the new hosting service options by Layered Tech called the Cloud that bloggers need to know about.
In the past, if your site was dugg by Digg or linked to from Smashing Magazine, Engadget, BoingBoing, Mashable, or any other high traffic driving site, the typical server set up just couldn’t handle it. With improvements in WordPress and its cache system, and Plugins like Super Cache WordPress Plugin, these worries are a thing of the past – but not completely.
Layered Tech is offering Cloud technology with 3Tera that I think is going to change the way we host our blogs. Called on-demand IT infrastructure or the grid, you can have a flexible website structure, only paying for services you want and need, not having to pay for that which you do not use.
Cloud computing or storage is a networked data storage system using virtual servers rather than dedicated servers. Instead of having your data stored on a single server, it is networked across huge data centers, allowing the data resources to be larger or smaller, depending upon the customer needs.
The typical blogger gets a traffic spike once in a while and the demand on the server typically lasts for a few days and things drop back to a normal level. To accommodate such a demand, we used to have to sign up for web hosting at high levels in order to be ready for the spikes, even though they didn’t come around every day. This new system basically says why pay for what you don’t need, but when you need it, it’s there and you pay for what you use, not what you don’t. You can still upgrade your services when you need them, but this way, you won’t be caught off guard when your site is suddenly the center of attention.
Layered Tech works with a variety of resellers for web hosting services with the “pay as you need” service. According to the Layered Tech representatives I talked to during the conference, you set up your basic service, and if your needs exceed that minimum, the service will expand to meet the need and you will be notified and charged accordingly, and when it drops, the costs drop, too. In a way, this allows your hosting service to grow with you rather than against you.
WordPress.com runs on Layered Tech servers, and if you are self-hosted, I recommend you check with your web hosting provider to see if they are using Layered Tech servers or if their servers use virtual servers and cloud technology. It’s the future and if you are serious about the service your blog offers, you need to be investigating this technology.
What Else Did Lorelle Learn at LTPact?
There were a number of excellent speakers I learned a lot from and will be talking more about soon, including topics on copyright protection, patent and trademark issues and SEO, topics that impact both servers, server software, and online businesses. Our Business of Blogging panel with Matt Mullenweg, John Pozadzides, and I was a great success and sparked a lot of comments and good feedback.
What I learned most had to do with breaking out of my comfort zone. I’m used to conferences where everyone pretty much knows who I am, or will before the end of the first day as I’m typically the keynote or a featured speaker. Only a few knew who I was. I loved introducing myself and being asked who I was with. The first time, I thought they meant if I was with the person I came into the room with, but they meant what company was I with.
“Me,” wasn’t a good response among the corporate thinkers. I quickly restructured my introduction to explain that I was one of the speakers here as an expert in blogging and online community building. Many thought I worked for Automattic and WordPress, so I had to explain I didn’t. I work for me.
The issue of “Where are you based?” came up a lot. My favorite question on that topic was when they asked me where the offices of WordPress and Automattic were based. I told them “on the Internet” just like I was. One man insisted on knowing the geographic location of the WordPress offices. I told them that in today’s modern office, you could have a virtual office on the web and location didn’t matter. Some understood, others shook their heads I just smiled, having lived with a virtual office for many years. It’s the future, folks. Wake up. Geography is important, but becoming obsolete on the web.
These questions helped push my comfort zone around a lot, and inspired a ton of ideas for blog posts, which is why I enjoy stepping out of the safety and security of the known.
The two day conference was filled with great speakers, fabulous food, fun schwag, neat people, entertainment with a magician comedian, and an evening poker tournament. It was in this last event that I got another lesson in blogging.
I did not understand the card game they were playing. It was all for fun, but I was lost from minute one. I’d played various poker card games growing up, excelling at seven-card-no-peek, with my father on long camping and fishing trips, but this was complicated and involved specific verbal commands and hand movements and the taking of extra money from two players on each hand involving something called a blind, a politically incorrect term for someone sensitive to disability name calling. However, I was the first big winner of the night, bouncing two other players out of the game with my very first hand. I still don’t know how I won as none of it made sense.
And I kept winning. Don’t ask me how. I just kept laughing and laughing as the winnings piled up in front of me.
At one point, Barry Abrahamson of WordPress.com threatened to shut down my blog if I threatened his hand. Then Aaron Phillips of FastServer, host of several of my other blogs, threatened to ban my blog, too. I quickly learned that gambling can bring out the mean in many. So I threatened to bet my blogs against theirs and they quickly backed off.
I never quite got the hang of the game, having more fun talking to people as the players were switched around from table to table, and yet I kept winning, finally losing it all as the 12th of the final players. The final ten were award winners so I just missed out.
Several of my fellow players wanted to see the pictures I was taking of the whole conference and especially the poker game, but I told them that I didn’t have a blog upon which to share the pictures. One fellow challenged me to come up with a way to make it work on this blog. Challenged, I went hunting for a way to blog about the poker game and apply it to blogging.
I accepted the challenge.
Blogging is Like Playing in a Poker Game…
For me, the poker tournament was like blogging as we start out all excited, thrilled with the risk and adventure. We publish a few blog posts, fishing around for our blogging voice, and not much happens, but we learn as we play. Then comes the big win when we score, publishing something that proves interesting enough for some big traffic blogs to link to us and send their traffic our way. Our careful betting and gambling has paid off. Lessons learned, we win!
As we become more comfortable with the risks in betting, the excitement begins to wear off. Some call it boredom, others call it stagnation. It’s just the same old same old and blogging becomes work. The hands we are dealt aren’t winners but they aren’t losers, and we bet conservatively, waiting for that bit of excitement.
As I played conservatively with my mediocre hands in the tournament, three different times other players at the table turned up a pair of aces with confidence. Everyone at the table knew cheered them on, also sure they were the next winners – except those betting against them. On the last dealer card, they lost to different combinations of two pairs, a set of three, and a flush while everyone, including the losing player with the pair of aces, was stunned by the loss.
To break out of the boredom, we push the blogging envelop and write specifically for our readers, trying to manipulate a big traffic spike again and again. We study the most popular posts on our blog and on other blogs and try to repeat the success. When you bet your blog with posts designed to bring in traffic, you take a risk that often doesn’t pay off. Each of these three players bet everything on the aces and were out of the game when they lost.
When the three final players of the tournament went into their final rounds, these were the players whom I had watched play well, but play conservatively, taking risks when the win was assured and holding back when they weren’t sure, testing the waters as they went, accumulating small but substantial wins along the way. Bored with the game, I could have held out longer, like them, but bored, I didn’t take the risks that would have kept me going. In the end, just two places shy of a winning position, I stepped out of the game, hurt by my lack of interest in the game.
Finding the balance for the long run not the short haul is difficult. A blog is not a five post run. So many jump in thinking they have tons to say, they say it all in the first five posts, then wonder what there is to write about next, having expended all their energies with their first few bets. It’s the balance between generating content, interest, and enthusiasm over the long term with the occasional wins that keeps a blog going. And wins the pot in the end.
Having accepted and completed the challenge, I thought you might enjoy some photographs of the LTPact Conference in Las Vegas. The images include a few of the speakers, a private party in one of the sponsor suites, Russ Merlin magician and comedian at a luncheon, various attendees, and the poker tournament on the last night.
And I encourage you all to step out of your comfort zone from time to time to explore the unknown around you. You never know how it will pay off on your blog when you gamble just a little bit.
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