Upgrades are fickle beasts. Sure, they’re great in concept, but if you’ve ever experienced an upgrade of any form, you would know that the process of pointing at something shinier and better than what you currently have and saying “that’s mine now” is never that simple. There’s costs associated with your upgrade, the stress of making that transition to something new, figuring out what to do with the old thing, finding the time to put together all the great things that make your upgrade worth the effort, telling everyone else about your upgrade, saying a few prayers to ensure that the upgrade works as expected, and eventually, after all the madness, you get to sit back, relax, and bask in the warming glow of all that work and time and say “oooh, that is shinier.” But within seconds you have to maintain that upgrade, learn that upgrade, upgrade that upgrade into something in the “Shinier 3000” lineup because technology is just a jerk like that (iPhone users will understand) and no matter what, someone, somewhere will look at all the culmination of all that invested energy, unimpressed and say, “it was just fine before, so why change it” with the kind of frustration and ferocity that leads to hilariously catchy spelling mistakes.
And so begins the Legend of Updrage.
If you’ve talked to anyone at GearHost in the last few months, you’ve probably heard us mention an upgrade to a new version that’s designed to put us in that futuristic “Steve Austin” age: better than we were before. Better. Stronger. Faster. Bionic! (not really, but I needed a gag) If you’ve talked to us multiple times in the last few months, the term “upgrade” has pretty much become synonymous with “hopefully this week.” Oh yes, we are very much aware, though, it hasn’t quite reached “drinking game” status yet.
Now, as much as this can look like a slam, I assure you, it’s quite the opposite. We at GearHost have made it no secret how excited we are about the changes we’re planning and the effect it’s going to have for our customers and I admit, I can’t help but look down and sigh when I utter the phrase “we’re really hoping to see v3 in the next week” to someone. That’s the nature of an upgrade: it’s shinier and therefore we want it to be ours, now. However, too often in the technology world with companies like Apple and Facebook, we seem to pay the price by not respecting the unexpected need for patience.
In my personal life, I’ve had a single major goal: own a house by 30. It was a goal that I was excited about…until the age of 27. What fun would it be to upgrade my apartment to a house! More space, more freedom, more control, A LAWN! But as I had to really start planning, I took a good solid look at everything going on with me and had to exude some unplanned patience. I needed to accept that there were a lot of ducks I needed to get in a row first and if I cared more about the timeline that I set than doing things correctly…that house was going to be a burden more than an upgrade. It is a bit of an investment that I can’t really just go back on without severe ramifications.
So when I look at the “GearHost Upgrade Saga” and I think about everything going on right now with blogs, staff increases (of which we added another amazing support engineer this week), hour increases, newsletters (we’re starting that up too), a ton of new business, training, and pretty much everything I’ve mentioned in the last three blog episodes, I don’t mind this upgrade carrying out a little longer. We have a lot of ducks right now. Managing that and putting extra time to make sure version 3 is done correctly as opposed to “on schedule” is actually quite refreshing…and this is exactly why:
Once upon a time, there was an upgrade. Don’t worry, it wasn’t a GearHost upgrade…that one’s hopefully this week…(sigh). Out of fear of feeling “outdated,” the makers of this company’s program put out regular upgrades designed to keep people regularly excited about the forward momentum of the product. These upgrades were shinier, but shinier in the way that a dime is shinier than a quarter. They were sparkly and fun, but not as valuable. Time was more important and as a result, some upgrades were released without regard to whether or not they worked…or benefited anything.
For this company’s upgrade, a specific feature was “improved” that drastically changed the overall function of that part of the program, which was met with pushback by a user who had to learn about this the hard way. As the task of what was once a simple issue ultimately became a convoluted series of workarounds that an entire upper level support team worked to resolve, the user got more frustrated and all the value that was supposed to be added by the sheer existence of an improvement became worthless and mildly embarrassing.
This ordeal lasted 16 days. Back and forth with no resolution until the tension reached a boiling point with the following response: “WHY DOES IT TAKE SO LONG TO FIX SOMETHING THAT WAS WORKING JUST FINE BEFORE YOU "UPDRAGE"?”
The support team was nervous about this response, as angry responses with all caps tend to do to an unsuspecting agent. But after a whopping two and a half weeks of aggravation, of trial and error…and error…and error, of invested energy, of complaints and arguments, of missteps that wouldn’t exist if the company just got all its ducks in a row and focused on the value of its upgrade instead of its timing, it all led to this one legendary response; one with the kind of frustration and ferocity that led to a hilariously catchy spelling mistake.
And suddenly, “UPDRAGE” was born. Upgrade-created rage. Born of a disconnect, a race for time, a shift in priority.
Really, for GearHost, for something this big…it’s more important to get it right.
The origins of 24x7 hours date back to the 1950s when diners across America felt it would be wise to keep their doors open and serve those who were late night drinkers craving munchies or college kids staying up ‘til odd hours of the evening for finals. This plan quickly backfired as they realized that those were not two separate target markets, but by then, it was too late. The munchie-craving college kids who stayed up ‘til odd hours of the evening drinking before finals were so hooked to the idea of staggering over to Denny’s for 3am “Duuuude, they have bacon,” that round-the-clock service was just impossible to lose.
