Google Blogger vs. WordPress, Blog Wars Part 3: The Others

This is the final post in this series. In Part One I created blogs in each of the various blog engines. Part Two then reviewed the 3 major blog engines, Google Blogger, WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

I’ve decided to make my primary blog my own hosted WordPress from WordPress.org on my own domain Clear.Bluedei.com. You will notice however, that it is not as full-featured yet and my WordPress.com blog Allthingsweb20.wordpress.com or my Google Blogger blog, alongthepathto20.blogspot.com. That is because when you host your own WordPress blog, you have to set up everything yourself, it comes very vanilla. This allows you add all kinds of plugins and really customize it, but it takes time and is not as quick to get up and running with all the bells and whistles. Blogger really shines at being quick to get up and running with lots of add-ons that are easy to setup. Even WordPress.com, while limited in what it can do compared to the others, will let you create a very nice and full-featured blog quickly. But for me, the ability to host and completely control my own blog and to customize it however I want, makes it worth the extra time it takes to get it looking as good and as full-featured as the others.

(NOTE: We went with Inmotion Hosting for our web host and you can read my post about choosing this host service here. In retrospect, I would have chosen Blue Host instead. I did not find them until too late. I may still switch although it will cost me and will be a hassle to lose everything. But twice so far I have lost some or all of a post I was was trying to create because I could not temporarily connect to my site (or to inmotionhosting.com either). Just now this happened again. It doesn’t go down for long, say 5-10 minutes. But I also haven’t done a blog post for at least a week and it happened just as I was trying to write this post so I really don’t know the extent of the problem. But I have concerns with its reliability when I am trying to write a post and I work hard enough to write my posts, I don’t need to be afraid of losing them and/or having to wait and worry about it until my site comes back.)

In this post, I will review the other, less well-known blog engines. While I recommend using either Google Blogger or WordPress, I think it is useful to have an idea about each of these others. You can see an example of each in Part One of this series.

One of the other players in the blog engine wars is Six Apart. They have a number of different blog engines available: Vox, LiveJournal, TypePad and MovableType. These are listed in order from their lowest to highest end blogs. I looked only at the 2 free blogs which were Vox and LiveJournal.

Both TypePad and MovableType have monthly charges and although they say they have a 14 day free trial you have to actually choose a plan as if you were signing up for it and give your credit card information and then cancel it within the 14 days. I wasn’t about to do that so I will just give you an idea of what they have and you can go to the sixapart site if you want to know more. Personally, I would never pay the prices they are asking for a blog engine with so many good, free ones available. As an example, Typepad, which they call The choice for professional bloggers, costs anywhere between $.95 and $89.95 per month (4.95, 8.95, 14.95, 29.95, 89.95 / mo with 15% off annual subscription). The lowest cost blog has no domain mapping, full html , custom css. This is less than you would get with Google Blogger for free. I did not even look at MovableType which they call the The best choice for business blogging.

So that left me with Vox (Personal blogging taken to the next level) and LiveJournal (A diverse community of independent bloggers). Here are my impressions of these. Again, you can see my working blogs by following the links in my Part One post.

Vox:

  • can import posts from other blogs (but only 1 month it appears)
  • looks childish
  • has neighborhoods and groups
  • can easily add video and book lists
  • can add widgets
  • can add friends
  • Seems more like a mix of MySpace and a blog

LiveJournal:

  • has ads for plus free version
  • can add friends
  • no import of posts?
  • wants to use photobucket for pics
  • slow processing
  • can set ‘mood’ of post
  • very MySpace-ish
  • WAY too many advertisements and you can’t control them

My view of SixApart blog engines are that they are just trying to make money from them and I would not be interested in their blogs, although I do know a few people who use LiveJournal and TypePad.

InstantSpot is a blog engine that almost didn’t make it into my testing because I had not heard of it and only found out about it right at the end. But I was impressed enough by it that I wanted to include it. Here is my instant spot blog. I didn’t do much to it but from looking around at other instant spot blogs, they look to be highly customizable, almost to the point of looking like a CMS (content management system). And it clearly seems to be geared toward tracking, marketing and promoting your site.

