Posts from Weblogs

Controlling Your Destiny

I am returning to a theme that I feel quite strongly about.

I blog on WordPress using a host that I have selected and can move from at any time. WordPress is open source software and I can download it and run it on my own machines if I want to. I don’t. But being able to do that is key.

Medium and Substack and Clubhouse and Twitter, etc, etc are fantastic. They make it drop dead simple for anyone to share their thoughts with the world.

But they are controlled by someone else. You can get kicked off. And when you get kicked off, you lose all of your followers, all of your content. Gone.

I’m not down for that.

Nor should you be.

#life lessons#Weblogs

Most Read Blog Posts

On the USV website, we show the most read blog posts by author.

Here are mine:

I want to do this for AVC too. I will ask my partner Nick who managed the construction of USV.com how he did that and will see if I can get that working on AVC.

When you’ve written 8,800 posts, there are sure to be some duds and some great ones. It would be nice to showcase the great ones.

#Weblogs

Some Email Stats

I was looking at my Feedblitz dashboard this morning. Feedblitz powers the daily email for this blog.

These are all of the emails/blog posts I have done this month:

As you can see the open rate hovers between a low of 33% (Ghost Pacer) and a high of 45% (Subscription Agreements).

The unsubscribe rate ranges from 0.02% to 0.075% (on my birthday!).

I suspect the click data is not instrumented properly because I can’t imagine that nobody clicks on any links in the posts. But since I am not trying to generate clicks, I don’t really care too much about that.

I don’t view AVC as an email newsletter. I view it as a blog. But it is both and this data shows that lots of people get it that way and enjoy it. That’s great.

#Weblogs

Short and Sweet

My friend Jonathan sent me a couple graphs he made of the content on AVC over the years.

Here is how word count has evolved over the years. I started out with short posts, got longer for a while, and am now back to the short post.

Here is how post count has evolved over the years. In the early days of AVC, I would post multiple times a day (like many people use Twitter today). I moved to the once a day post around the time Twitter came along, although I don’t think they are related, and have been doing that ever since.

So that’s how the short daily post format evolved here at AVC. It is neat to see it visualized like this.

#Weblogs

The Daily Email

AVC has always been a blog. But over time, it has also become a daily email.

Ten years ago, the average monthly visitors to the website was 100k. Now, it is around 60k.

But over the same ten year period, the daily email subscriber base has grown from 2,500 people to over 30k people.

That is the power of push media. That is the power of an email list.

#Weblogs

AVC Comments Migration Complete

Back when we launched the new AVC (AVC 3.0) and moved away from the Disqus comment system, I heard loudly and clearly that the folks who have left comments here at AVC, via Disqus, from 2007 to early 2020, would like to have their comments displayed at the bottom of all of those old blog posts.

That was not an easy thing to do because I wanted to migrate all of those comments out of Disqus into the AVC WordPress database so that we have full control over them and how to display them in the new AVC.

Disqus was super helpful in getting the comments out, but we ran into a number of issues given that massive number of comments. There were 459,000 comments left on AVC in the “Disqus era.” Think about that.

Here is an email the team at Storyware, who did the work, sent me explaining their process. They also migrated the comments on GothamGal.com and completed that last month.

At first we tried to use the official Disqus Plugin to migrate your comments, but their plugin resulted in errors each time we tried to process a batch of comments. We then looked at writing a custom migration script for the exported XML file that you obtained from Disqus. With nearly 500k comments, your migration file was 397.3 MB in size. This massive file wasn’t efficient for testing migration scripts so we tabled this, knowing that we would be migrating a small set of Disqus comments for GothamGal. 

The GothamGal export from Disqus turned out to be 27 MB, much smaller in size. We used her export file to then develop a CLI tool to process the XML file and migrate the comments into WordPress. This tool worked well, but it relies on holding a lot of items in memory: an array of the Disqus threads (your posts), an array of your Disqus comments, and an array of processed comments that we can use for associating parents with children. This same script just couldn’t handle an export file that’s the size of the one generated for avc.com

To run the Disqus to WordPress migration for AVC, we developed a plugin that allowed us to perform the following steps:

1/Process all of the threads in the XML file, and store them in a new database table. These threads are needed for grabbing the URL associated with each comment, which can then be used to associate each comment with a post in WordPress. 

2/Process all of the Disqus comments in the XML file and also store these in a new database table, which we can use to gradually migrate the comments into WordPress. We did still have to break the huge AVC Disqus export file into 16 pieces in order to save the comments from the XML file into the database 🙂

3/Use a Laravel-esque Queue system to run batches of migrations in the background, processing 5,000 comments with each batch. We used the WP Queue package from Delicious Brains for the basis of this functionality, and then created a REST endpoint for triggering the Queue to process. 

Storyware plans to clean up the plugin and release it as a developer tool in the near future. 

This turned out to be a pretty big project that took their time and my expense to get done. But I want to honor all of the work that the AVC community put into the comments and that has now been done.

You can see what a long comment thread looks like at the bottom of the infamous Marketing post from 2011.

We have noticed in the migration logs that some comments didn’t make it through because of changes in the associated post’s URL after publication, but the overwhelming majority of all your comments were migrated without issue. I do not plan to fix that. I don’t believe in letting perfect becoming the enemy of the good.

I am relieved that this is now complete. I hope you all are as well.

#Weblogs

Site Reliability Issues

Since launching AVC 3.0 on January 9th, we have had some site reliability issues.

The most common issue is a “too many redirects” error that has been reported by many people and is intermittent and not easily reproducible. That said, a number of you have been able to create .HAR files and send them to me. Thank you for doing that. Siteground and Cloudflare are now debugging this issue and we hope to have it resolved soon.

