Tag: Lessons Learned

Don’t Panic – When Bad Things Happen

WordPress dashboard interface
WordPress dashboard interface (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Don’t Panic

Although the situation I am about to describe was successfully resolved, I felt compelled to share this event with you. Times like this expose our vulnerabilities and reinforce the adage to “expect the unexpected”.

The Situation

Imagine the shock and surprise followed by the deep, sinking feeling that set in when an unexpected notice suddenly appeared on my screen stating that our site was suspended effective immediately for failing to comply with WordPress.com’s terms and conditions. An attempt to visit our site from another computer confirmed it.

While you may not have noticed, I’m quite certain many others were wondering what was going on – especially first time visitors or recent subscribers. As our site often appears at the top of most Google searches – depending on the search term used – I can only imagine what was going through the minds of those who were attempting to visit.

After contacting WordPress, we learned that our site was subject to a spam detection error and suspended by the “system” in error. The fact that you’re reading this means the problem was successfully resolved by the great people at WordPress – apologies for the inconvenience included.

Expect the Best, Prepare for the Worst

While I am more than happy to have our site restored to full service, we needed more than just a simple backup of our data to preserve our blogging ecosystem. Our contingency plan included setting up a self hosted site and this event served as the trigger to make it a reality.

1617 A. SWETNAM School of Defence 56 He is a fool which will adventure all his goods in one ship.

Fortunately, WordPress.com provides several means for transferring or downloading a copy of your pages and posts. The suspension notice advised that the data for “your site” will only be available for a limited period of time.  Eventually all data will be completely removed from the system.

In other words, act quickly and methodically because the clock is ticking. Unless you’ve done this for yourself, there are a few items worth noting.

  • Although it’s possible to export the  entire site in a single XML file, the size of the file may exceed the import capacity of the new host.  Free XML import tools seem to have a limit of 1MB.   Our file exceeded this limitation.
  • The XML file does not include current subscribers or any of the data in your media gallery.
  • The current theme may not be available at the new host site and some of the functionality you may have expected has been lost.
  • Conversely, some themes offer more and better features than you may have expected.
  • Six (6) years of blogging creates a relatively large digital ecosystem with roots deeper than we first thought possible.

Corrective Actions

Setting up a self-hosted site may seem like an over-reaction to this situation, however, this event was very disturbing and quite unsettling, especially when we consider the number of visitors we receive over the course of a given day. Fortunately, this event occurred on a weekend when traffic volume is typically lower.

Since we already own several top-level domains, finding a hosting service was our next challenge.  We purchased our top-level domains from NameCheap.com and decided to pursue our hosting services through them as well.

We found two (2) excellent services that offer a variety of WordPress themes, set up our domains, and began the process of transferring a copy of our blog over to the new sites.  It is possible to upload themes directly and there a numerous themes to choose from.

Although we found a site that offers the same “Inove” theme we are using here, we noted that this theme has not been updated for the past two (2) years. We selected the Responsive theme for our new site as it offers new functionality and features that includes mobile platforms.

Lessons Learned

WordPress.com supports millions of bloggers and losing one – for whatever reason – is not going to have a significant impact on their continued and ever-growing success. This experience helped us to realize just how vulnerable we are when we trust our property, intellectual or otherwise, to an independent entity.  To circumvent the possibility of yet another catastrophic blogging event:

Statues of Don Quixote (left) and Sancho Panza...
Statues of Don Quixote (left) and Sancho Panza (right) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“It is the part of a wise man to keep himself today for tomorrow, and not venture all his eggs in one basket.”—Sancho Panza—Don Quixote (Part I, Book III, Chapter 9) by Miguel de Cervantes [1547-1616].

In simpler terms:  “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket!”

  • Have a contingency plan that includes creating a second, self-hosted site.  Note that it is possible to transfer your blog to a number of venues.  We successfully uploaded our XML data to several different platforms.
  • Prepare and Execute your contingency plan to determine and mitigate any risks or other consequential losses.
  • If you are presently blogging on WordPress.com, be aware that a complete XML copy of your site data may exceed the import limits of the receiving host – at least for the tools that are offered free of charge.
  • To minimize the size of the XML file, Pages and Posts can be exported separately.  You can also specify a date based range of posts to export. As such, you can create several smaller files that will contain all of your posts for a given period of time.
  • Perform regular exports of recent posts for importing to your self-hosted site and to serve as a local back up.
  • Transferring your site is not that difficult, however, WordPress.com will transfer your site for you for a fee.
  • Don’t be too naive. You are the only one who really cares about YOUR property – intellectual or otherwise. Although your subscribers and followers will be devastated, chances are you won’t be missed by the WordPress.com team unless you’re as big as the Huffington Post or some other notable blog venue.
  • When forced to look for options, there are better, feature filled alternative WordPress themes and options to be found. As we’ve said many times before, “There’s always a better way and more than one solution!”

