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jayMeet Jeremy,

He is my older brother and is a good guy. He has a few big passions in his life: His kids, Snowboarding, Tie-Dye, and the band TOOL

When I say he loves TOOL, he really really loves TOOL, like went to 5-6 TOOL shows this year alone, and maybe 20, 30 in his life. He’s a superfan, period.

Quick backstory

Sally and I were out to dinner the other day with some friends, coincidentally it was the day after I attended the TOOL concert here in Phoenix (I’m a fan too). The FnB restaurant/bodega sells wine from the Caduceus Winery owned/operated by Maynard Keenen (TOOL vocalist). The co-owner of the restaurant secured me a hard to find bottle of Caduceus wine as a gift for my brother Jeremy who as you now know is a rabid TOOL fan. What a nice guy I am right?

Make him super happy

So I shoot off a txt message to Jay showing him what I got for him. (screenshots stitched in photoshop)

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Notice that he said he got goose bumps. Jay is not a super outwardly emotional person. I am pretty sure this was a big deal for him.

Kick him in the junk.

Then a couple days later, on April 1.

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Yeah, I did give away his Iron Maiden piece of mind tapestry to his friend when I was like 8, and I did shoot the neighbors chickens with his BB gun and let him take the blame when I was 9.  Meh.

So, pretty sure in the few minutes before I told him April Fools, my older brother was most definitely tearing up. I do have the bottle, and yes I will send it to him soon.. Ha.

Selfish Prick

February 2, 2014 — Leave a comment

Unfortunately the post title is a self-descriptive term.

A couple days ago I began to think about and focus on my interpersonal relationships. With Sally, and with others. I have arrived at the conclusion, (and by all accounts I am very late getting to it) that I lean heavily towards being a overly self-involved, narcissistic, selfish ass. Sure I have plenty of redeeming qualities, but on the day-to-day I think my selfishness play’s a dominant role.

This is not a personality trait I wish to continue having. Means I am going to have to work on showing empathy, being a better listener, dropping my ego, and being more honest with myself and others about how I feel.

Okay, let’s get to work.

Two ends of the spectrum.

I am so stoked on the direction my company Pagely is going and the progress we are making. My kids and wife are amazing. Being a Dad with 2 small boys in pretty much the coolest thing I could have ever imagined.

However, I am so fucking tired. Like sleep for a week tired.

Get the kids down for bed at 7pm, smart thing would be go sleep myself.  But the other side of my brain has been working on new wireframes, or code chunks, or marketing elements since around 3pm when I quit ‘work’. So with a rush of energy I flip open the laptop and get cranking again instead of sleep.

Come 11pm or midnight I know I have to get some sleep, so I crawl into bed. Sit there for 30mins while my brain keeps solving problems, then wake up an hour later to burp my youngest and get him settled back to sleep. Same thing again at 4:30am, maybe get a little more sleep till 7am before I brew some coffee and start the cycle again.

Wake, Dad, Work, Dad, Work, Sleep,Dad,Sleep,Dad — start again.

Evan is about 12 weeks now, so I know it wont be like this forever.. another 10 or 12 weeks and he should sleep most of the night thru. That is the hardest part as the sleep I am getting is so crummy since I am up every couple hours.

Worth it? Hell yes!  <Yawn>

There are parts of my life that I would like to improve of course, but overall I feel like I am in a great place.

Ethan on the left who is nearly 2, and Evan who is 3 mos.

my-boys

 

Recently the worlds largest economy web host, GoDaddy, launched their version of Managed WordPress Hosting, a concept we pioneered at Pagely. Their new service is cheaply priced and according to GoDaddy’s support docs they blacklist a handful of WordPress plugins.

We make our Managed WordPress accounts as secure as possible. To help achieve that, we blacklist a number of plugins known to cause security issues. This list uses the name of the folder the plugin creates when you install it. You can view this directory by connecting to your Managed WordPress account via sFTP

If you have been comparison shopping for Managed WordPress Hosting you may have run across another competitor of ours that also publicly posts a list of plugins they “disallow”.

