Posted:December 20, 2006

In my earlier Pro Blogging Guide (which is beginning to get long in the tooth, though it remains very popular) I documented the process of setting up my own instance of WordPress, the very popular open source blogging software. My memories of that effort were a little painful because of the need to set up a local server and sandbox for testing that site before it went live. In fact, one whole chapter in the Guide was devoted to that topic alone.

Well, I’ve just completed another hurdle, and that is moving from a company-hosted Web site and server to one that I own and manage on my own. I’m sure I could have made this easier on myself, but, actually, I wanted to learn the ropes and become self-reliant. I’ll be posting more of the specifics of this transfer, but here are the major areas that I needed to understand and embrace:

  • For a multitude of reasons, I decided I wanted complete control of my environment, but at acceptable cost. That led me to decide on going with a virtual private server (VPS, also sometimes called a virtual dedicated server) wherein the user/owner has total “root” control. This was not too dissimilar from the virtual private network experience I had with my previous company. What a VPS means is that you have a footprint and total software installation and configuration control as if you owned the server, all accomplished remotely. Thus, I needed to research providers, services, responsiveness, etc. Per my SOP, I created spreadsheets and weighting matrices to help decide my choices. (A great resource for such discussion is webhostingtalk.com.) My goal was to spend no more than $30 per month; mission accomplished!
  • Then, I also decided I did not want to be hooked into proprietary Microsoft software. I’m looking to low-cost scalability in my new venture, and clearly no one with a clue is using MS for Internet-based ventures. Thus, I needed to decide a flavor of Linux, needed to figure out a whole new raft of software and utilities geared to remote administration and standard computer management (editors, file managers, transfer utilities, etc., etc.), and then, most importantly, I needed to start learning CLI ( command-line interfaces). In so many ways, it felt like returning to the womb. I’ve been so GUI-ized and window-fied for more than 10 years that I felt like a stroke victim learning to speak and walk again! But wow, I like this stuff and it is cool! In fact, it feels “purer” and “cleaner” (including such excesses as using emacs or vi(m) again!)
  • These commitments made, then choices were necessary to start making the decisions actionable
  • We’re now into the real nitty-gritty of open source, where LAMP comes into play. First, you need the OS (Linux, CentOS 4 in my case). Then, you need the Web server (Apache). Then, because I’m using WordPress, PHP needs to be installed. This has the side benefit of also allowing phpMyAdmin, a useful MySQL management framework. Oh, of course, that also means that a database to support all of this is needed, which again for WP is MySQL. That requires utilities for database transfer, backup and restoration. Unix provides an entirely different way to understand and manage permissions and privileges, also meaning more learning. Then, all of this infrastructure environment needs to be tested and then verified as working with a clean WP install. (One useful guide I found, based on Windows but still applicable, is Jeff Lundborg’s Apache Guide.)
  • However, big problem, my WP database is apparently larger than most, about 150 MB in size! (I like long posts and attachments.) The standard mechanisms for most blogs fail at these scales, including the phyMyAdmin approaches and a WP plug-in called skippy. I was going to have to deal directly with MySQL, so I began learning its CLI syntax. Again, on-line guides for such backup and restore purposes can do the trick
  • Then, and only then, I began migrating my blog set-up specifics (pretty nicely isolated within WP) and the database. Actually, here is where I had my first pleasant surprise: the CLI utilities for MySQL (which are really the same bash-like stuff that makes the environment so productive) work beautifully!
  • These efforts then needed to be updated with respect to other dependencies within my blog referring to links, or other internal but no longer applicable references, to make the entire new environment now appropriately self-contained and integral. This actually requires cruising through the entire blog site, with specific attention to pages over posts, to ascertain integrity
  • Now, with all of that getting choked down, I also decided to update my static pages and some of the layout and also to upgrade to WP version 2.05 (from 2.04, very straightforward), and then
  • Finally, the transfer of the domain and name servers to create the new hosting presence (not to mention email accounts, a challenge of a different order not further mentioned here). The domain transfer may take a few days, complicated if you also need to transfer domain registrars (something which I also needed to do).

This latter point actually is a challenge. Internal WP links from your blog require your hosting URLs to be integral. However, if you understand this, and are able to use IP addresses (216.69.xxx.xxx in my blog’s case) during development, you can actually use the delayed transfer time between registrars to your benefit as you work out details. Again, it’s a matter of perspective. A delay in registration transfer actually gives you a free sandbox for getting the bugs worked out!

So, is this stuff painful? Yes, absolutely, if this is a one-off deal. In my case, however, the real pay-off will come (is coming) from using a transfer such as this as a real-world exercise in learning and exposure: Linux, own-hosting, tools, scripting. Seen in that light, this effort has been tremendously humbling and rewarding.

And, so, you are now seeing the fruits of this transfer! I will expand on specific steps in this process in future postings.

Posted by AI3's author, Mike Bergman Posted on December 20, 2006 at 12:46 pm in Site-related | Comments (1)
The URI link reference to this post is: http://www.mkbergman.com/307/its-moving-day/
The URI to trackback this post is: http://www.mkbergman.com/307/its-moving-day/trackback/
Posted:December 17, 2006

After six fantastic years with BrightPlanet, I am no longer an employee (CTO) of the company nor chairman of the Board. I felt the company should go in one direction; the Board felt otherwise . . . . Such events, while not prosaic, are also not uncommon. I wish the company all possible success. It is now time to move on. . . .