Instant Spot:

  • can edit .css
  • allows google adsense (just click in ad manager)
  • tracking script manager works with trackers like g analy, feedburner, etc
  • host header mgmt allows redirecting to a host domain name
  • definitely looks geared towards tracking, marketing and promoting
  • has large set of social networking icons (like digg, etc) at bottom of each post (many of which I have never heard)
  • tag line is “Get spotted now!
  • seems to be highly customizable judging by looking at other instant spot blogs. Not sure how though.
  • has ads on page

Instant Spot was the only other blog engine that looked intriguing to me. I could see it being useful for people who are selling or promoting something and who want a very nice looking site (not sure of the effort involved though) and who want to be able to market, track and promote their site. If you had a club or small business, this seems like a good site. We teach Aikido and I could see easily setting up a website for our Aikido club on this. Here is an instant spot site that is for a fitness class that is not fancy and was probably easy to set up, but is a decent site for their classes. (I don’t know or endorse these people, just thought it was a good example of a not-too-fancy, easy to set up, useful site). And here is a really nice looking blog. Instant Spot seems to have some definite possibilities.

Well, that is it for my review of blog engines. Google Blogger for balance between being easy and having functionality, WordPress.org (self-hosted wordpress) for total control and flexibility and Instant Spot for an easy (I think) website for a club, class, non-profit or small business.

~Susan Mellott

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Las Vegas: The Addiction (not Gambling, Internet / Blogging)

In my last post I lamented the near lack of free internet in Las Vegas and how I couldn’t see paying for it. I was planning on schlepping my laptop to the few free hotspots, just to check my email a time or two.

My husband said I should just bite the bullet and pay for it since I wouldn’t be happy if I didn’t. And he was ever, ever so right. I don’t know what made me think that I could not buy it when I have my laptop with me and have wireless right there waiting for me, all I had to do was put my credit card number in and I was surfing. In some weird way, it was infinitely worth paying the $10/day to be able to get on and check my email, check my blogs, look things up and write posts whenever I wanted.

We are quite happy to play penny slots for all our little gambling (and free drinks) breaks, but I’ll put $10 a day in just to be able to be connected. And I think, how much do I really use it? Couldn’t I just do a couple of hauls to a hotspot and be done? And of course, I could do that if I was broke. But I’ve got $10 in my pocket and its going to buy me access.
And although for probably no good reason since I doubt that many people read my blog, I still feel a need? desire? responsibility? fear of losing people? to make sure I post regularly. Sean and I were discussing this in the elevator, about the whole blogging experience and the mindset of a blogger. About how for the blogger, the act of blogging seems to be a really creative outlet and a way to clarify one’s thoughts. And the surprise of having people actually read and get something out of something you have posted is both gratifying and a real impetus to keep blogging. But the downside is that it is easy to start feeling a pressure to please people instead of just doing it and letting whoever may be interested read it and not worrying about it.

It is also somewhat addictive to have a lot of people read what you wrote. I blogged about the Skype outage last week, just because I use Skype and had wondered why I couldn’t connect and then found out it had crashed. And suddenly I had a ridiculous (for me) number of hits on my post. I posted it at 4:30pm and by 4:34 I had like 600 people read (or at least view) it. I thought I was getting spammed or attacked or something.

But it was just that everyone was trying to find out what was going on. So I wrote another post the next day with more information and it was really being read. And then another. And at some point, I realized that I had quit blogging about it just because I had something to say about it and started blogging it because it was a hot topic and people would read what I wrote. I knew if I wrote something even remotely interesting or intelligent about Skype right then, people would read it.

While there isn’t anything inherently wrong with writing about what people are interested in, when I find myself writing just for other people’s interest when I’ve pretty much lost interest in it myself and even worse, just to increase my hit count, I have to re-examine what I am doing and why.