The two lists are identical which leads me to believe that the GD engineering team did not actually research or vet their listed plugins but simply played copy-pasta from someone else. Since they did not validate the list themselves, I think it would be fair to say they really have no idea why they are banning a particular plugin.

Here is a little more insight: I noticed a plugin on both lists called hcs.php which happens to not exist in the .org repo or could be found on google, but is the exact name we gave one of our internal mu-plugins that was used to manage Pagely sites early in 2010: hcs stands for “Hosted Client Service” which is the white label name some of our Reseller system ran under at the time. I got a good laugh after the one competitor added it to their banned a list a couple years ago, twas a small display of gamesmanship between rival offerings.

However for the life of me I cannot decipher why GoDaddy’s brand new managed hosting service would ban a plugin that has not been used in over 3 years and likely only a handful of copies ever left our servers when a customer migrated out. Their engineers that in theory should have supplied said list after researching and vetting each plugin were asleep on the job, or really bad at it, or both.

Sigh.

 

GD-Banned-Plugin-list

Venture backed tears

January 15, 2014 — 1 Comment

In the life of my company we have turned away more inbound solicitation by VC firms then I can remember. Jr. partners and research analysts fill my inbox with polite requests for a meeting to discuss Pagely raising a round of investment. One in particular I remember seems to blanket the whole segment as in each email they would reveal who else was raising capital and that we should take their cash as well so as not be ‘left behind’. Even Automattic, the 800lb gorilla in WordPress, and a backer of 2 our competitors politely offered a few bucks to ‘show support’, not sure how genuine their support is when backing other horses in the same race. On the flipside, in 2011-2012 we toyed with the idea ourselves and spoke with a few VC firms to explore the waters.

With each, and every conversation, the outcome has been the same. It’s just not what we want to do right now. The reasons sometimes change but they are always rooted in the philosophy that as founders, Sally and I feel our customers should always be the top priority.

“We do not have investors, we have customers. We exist only to serve them.” Who said that? I did.. about once a month for the last 4 years.

My friend Micah said this yesterday on the subject:

If you are building a venture backed company, you are not building a company to feed your family, you are building a company with an expected return. You will have to sell it privately or publicly. Your investors goals may (or may not) align with yours. But the only goal of a venture backed company is the big exit. It’s what gets lost in the game. I dont care if you want to change the world, if you take venture money the goal is the exit (and if you change the world along the way, great.) If the entrepreneur doesn’t want to operate in that reality, don’t take the money. – Micah Baldwin

We never took the money.

With every announcement of a big raise heralded as a milestone of success by the myopic press covering the tech sector there is the story of a founder being demoted, kicked out, or burned out by his new VC controlled board. There is the story of the founder’s wife (a co-founder herself) that was cut from payroll and pushed out by the lead investor without even consenting the other founder, her husband. There is the Founder+CEO that makes the blog post about stepping over to new a title as CTO or CMO or “Chief of product awesome”, but it all sugar-coated fluff papering over the real fact that the ‘adults’ with the money made the decision and let the guy take the new title to save some face.

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A company that once existed to serve it’s customers and founders, now serves the board and the preferred stock shareholders. Customers are no longer the life blood of the company, they are wallets to extract shareholder value from via upsells, cross-sells, cost-cutting, and lock in.

I have many friends in this world of venture backed companies. And the common thread between all of them is the frustration of always being on the brink of running out money and needing to go raise more. Which means further diluting their own shares and their financial incentive to work in the company they started. It also means another seat on the board given to someone who’s only goal is to to achieve a return on their investment, no idealistic founder, or set of company values are going to stand in their way.

Yes I realize I am sounding a little Polly Anna, and this is not always the outcome. Many a founder/company have taken the rocket fuel and have been happy with the outcome. However they are a minority of the minority of the minority.

