Site tech rant: pulling … hair … out … by … roots

Two weeks after we first contacted our site host with concerns about site slowness … four days after we started a full-court press via phone … the saga has reached hair-pulling stage. Click ahead only if you want to read our vent. (If you can even get to a second page. Again, we promise to get this fixed one way or another …)

Our site hosting company is one of the original big names of the internet, Yahoo! At the time we started this humble little enterprise in late 2005, it seemed to make sense; they were the most reliable-sounding of a handful of companies available at the time to host a WordPress blog. In recent months, the WordPress user community has grown increasingly disgruntled with them, and perhaps this seemingly unresolvable mystery problem is an example of why.

Certainly, others have had tech trouble with Yahoo!: The web is littered with tales of people having trouble getting the company to deal with e-mail issues. For most users, their e-mail product is free and perhaps that’s a case of “you get what you pay for.” But we pay them a not entirely paltry sum each month for “small business hosting” (even though we do not yet have anything revenue-generating on the site) via Yahoo! so you would think we would get a better service level.

After slow response via e-mail in a couple of initial exchanges last weekend and a few days later, then finally a note that said “call us,” we did. We have since talked to a half-dozen reps, in calls lasting up to 45 minutes, with the reps’ background environments sounding like everything from a prison boiler room to the Australian HQ of the company to which Yahoo! apparently outsources these services. We have several “case numbers.” We have ringing ears from horrible on-hold music (worse than the old-fashioned “elevator music” of the seventies). We have repeated promises that we have been escalated to the ominous-sounding “second tier.”

This morning we thought the fever had broken. The site seemed navigable and accessible. Then after a few hours away from the computer, we encountered the same old issues … the home page came up OK … but when we tried clicking to a second page, such as the comments, or the administrative area where we make and/or edit posts, 90 percent of the time, it became yet another frustrating case of “you can’t get there from here.”

About that same time we noticed the problems had returned, we opened our Yahoo! mail … and blew the proverbial gasket upon seeing a relatively fresh note saying “We believe your problem is solved. We noticed you have high-resolution photos on your page. This can cause slow loading of pages.”

Simultaneous to this message, in a different browser window, we were receiving a “500 Internal Server Error” page while simply trying to get to a page that we knew didn’t have a single photo … the standalone page for the “Alki anecdote” post and its comments.

The photos are not the problem. We know they might cause slow loading for whomever is still out there with a dial-up connection. This is something else. The Yahoo! people have led us through a parade of diagnostics (including “traceroute,” including calling our internet service provider, Comcast, etc., including looking at the “health of the internet” to see if there is some stealth problem just affecting users in Seattle) that show it’s a hangup somewhere between here and there, not anything we have done to or with the site via its content. You would think that a multi-billion-dollar internet company, the one that is trying to stop losing ground to its archrival Google, would have access to somebody with enough tech savvy to figure out why a simple little placeblog here in the Silicon Forest suddenly is getting gummed up when people, whether its owners or its readers, try to get from page to page.

Anyway, please bear with us. Our next move would be changing to a different hosting company but at the moment, we don’t have reliable enough access to our database (more than 2000 posts) to guarantee we wouldn’t lose them in the process, so we’re kind of stuck. But we’ll keep being the squeaky wheel hoping to get the grease, until we know it’s fixed and the site is reliable again. Wish we were techy enough (and supplied with the right equipment) to figure out how to host it ourselves!

15 Replies to "Site tech rant: pulling ... hair ... out ... by ... roots"

  • Glenn Brooks June 23, 2007 (9:03 pm)

    It is not necessary (or even desirable) to host the blog yourself. There are lots of good hosting companies out there, other than Yahoo. If you decide to move, you probably have already realized the value of having local copies of all the files on your web site. I’d suggest starting the download of your files from Yahoo now, to be prepared. I never put anything up on my sites without first saving a copy on my local hard drive, which I back up frequently. Paranoia? Yes. Justified? Unfortunately, also yes.