Ok…perhaps I don’t know the real story of how 24 hour service started, but I have experienced its many blessings with the exception of the now famous “Great Denny’s Syrup Incident of 2004,” an epic tale that must be left for another day…or until I’m allowed back in that building.
On that note, you may not have heard this, but GearHost has recently adopted this amazingly convenient schedule for support. That’s right, 7 days a week, 24 cups of coffee a day we are here for you. As long as the sun doesn’t explode (as well as up to 15 seconds after it does), you’ll be able to reach us by phone, chat, or e-mail. Though I can evaluate this sudden transition as arduous and a bit exhausting (don’t feel too bad, we get long weekends!), there are some positives, including one amazing one that I can’t ignore.
It’s funny to think about ramping up your support to be 24x7. From a company perspective, it’s an amazing thing to tell people, so much so that we shouted from the rooftops (by which I mean Facebook) on day 1 of the endeavor. The workload is spread out over longer periods of time and because we have so many customers who reach out to us from Europe, Asia, and Africa, they don’t have to work on their issues at such odd hours of their night. If something happens during “Duuude, they have bacon” time, someone is going to be around and readily available to support you. The customer benefits for 24x7 are amazing no matter where you are.
But spin that on its head for a sec. From a support engineer perspective…it’s a bit different. We’re a pretty small crew right now, so the shifts are long, scheduling options are not as varied as if we were a company of, say, 300 people switching to 24x7, and the camaraderie is a bit harder to achieve. For you entrepreneurs out there, or freelancers, or anyone serving as “on call,” it’s a feeling that you are probably familiar with. Sometimes it feels more like a sacrifice than part of the job, and I’m sure you’ve all felt it. Mondays feel like “Monday: A New Hope,” Tuesdays feel like “The Monday Strikes Back,” Wednesdays feel like “Return of the Monday” and once Thursday hits, it’s just depressing and the saga feels a bit like a sell-out.
There are positives to this as well: long weekends are amazing, having a lot more time in a day to budget the workload where there’s usually a slow point to get some side projects finished, and long weekends are amazing (yes, I said it twice. You would too.) But the biggest thing, and it took a little time to hit me, the one benefit that I can’t ignore is that I will someday get to tell “the tale.”
When I started my last job, it was with a company that was expanding at the kind of rate that made you excited even filling out an application. For my first day, we had executives come in and give us newbies “the tale” about the “days of old,” where it was a group of guys huddled up in an “attic” waiting for the phone to ring, putting in long hours and working harder than they ever had in their life (in a blizzard, uphill both ways, blah, blah, blah…), but knowing with absolute certainty that it was going to pay off big. I found it hard to imagine what that was like and struggled to put myself in their shoes.
But here I am and “the tale” is suddenly familiar. Not that we operate in an attic (or any other single room with ancient creaky wooden floors, an unused, dusty ping-pong table that carries whatever we can fit on it, and a thin, haunting staircase that…ok, it’s kind of like an attic), but I can say the feeling of working incredibly hard with absolute certainty it is going to pay off big is near impossible to shake.
It’s an interesting trade-off. One that the entreprenuers, freelancers, on-callers are probably familiar with, and one that I am learning to respect. One day, I’ll be out with new recruits, a hot shot in the company (pipe dreams, but humor me), telling “the tale” of how it was to rock out amazing support with as small of a staff as you can have to pull off 24x7 support, pulling the long hours, sacrificing the camaraderie, dreaming of clearing off the ping-pong table, in a blizzard (it’s Colorado. I can say that), all the while wearing my “and look at me now shoes” for my audience to imagine themselves in.
And when that gathering happens, I anticipate, with the same amount of care and excitement that I had while hearing my former executives reminisce, a new recruit will stare at me for a moment, then look at his Denny’s menu and say “Duuude, they have bacon.”
Yep, I was that kid once. Not anymore. Good times, good times indeed.
A survey done by Wakefield Research at the end of August revealed that 51% of Americans believe that bad weather can have adverse effects on the Cloud. The tech savvy will get a chuckle out of this in the same way they do the phrase “there are 10 kinds of people in this world: those who know binary code and those who don’t.” Under normal circumstances, I would also laugh and feel sorry for those 51% and start a whole conversation of 1337-speak banter against them, but as I compare my knowledge of web hosting and development against what is out there, I can’t help but feel that my technical expertise ranks on the same level as those who believe that a CD-ROM drive is simply an electronic, self-retracting cup holder.
We (well...me) are the 51%. Sure, the statement is not quite as impactful as those “Occupy (insert town with local news coverage here)” protests, but someone should speak for the primitive majority whom technology has left in the dust. Since the dawn of time have we always been subjected to “the next best thing” before the “current best thing” got a decent shot at being “the actual best thing.”