Even though comparatively small, BrightPlanet is being challenged, as are all software companies today, in managing the transition to (still another) brave new world. Think about the major generational shifts of the past 15 years: personal computers, local networking, Internet browsers and thin clients, Internet ubiquity, open source, now Web 2.0. Certainly other items could be listed in that progression, but the general point remains that the pace of software and computing technology development has been furious and relentless.

These challenges are huge, and have resulted in technology shifts literally measured in months, not years. It is not for small reason that today’s buzzwords include agile, productive and efficient. My goodness, as few as eight years ago, choosing to commit to Java for production-scale enterprise development was considered by some risky and radical; today, some may argue that Java is becoming passé and dynamic languages such as Ruby and DSLs such as Rails hold the keys to the future.

Young Turk to Old Fart

I laugh now about that (truly) instantaneous moment when one morphs from being a Young Turk to an an Old Fart. (I myself passed that breakpoint long ago.) I remember with pride having the Y.T. moniker when in my teens and twenties. We see it still today. One of the things, however, that has blown my mind in the past 5-6 years is the age of the next successful generation. Look at the ages of Brin, Page, Ross, Cannon-Brookes, Farquhar, Hansson, and many others (please forgive me if your name is not on the list), who are (or will be) hauling down some serious dough at very young ages. Now, as an older guy (‘Old Fart’), I have to ask myself whether I can play in this new game. (I guess the best that I can say in that regard is that the world is not populated entirely with my daughter’s friends, but all of us can learn from this newest generation more efficient and agile ways of doing the old tasks.)

The Horizon Ahead

The horizon ahead is one of those places where I truly think I DO have a clue. When one sees multiple major shifts of stuff over many years, it is not too difficult (though some may miss it) to see some major trends. I don’t have the time (nor inclination nor luck nor skill) to write another Peter’s In Search of Excellence, the biggest business book of all time, even assuming I could write that simply or hit the lottery. But, a close reading of trends suggests the pending convergence of open source, semantic tagging and mediation, interoperability, agile development, social collaboration, and mechanisms to assign authoritativeness to information. This convergence will be democratic with a small D, disruptive and rapid. Fasten your seat belts . . . .

Trying ‘Web Scientist’ on for Size

As for myself, I am now on my own and not running a company for the first time in 12 years. I am striking out more directly into the semantic Web — directions that have clearly been my passion on this blog over the past few months. Though I have taken up the obligatory consultant shingle (after all, we all must eat) for the time being, I have also taken on the moniker of ‘Web Scientist’ on my new email signature.

As the person who first explicated and coined the term “deep Web”, the person who wrote the Web’s most popular search tutorial in its early years, and the person who helped bring into being many of the automation techniques and bots for accessing dynamic Web content, I feel pretty comfortable with that label. I also especially like that TBL and others have put a marker out there to give the title some legitimacy. (See Creating a Science of the Web by Tim Berners-Lee, Wendy Hall, James Hendler, Nigel Shadbolt and Daniel J. Weitzner in Science 313(11), 11 August 2006.) (See also this recent NYT article.)

I’ll now see how it feels to have the Web scientist label for a while.

For those of you who have been faithful readers since I put this blog out now more than a year ago, you know that my abiding passion has been effective information use and management in relation to the Internet. I look forward to further discussions with you on these very same topics in the months ahead.

Posted by AI3's author, Mike Bergman Posted on December 17, 2006 at 10:40 am in Site-related | Comments (1)
The URI link reference to this post is: http://www.mkbergman.com/296/trying-web-scientist-on-for-size/
The URI to trackback this post is: http://www.mkbergman.com/296/trying-web-scientist-on-for-size/trackback/
Posted:December 12, 2006

As a vehement moderate (or perhaps a non-academic researcher), I very much enjoyed a recent podcast by Tom Morris looking at the intersection of current tagging systems and other more “unstructured” Web data practices with the more “structured” semantic Web end of the spectrum. Tom’s perspective is very realistic and pragmatic about where current trends are heading.

Some of Tom’s pithy quotes are:

“It is not a choice between one single categorization system and no categorization system . . . . We need to build categorization systems that scale . . . . We need to find a way to bridge the gap between simple and really complex stuff . . . . Web standards are slowly making their way into the consciousness of [Web] designers and their clients.”

What is refreshing about Morris’ perspective is that it avoids the polar advocacies and recognizes inexorable trends. The semantic Web is inevitable because it brings value to users (the “demand side”). It is not happening at the pace nor with the perfection that some computer science advocates may like because that vision is overly complicated and academic. It is happening in the incremental ways of tagging and now microformats that are consistent with the simplicity imperatives that have made the Web what it is.

Tools and tipping points are near at hand for when the network effect of better data-enabled Web pages will finally take hold. Yes, there are issues and hurdles, but much of what is now so exciting about current Web developments is at heart the first expresssions of these trends.

(I do recommend you skip the first 7-minutes of the podcast where Morris is clearing his throat about his planned podcast series.) To listen to Tom’s podcast, you may click here.

Posted by AI3's author, Mike Bergman Posted on December 12, 2006 at 12:12 pm in Semantic Web | Comments (1)
The URI link reference to this post is: http://www.mkbergman.com/306/the-pragmatic-semantic-web/
The URI to trackback this post is: http://www.mkbergman.com/306/the-pragmatic-semantic-web/trackback/