Going Forward:

We recently celebrated six years of blogging on WordPress.com and plan to do so for many years to come.  While this experience has cast a shadow on our overall experience, we have learned yet again that we need to preserve and protect our own interests.

With over 218,000 page views from virtually every country around the world, we are doing something right. Our visitors and views continue to grow with each passing year. The top five countries that contributed to our Top Views this year are:

  1. United States
  2. India
  3. United Kingdom
  4. Canada
  5. Australia

On behalf of the Lean Execution Strategy Team, I appreciate and thank you for the privilege of serving you – our clients, subscribers, and visitors.  We wish each of you a happy holiday season and look forward to serving you in the new year with the best of successes in 2015.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

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VersAlytics

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A Paradigm Shift To Profitability

Is the “Automotive Industry On the Rebound” or just the companies that make them?  Our local paper, The Toronto Star, reported some very encouraging news today regarding the state of General Motors.  The headline that caught my eye was “A slimmer GM prospers”.  What is more encouraging though is that GM’s recovery is based on a fundamentally new paradigm shift:  Profit Driven rather than Volume Driven thinking.  I could only smile as I recall stating in yesterday’s post, “Sustainability Through Integration“, that some companies are now pursuing a “back to basics” strategy.  Nothing could be more “back to basics” or fundamental to a business than making a profit.

Why the change?  Although profitability is the most fundamental aspiration and measure for success of every business, it is not unreasonable to think that profitability was a given.  After all, what company would launch a product that was designed to lose money?  Becoming the largest producer of automobiles in the world somehow seems to a reasonable objective if all vehicles are indeed profitable.  It is clear that GM became blinded in its pursuit to be the largest automaker on the globe.  Pardigms are certain to have an effect on the culture and policy of the company, however, the lesson learned by GM is that they cannot be pursued in isolation.

To summarize the content of the article, GM has shifted it’s focus from volume to profitability and as such has changed it’s way of thinking.  Having shed almost half of it’s (and losing) brands and focusing on profitability across the fleet of vehicles, GM is now in a position to post its first full-year profit since 2004.  A mere 6% increase in sales between 2010 and 2011 suggests that future profitability will jump 46%.

As we also discussed briefly yesterday’s post, sustainability is a concern for anyone looking to invest in a company’s future.  The article suggests that GM’s profitability is sustainable as the plan is based on significantly reduced volume projections.  In the same article, Ford Motor Company is also expected report a profit of $8 Billion for 2010.

Secondly, GM also intends to use the Chevrolet Volt hybrid drive-train technology across several models.  I can certainly appreciate that sharing the costs of developing this technology across a much larger vehicle / sales base is a smart business decision.

Finally, GM also managed to increase it’s overall global footprint, exceeding that of Toyota.  The article states that “China has overtaken the U.S. as the world’s largest market.  And GM has led all other world automakers in Chinese sales for the  past six years.”  The article further states that GM has outsold Toyota more than three to one in China.  Certainly this is positive news for the investment community and GM employees alike.

The change in GM’s leadership is also evident in the final few paragraphs of the article.  GM’s business model is obsolete and as Roger Enrico was quoted saying, when he was CEO of PepsiCo, “Managing market share without profit is like breathing air without oxygen.”  David Cole, chairman emeritus of the Center for Auto Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan, also had these words of reflection for GM’s CEO, Daniel Ackerman, “If he accelerates things without the right level of execution – well, you’ve got to be careful not to drive into things too quickly.”  I am reminded of our post Lean Execution:  Competing with Giants – It’s all about Speed, featuring Dominic Orr, CEO of Aruba Networks and the videos we posted where he speaks to this topic.

In an unrelated article, I also learned that Magna’s Don Walker also announced that a new plant will be launched in Mexico.  It is interesting to note that Magna Mexico employs 16,000 people versus Canada where the number is approximately 17,000.

Although the Automotive Industry may not be recovering as quickly as we would all like to see, it sounds like the companies themselves are.  It certainly seems that GM has acknowledged past ill’s and has discovered a cure that seems to be working.  For now I am content that this time we may actually have learned a few lessons, did something about, and, best of all, it seems to be working.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Vergence Analytics

Twitter:  @Versalytics