In the beginning, there was walking, but then some jerk decided to run. As soon as running took off, those losers were upstaged by a bicycle. As the masses scrounged up money for their two and three-wheeled contraptions, they were one-upped by a car and not but 15 years after that got off the ground, a pair of asshole brothers literally got off the ground and made an airplane. There are no small steps for tech, they are giant leaps for tech-kind (which reminds me, right after the airplane hit it big, we started building rockets…).
Fellow friends of the 51, I would like to be a beacon of hope, but it seems as though we are doomed. I would like to say rise up and spread the word about the injustice of innovation, but let’s face it…the iPhone 2 isn’t 4G, nobody checks our mySpace anymore and as for that GeoCities community? Yeah…they sent out an e-mail about that but we couldn’t really see those from our bitchin’ Caller ID.
I’d like to suggest that the speed at which we’ve created and “upgraded” in the last decade was the answer to Microsoft buying up all those companies that crowded their turf with “the next best thing,” which Apple has responded to by just suing everyone saying they did it first (because nobody ever thought of a rounded rectangle with a screen and buttons before…sorry GameBoy). I regret complaining in the past that it was BS to buy a computer that would be outdated in a year or two! I miss those days now as my new toys are practically “antiques” by the time I get them out of the damn box!
As I officially begin month 2 of my tenure here at GearHost, I can’t help but already feel in a state of obsolescence. Just as I hit the ground running understanding our platform and culture and cloud hosting in general, GearHost pulled out a jetpack and wrote in the sky things like “Version 3,” “24/7 support,” “new…er hires,” and “Eat at Joes!” (What skywriting job would be complete without “Eat at Joes”?) Sometimes I just want to scream “SLOOOOWWWW DOOOOWWWWN!!!!” though at some point I must embrace that constant forward progress isn’t a bad thing (unless facing a cliff).
But seriously…please, on behalf of the 51%, the primitive majority, slow down world. I buy a new laptop…then Windows 8 comes out. I get a kick ass TV that’s all 3D ready…then TVs say “3D is stupid, here’s 4K!” I start up a FarmVille, they immediately put out CityVille (sometimes they really just slap you in the face…). I’m afraid that soon our CEO will come out of his office and say “we’ve changed from ‘Cloud Hosting’ to ‘Moon Hosting’” to which I will simply reply “so what happens to our service during a low tide? And why did the toilet paper in the bathroom get replaced with three seashells? And is that robot dog and robot cat living together in peace and harmony?” You know what? Forget it. I’m going to my room and reading my Kindle.
…Wait. You mean there are tablets now? Oh, come on!!
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When we first came here, all the web was swamp. Everyone said we were daft to build a blog on a swamp, but we built it all the same, just to show ‘em! It sank into the swamp. So we built a second blog. That sank into the swamp. So we built a third blog. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up! And that's what you're going to get, lads. The strongest blog in all the Internet.
If there’s one thing that life teaches us is that we are a constant work in progress. Sometimes we stay up. Sometimes we sink into the swamp. If you tick off hacking group Anonymous like GoDaddy did yesterday, you burn down, fall over, then sink into the swamp, but alas, we are not that kind of people.
We are people of passion, people of purpose, people of insight, people against SOPA. We are the up and comers, the rising stars. We are works in progress, but don’t worry, we’re aware.
The GearHost blog has followed a similar history. From “Hey look! We’re new!” to “Hey, look…we’re on hiatus...” to “Hey…look over there! (runs away),” getting ourselves built has been a challenge because, let’s face it! We’ve been swamped! (Ahhhaaa! Wakka! Wakka! – sorry, Fozzy Bear moment) We have a new upgrade coming, a slew of new customers, and, we’ve been hiring…exciting times here at the ‘Host!
Three weeks into my tenure at GearHost, I’ve been charged with the task of rebuilding again; a whole new layout, a whole new mindset, a whole new blog tasked to a whole new employee. Apparently the higher ups thought this was part of some hazing process…I’ll take it. It’s got that whole “Please, Brer Kekos (CEO), please don’t throw me into the briar patch” quality to it.
So, as I rebuild brick by brick on our swamp of work (not a bad thing! NOT A BAD THING!), I’d like to remind the interwebs, the fans, the followers, the +1’s, the likes, the friends, the friends of friends, the people I force to like this blog, the customers, and my bosses (PLEASE!) that hey, this is a work in progress. Like the typical ADD blogger, I will experiment, change, tweak, design, redesign and implement things that are shiny at speed of an unladen swallow (African OR European) ‘til this castle in the Cloud embodies the sexy Robin Leach-esque majesty of Camelot and exudes the aura of everything that is GearHost (which is a rather silly place).
Yeah, it’s going to be educational at times, and yeah, it’s going to be in depth at times, but mostly, it’s going to be a fun…and sometimes odd…inside look at the world we live in and the world that lets us live (by which, I mean…pays our salaries…). Because we are people of passion, people of purpose, rising stars, up and comers, and that can be pretty awesome sometimes. So don your best gear, grab your minstrels and hold on to your coconuts, the GearHost blog is back for a third quest and it’s gonna be a wild journey.
‘Til next week! C-ya ‘round!