I have found that clearing your cache in your browser can help with this issue, but even so, I want to resolve it properly and hope to be able to do so soon.

Last week we had a DDOS attack from China that was caught by Cloudflare and mitigated, but it did result in a short amount of downtime and required blocking several IP addresses at Siteground.

And finally, Siteground had some unplanned downtime this past week as well.

This is not a great way to start out of the gate with a new version of AVC and I am sorry about it.

Those of you who get AVC via email and RSS should not have noticed anything as those services were not impacted to my knowledge.

#Weblogs

The AVC Daily Email

Most of you read AVC via email.

Today, all of you will see a refresh of the look and feel of the daily email to match the refresh we did to the website last week.

I want to thank Phil Hollows of Feedblitz who made this happen for all of us. And Kirk Love who created the new look and feel and helped a bit with the email work too.

A few stats: There are about 29,000 email subscribers to AVC. The daily open rate hovers around 40%. So roughly 12,000 people a day read AVC via email. That compares to an average day when about 6,000 people stop by the website and several thousand more who subscribe to and read the RSS feed on a daily basis.

I hope you all enjoy the new look and feel.

#Weblogs

AVC 3.0

Welcome to the new AVC. This is the third “iteration” of this blog.

The first iteration (AVC 1.0) was the Typepad era during which I redesigned AVC a number of times using Typepad’s tools. That lasted from September 2003 to February 2014.

About six years ago, we moved AVC to WordPress and did a significant redesign (AVC 2.0) and very little has changed since then.

AVC 2.0 had a nice long run and served its purpose very well. 

But for most of the last year, I have wanted to make a number of changes to AVC:

1/ I wanted to move to a new host. I have been struggling to maintain the hosting infrastructure by myself and that has resulted in a number of outages, some only visible to me, some visible to all of you. 

2/ I wanted to get a professional developer team involved that I can rely on from time to time to help me with technical issues.

3/ I wanted to improve search so that we can all find those old blog posts that we know exist but are no longer on the front page.

4/ I wanted to move to a more minimalist design where the blog posts are the main thing you notice when you come here.

5/ I wanted to find a way to continue to allow discussions without having to manage/maintain/moderate a full-blown comment community.

I am happy to report that I was able to do all of that with AVC 3.0:

1/ AVC is now running on Siteground. We continue to use Cloudflare for security and caching. We now use AWS for backups of the WordPress data.

2/ AVC is now supported by Storyware who will help me manage the hosting infrastructure and will be available to make tweaks to the UI when/if necessary.

3/ AVC search now runs on Algolia which will allow me to tweak and improve search relevancy over time to make it easier to find older blog posts.

4/ AVC has a sleek new design, made by Kirk Love, which is minimalist and copy centric.

5/ Comments are gone, replaced by a very cool WordPress/Twitter plugin developed by my colleague Nick Grossman which was built on top of this existing WordPress plugin.

Those are the big changes. Many things remain the same.

1/ You can continue to subscribe to AVC by email and RSS. We continue to use Feedblitz and Feedburner, respectively, to power that.

2/ We continue to maintain an archive of old blog posts by date and category and a specific archive for MBA Mondays.

3/ We continue to show full blog posts on the front page in reverse chronological order.

4/ We continue to run the USV Team Posts widget so you can see what my colleagues at USV are blogging about.

There are two important changes that I would like to talk about a bit more.

I have typically blogged every day, including weekends. I tend to post audio or video on Saturdays and write a regular blog post on Sundays. I am going to move to optional blogging on the weekends. I will sometimes write on Sundays and I will sometimes post audio or video on Saturdays. But I will not commit to doing that every weekend. I have already started to do this and some of you may have noticed it. You will notice this change in the About page.

AVC has always had comments. Initially on Typepad’s comment system. Then powered by Disqus, a former USV portfolio company. Disqus is a fantastic product, built and maintained by a terrific group of people. It is the best commenting system in the market by a very long shot. But managing, maintaining, and moderating a comment community is something that you must actively work on. I have done that assisted voluntarily by a number of AVC regulars, most notably William Mougayar, and also Shana Carp. I very much appreciate all the work they have done on this over the years. But I have tired of the work and I imagine that they have too.

So we have moved to hosting the discussions of AVC blog posts on Twitter. You will see two buttons at the bottom of a post. The first button allows anyone to easily post a comment as a reply to the @AVC tweet announcing a new blog post. The second button will allow you to see the entire comment thread on Twitter. 

Kirk initially suggested this approach of using Twitter to host discussions to me. My colleague Nick developed the functionality and it has been running on his blog for a few weeks now. He built it on top of this existing WordPress to Twitter plugin.  The “Discuss On Twitter” functionality is now running on USV.com in addition to Nick’s blog and AVC.

I think Twitter is a fantastic place to host discussions and I hope that other bloggers that use WordPress will adopt Nick’s plugin. And I plan to show this plugin to Jack and others at Twitter in the hopes that they will adopt it and make this a feature of Twitter than can run on all blogging platforms.

I hope you like AVC 3.0 as much as I do. And I hope that you will continue to get as much value out of it as I do.

#Weblogs

What Is Going On With AVC? (continued)

I have received a bunch of questions from AVC regulars about this temporary design and what is going on with AVC.

As I wrote in the first post in this series :), a couple of files in my WordPress configuration got deleted during the year-end holidays, messing up the look and feel of AVC pretty badly.

At the same time, I have been working with Kirk Love (a longtime friend) and a WordPress design firm called Storyware to design and build an entirely new AVC.

I am pleased to let all of you know that this shiny new AVC will launch tomorrow with a blog post from me talking about the new design and what we are trying to do with it.

#Weblogs