The first day of the RNC had interesting blogger moments - mostly from outside of the convention, where both Liberal and Conservative bloggers placed their attention. Much of the following information is taken from Technorati's Politics Attention Index™, a new feature on politics.technorati.com where we watch the most authoritative bloggers following the US Elections - both liberal and conservative, and track the stories they are monitoring, and in some cases, breaking.
I'm proud to announce that we've just gone live with an updated feature set and look to our Election Watch 2004 site, politics.technorati.com. You'll notice a few big changes, and a bunch of smaller, more subtle changes and fixes. We've changed the orientation of the site away from posting the most recent posts by authoritative political bloggers (although you can still get to that view in 3-pane, liberal, conservative, RNC, or combined view) to one that focuses on where the authoritative political bloggers are spending their attention - what we are calling the Politics Attention Index™.
The Attention Index measures the blog posts, news articles, and other places on the Internet where bloggers are pointing. This is similar to what Blogdex, Daypop, Popdex, or even Technorati's own NewsTalk is doing, but we are limiting the set of bloggers to the ~10,000 most authoritative political bloggers, which we derived by looking at both what bloggers write about as well as how many other political bloggers are linking to them. This is also how we analyzed blogs to find the most authoritative liberal and conservative bloggers, and where they're spending their attention over the last 12 hours (here's the Liberal Attention Index, and the Conservative Attention Index). Note that you'll sometimes find the same items discussed by both liberals and conservatives, but often the items are quite different, or the amount of attention spent is quite different. These authoritative political bloggers became a collaborative filter for events going on in the world - helping to filter out the most interesting and important things going on around the political blogosphere.
We've also added charts and graphs! Working with the folks at CNN, we're tracking the histories and comparisons of some of the major players and stories going on in the political world. We'll be updating the charts that you can see with others as topics emerge at and after the conventions.
As always, we're looking for your feedback! There's a lot we did that are improvements on the old design, but I know there's still a lot that can be made even better. Let me know what you think of things, and how we can be of service to you.
Kudos to the entire Technorati team - you guys made this happen. I'm really proud of you.
We are very pleased that CNN has invited Technorati back to provide real-time analysis of the political blogosphere at next week's Republican National Convention. I will be in New York at CNN's convention broadcast center at Madison Square Garden, along with Technorati's Richard Ault. Technorati will provide on-air commentary for CNN, and a daily update at CNN.com, on what bloggers are saying about politics and the convention. We're really excited and looking forward to the opportunity to showcase the work of the great bloggers who will be writing about the convention and related activities.
Please contact me at email@example.com or Richard Ault at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any comments or would like to let me know about something happening in the blogosphere during the convention! We'll be working our butts off to give you the best information we can.
Things have been extremely busy here at Technorati. We've had a lot of growth in attention and usage of the service, and we've also been going through a bunch of scaling problems. We've been working day and night to get bugs fixed and the service fast, stable, and reliable. We're not 100% there yet, but we're making progress. The past few weeks we've fixed some of the things that broke when we first deployed the Election Watch site. We want to continue to be of service to you, our users, and we take our responsibility to you very seriously. If you're experiencing problems, please send us feedback. I want to make sure we're being responsive to you. Thanks again for using Technorati, and looking forward to seeing a bunch of you in NYC!
When I look up Technorati on Technorati today, the top results (e.g. Michael Fioritto, paidContent, Om Malik, and John Battelle) carry news that we've received venture funding. Some of you may wonder why we generally don't bother talking about investment stuff. Isn't it news, after all?
Making a big deal about VC investments is unnecessary, it seems to me. One of the biggest reasons for the dot-com crash was an imbalance of attention: far too much on investments, and far too little on building real businesses with those investments. In a sane and sober business environment, the proper ratio should be completely customer-focused.
In our case, we're putting our investments to work building infrastructure and providing service to a population that's growing at an explosive rate. Frankly, we'd rather talk about that than about the money others have invested in us. Right now our staff is just thirteen people, all sprinting a marathon. As you probably know, our struggles have been no secret. My last two posts were about those problems and what we've done to get past them. We'll have more problems, I'm sure. (Esther Dyson says "Always make new mistakes.") But I also think we've made good progress, especially considering the steepness of the hill we've chosen to climb.
Perception is often a trailing indicator. That's how I regard remarks like Michael Fioritto's "Maybe now the site will start working, for a change..." That change came several weeks ago. Technorati's performance is far from ideal; but it is improving. Please keep banging on it and let us know how we're doing and what we can do better. That's the kind of investment that helps the most.
Well, it certainly has been an incredible past 3 weeks. It's almost hard to believe, but it has only been 20 days since we got the initial call from CNN, and the entire team here has been through a firedrill the likes of which I've never seen. In three short weeks, we had to completely revamp and fix a number of core scalability issues with the Technorati service as well as roll out a new site redesign ahead of schedule, not to mention the new politics site as well. I'm amazed that we weathered the storm. Site traffic grew by 8x to 10x over or previous levels, the site is now valid XHTML 1.0, is completely CSS driven, more cross-browser friendly, and we added 60 more servers to handle the increased database demand. We now have far fewer single points of failure, which will allow the service to grow more smoothly in the future.
Unfortunately, we also broke a bunch of things. First off, user logins got broken when we switched to a new load-balanced front-end system. This new system allows us to put as many web servers out there as we wanted, but in the rush, we broke the code that performed user sessions - which meant that user logins don't work correctly. We put in a new caching subsystem which wasn't fully tested, and sometimes service results went awry. Weblog claims aren't working right for a small segment of our members, a nagging problem that we've got to get working as well. And worst of all, email watchlists for some of our paying subscribers have been broken, and we haven't been on the ball in fixing it.
For as much progress that we've made in the last few weeks and months, with all the increased visibility and traffic, we've been so focused on the trees, that we've lost sight of the forest - which are you guys, the bloggers and users of the service. We've gotten offtrack, thinking about new features and enhancements before handling and fixing the known issues we already had (gosh darn it, there are so many cool features to do). We lost sight of the fact that we're here to be of service to you.
There's no good excuse for that.
All I can say is that we're committed to fixing the issues, and to building a rock-solid infrastructure and bug-free service. The first thing we're doing is fixing the session/login issues, so those of you who weren't able to log in will be able to log in. Responsiveness and customer support is also a top priority.
Over the last few days, I've gotten a lot of email and pointers to blog entries that commented on the service - both successes and frustrations. Thanks for the criticism and feedback. Some of it was brutal, but that's the best kind - the stuff that hits closest to the heart. Like how we were being unresponsive. That's just unacceptable. And we're going to fix that. We're taking this week to go back and take a serious look at what we did right, what we did wrong, and how we can better serve all of you going forward. Thanks again for using Technorati, and for all of the time, attention, and feedback. We're committed to making things right, and providing a great service to all of you.