In our WordPress space I look at Envato as a role model. Self-funded, great set of company values, and very very successful. They know what got them to that success, and it was not outside VC pushing for an IPO or exploding the top line to increae valuation, it was treating their employees and authors/customers right and making sure everybody won along they way.

If you raised a VC round and still lead and love your company, and your customers still love you. Then you sir/ma’am have my congratulations. Dead serious, you beat the odds and I applaud you.

Maybe one day we’ll raise a round. Until then I would like you to meet our current investors.

I am lurker of sorts, I read your blog post but I don’t comment. I scan your tweets and go back to work without replying. I read the words of many a WordPress dev/biz owner espouse their commitment to the community and how what they do is for the betterment of such. I get it. I drank the kool-aid too. I felt kool, dammit I was kool. I wrote something regarding this before, and something else before that. Community rules! Right?

Today I read an article about Shaun White, the snowboarding phenom. This is the guy that pisses excellence in the morning. He was younger, better, and didn’t play the social game by the established rules. What rules do I mean?

The story that White tells himself is that he never clicked with the other snowboarders because nobody likes the kid who always wins. Many riders see it differently. They resented White for snubbing them, not even pretending they were all friends, an attitude that is central to snowboarding’s self-concept. “He didn’t hang out with them,” Finger says. “He didn’t show any of that camaraderie, stoking each other out, knuckle-bumping and high-fiving. He’d just show up and then win and then leave.”

This kid is the best there is in his chosen field. He showed up, won, and bounced. For whatever reason he did not hang out and socialize with the snowboarding ‘community’. The guy had shit to do, like get back to training for the next competition. According to this article he was not well liked because he did not play the social game.

But perhaps the main reason White is not a leader inside the snowboarding community is that he’s barely even in that community at all. “Physically and mentally, he’s one of the most incredible athletes,” says Jayson Hale, a snowboarder who was on the 2006 Olympic team. “But the truth is he has few friends on the snow. He’s able to put that aside. He has the gnarliest black cloud I’ve seen at the top of the halfpipe of all these dudes who hate him and who are talking behind his back. Yet he still comes out first.”

The best the sport has ever seen, is not a ‘leader inside the community’. Why? Cause he plays to win. He does not play to have friends, or create the appearance of winning, he just fucking wins.

So how does this relate to the WordPress community? It is pretty obvious to me. I see folks playing the social game, tweeting back and forth cheerleading for WordPress. I also know of folks that barely make a social media peep and are never seen at community events, yet are absolutely crushing it. I ventured to ask someone in the WordPress community what the backchannel on “Josh” was. He replied simply that “you come across as really confident, and that intimidates people”. He later expanded on his answer and left me the sense that was his polite way of saying I’m an asshole. Okay, I’ll work on that.

Is Community involvement paramount to the success of a WordPress focused business?

I don’t know is it? For the last two years, my company Pagely has taken the time and expense to host an event called PressNomics for other business owners in the WordPress Community. By all accounts the events have been a huge success in terms of everyone that attends gushed about it. Relationships were made, new ventures were formed. We even covered our costs and had some left over to donate to charity (St. Judes Children’s research Hospital). Where other companies we know may invite you to dinner and lay on the hard sell to use their service, we host PressNomics as an altruistic act, only asking attendees to enjoy themselves and help support St Judes. Matt Medeiros picked up on it.

Earlier is the life our company we sponsored WordCamps and I have spoke at a dozen or so. We saw after the first one the ROI on sponsorship dollars was nearly zero, but “we did it for the community” became the rationalization that I and many I know have used to explain the spend (One reason why we try really hard to deliver value for PressNomics sponsors). Hell there is even social pressure for successful companies to sponsor WordCamps as heaven forbid if you don’t you clearly don’t support the Community.

We played the social media game, buddy buddy with all the players. We host a unique and well respected annual event for the community. We sponsored and participated in other community events. Was it all vital to our success? I think it played an important part but I am skeptical on whether it was a make or break decision. 60 million WordPress sites, with millions added every year. Relationships drive business, there is probably no way to escape that fact so some involvement is surely needed.