  • Lou June 23, 2007 (9:34 pm)


    The problem with Yahoo Small Business is that your stuff is hosted on a single server somewhere – it’s not redundant nor scalable. So my guess is that they have overloaded your server with too many businesses or some other company is causing frequent problems on the server. The team that supports the Small Business area on the backend is small and overworked (trust me, I know). I would assume that they haven’t had time to figure out the root cause so they just keep restarting applications as the server becomes bogged down.

    Yahoo is an internet advertising/portal company – they are not a hosting company. I would definitely suggest migrating your stuff to a different service provider. I haven’t done much due diligence in researching this but I’ve personally been very happy with They support wordpress and seem to be very responsive to issues. Plus, they are in the hosting business so they know how to make sure you are setup in a scalable fashion for future growth.

    Feel free to email me if you want to discuss further. I don’t think migrating should be a big deal. Your wordpress posts are stored in a mysql DB and exporting that info should be easy. Importing is just as easy.

  • Eric B June 23, 2007 (9:53 pm)

    One other thing – I , and I would think many of my friends, consider WSB to be such a wonderful resource that we would be willing to make a contribution to your costs. I really value that you are ad-free. You cover businesses, but in a way that enriches them as a part of our community and are not above some criticism. That is harder to do with paid advertising. WSB, you do so much for our community – thanks – and sorry for the frustration! (P.S. a belated congrats on the 2000th post)

  • Sue June 23, 2007 (11:05 pm)

    Eric, I agree with you about making contributions to the cost of running the site – I would be happy to do so. Something could be set up using something like PayPal and posted on the site. Great idea!

  • Jan June 24, 2007 (12:52 am)

    ditto :)

  • Mike June 24, 2007 (7:51 am)

    Hear hear:)

  • Lachlan June 24, 2007 (12:30 pm)

    DROP YAHOO! My god, the aggravation you are experiencing is ten times what it would be to move your site somewhere else.

    I recommend Dreamhost and Both are reasonably priced with good tech service. I am semi-skilled when it comes to blog maintenance; I’ve moved my own site a few times, changed DNS settings, can do basic HTML, but I am not 100% literate, and my hosts have been very helpful in the past with stuff that I didn’t get.

    I love your blog and would love to see you stop pulling you hair out. :)

  • A June 24, 2007 (2:11 pm)

    I also echo the sentiment of being willing to make a donation. This is my primary source of local news.

    I have, in the past, used and cannot recommend them any more highly. They are courteous, professional, and incredibly stable. My understanding is that they backup hosted Livejournal for years before it moved to SixApart, so you know they can handle substantial traffic…

  • Marci June 24, 2007 (2:33 pm)

    I am in too…..I will donate whenever you tell us where! Great work all! You guys are being talked about over West Seattle!

  • WSB June 24, 2007 (5:08 pm)

    You all are very kind. We may put up a “tip jar” link one of these days but we’re still working to really make the content consistently worth your time, which is why this instance of tech trouble getting in the way of the content has been so frustrating! We did take the advice of some readers and have signed up with a new host that comes with glowing recommendations, but the site is not moved yet, as the process of getting 2,000+ blog posts and at least an equal number of comments from Point A to Point B is surprisingly complicated. Bear with us, we think we see the light at the end of the tunnel …

  • Marci June 24, 2007 (5:29 pm)

    We have your back…all of us will be there now and once the move is complete….!

  • Lachlan June 24, 2007 (7:50 pm)

    Just keep us posted. We’ll follow you wherever you end up. :)

  • Cindi June 24, 2007 (9:34 pm)

    Content will always trump speed or cool, snappy features. Tell us when and where you set out the tip jar!

  • Admiral Resident June 25, 2007 (3:42 pm)

    I’m sure Jiggers would throw in some gas money. :>)

  • t June 28, 2007 (7:39 pm)

    All the more reason to read your blog through an aggregator (I use Newsgator), and just pop over here to check out the comment streams now and then.

    Keep up the good work, I have noticed you seem to be making the blog more of an occupation than an avocation and been wondering how you will monetize that if at all.

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