Win and get back to work.

I am trying to get at a simple point, a take-away from the article on Shaun White. Win, and the get back to work training to win some more. The folks in the community that are your “friends” are the same people in most cases you have to beat to win (Matt Mederios nails it). Does friendly competition exist? They are playing to win, so you better be as well. They will give you high-fives at the top of the half-pipe and cheer for you on camera when you win gold, but to keep winning, you need to get back to work. Say thank you, walk away, and get the fuck back to work.

You are the only one responsible for your success.  Just don’t take yourself too seriously.

White is aware that his life has a tendency to make him self-centered. He also knows this is a problem — not one large enough to scuttle the documentary he’s financing about himself but enough to think he should work on empathy. “All of today was about me, and that’s a bummer,” he said once we moved down the street to a cafe on Rodeo Drive.

Photo: Mark Duncan / Associated Press

Exponentially High times.

January 8, 2014 — 1 Comment

This is not a post about legal weed in Colorado and Washington. This is a post about the current status of our company Pagely and more specifically about how fucking thrilled I am to have our new CTO Josh Eichorn join our team.

There is some often regurgitated saying you hear that goes something like “A great developer is 100x more productive than an average one.” Whatever, fill in your own blanks. That moral of the meme is that a skilled programmer/engineer is exponentially better then an average one

Exponentially.

Pagely is a little over 4yrs old as an entity/brand and nearly 8 years old as a product. Managed WordPress Hosting started here, and our new CTO was the architect of it when he worked for us in 2006 as a contractor and built the prototype that became Pagely.

In 8 years since, Pagely was expanded and maintained, primarily by a very average developer: me. I had some help along the way, some of them more average than me, but all were very much average. Through it all though we made a great product that has achieved amazing things. Our historical learnings of what works and what does not work for hosting WordPress at scale are thick, even if the lines of code that processed it were less then perfect.

This summer we were fortunate to hire Josh back as CTO. He packed his family up and moved back to Arizona from the East Bay to shape the technical destiny of Pagely.\r\n\r\nIn the last 3 months or so, the backend infrastructure and site deployment/management tools at Pagely have undergone a dramatic transformation.

    • Legacy Technical Debt: Paid.
    • Site Performance: Vastly improved.
    • Service Uptime: Vastly improved, even while migrating thousands of sites over and debugging along the way.
    • Costs: Cut in half.
    • New systems/features: Game changing

It boggles my mind the difference in production, execution, and results that are achieved by a skilled and passionate engineer vs. an average one.

Exponentially.

My name is Joshua Strebel and I am a very average developer. I stopped pretending to be better than I am and invited a great engineer to take over, and it is exponentially the best business decision I have made thus far.

Yosemite

August 5, 2013 — 1 Comment
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Vote 2012

November 2, 2012 — Leave a comment

The New York Times pretty much sums up why I am voting for Obama (again). Every paper, study, and high IQ economist that has ever looked at this arrives at the same conclusion. Tax cuts for rich people, don’t trickle down.

The results of the analysis suggest that changes over the past 65 years in the top marginal tax rate and the top capital gains tax rate do not appear correlated with economic growth. The reduction in the top tax rates appears to be uncorrelated with saving, investment, and productivity growth. The top tax rates appear to have little or no relation to the size of the economic pie.

However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution. As measured by IRS data, the share of income accruing to the top 0.1% of U.S. families increased from 4.2% in 1945 to 12.3% by 2007 before falling to 9.2% due to the 2007-2009 recession. At the same time, the average tax rate paid by the top 0.1% fell from over 50% in 1945 to about 25% in 2009. Tax policy could have a relation to how the economic pie is sliced—lower top tax rates may be associated with greater income disparities.

Congressional Research Service

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Friend: I roll up..crazy lady at bank says… “I would have bought a Mercedes for the sports car”

Me: old lady burn

Friend: I say… “then you haven’t driven an Audi” and walk by her [mic drop]

Me: well played sir

You don’t know unless you are in the know.