I have always been a writer and have been on many lists and boards where people read and responded to what I wrote. But this is something beyond that. This is a medium that has people coming to my blog to read what I have to say. And a surprising (to me) number of them. And they even come back to see what else I have written.

I’ve never had a group of people who wanted to read what I had to say and I have to say that I really get a great deal of satisfaction and gratification from it. But it can also be addictive. I want to enjoy that people read what I write, but I don’t want to need it. I don’t want to obsess about it.

And I think it is wise for people to be aware of some of these pitfalls and potential dangers that are inherent in many of the Web 2.0 tools. They are wonderful, creative outlets and can enhance one’s life immensely. But I think everyone needs to make sure they are monitoring their involvement and motivation.

It is a truly fascinating time for people with all the amazing ability there is to create and interact. But just like me, I’m sure there are others who may need to step back periodically and look at it and make sure they are in control and are not being manipulated (most likely, by themselves).  And really, who shouldn’t do that regularly about most everything anyway?

Thank you for reading 🙂

~Susan Mellott

Las Vegas 1.0 – Can’t Find Free Wireless Access on the Strip?

I am getting ready to leave for Las Vegas on Monday and I realized that the hotel where we are staying does not have free wireless access.  In fact, it is rather expensive, especially since I am used to being able to go almost anywhere and get free wireless access.  Fort Wayne is an amazingly progressive town and has had many free wireless access points for a very long time, as a matter of fact, it was nationally recognized as one of America’s most “wired and inspired” cities (according to Mayor Graham Richards) and has many, many wi-fi hot-spots.  Some of the more interesting hotspot areas include:

  • Headwaters Park
  • Freimann Square
  • Lawton Park
  • Several downtown restaurants
  • Allen County Courthouse courtyard
  • The main Allen County Public Library and all 13 branches
  • The Fort Wayne International Airport
  • and of course all the other common ones like MacDonalds, House of Pancakes, coffee houses, bars, restaurants, hotels, etc.

So I just assumed that I would have no problem finding a free wireless hotspot in Las Vegas (specifically, the strip).  Buzzzz.  Wrong.  As near as I can tell, there are maybe 5 free hotspots on the strip and the strip is a couple miles long.  The closest to where we will be staying is the Apple Store in the Fashion Show Mall which is across the street and down a “Las Vegas Block” from us.   If you’ve been to Las Vegas, you know what a Las Vegas block is.  It is about a half a mile.

There is also one at the Las Vegas Hilton (and in the Las Vegas Hilton Monorail station – why couldn’t they have put it in some other monorail station?).  Again, if you know Las Vegas, you know that *nothing* is close to the Las Vegas Hilton.  So I could pay $5 each way to ride the monorail there, but that would be $20 for the two of us, just to get wireless access (although I do enjoy Star Trek – The Experience).  There is supposed to be one at the Planet Hollywood/Aladdin hotel, which is a little farther than the Fashion Show Mall, but in the other direction.  And someone thinks there is one by the hallway between Luxor and Excalibur which is at the far end of the strip.  Oh yes, there should be one at the Wynn too which the same distance as the Fashion Show Mall, but on our side of the road.  The Wynn is new since I was last at Vegas and I forget about it.  But that really is about it!  And in a town that is wall to wall hotels, casinos, restaurants and bars, I find that unbelievable.

And I really don’t want to be lugging my laptop all over creation in 100+ temps, just to get to the internet.  I don’t want to, but I will.  I can’t imagine going for 4 days without logging in.

But I plan to make it as little as possible, which means I won’t be posting much, if any, in the next week.  And I have things I want to post!  And I wanted to post about our trip.

I love Las Vegas, but it needs to get its 2.0 on.

~Susan Mellott

Google Blogger vs. WordPress, Blog Wars Part 2: The Results

So as you know from my first post on this “Google Blogger vs. WordPress, Blog Wars Part 1: The Test“, I am reviewing and evaluating several different blog engines, with an emphasis on Google Blogger and WordPress (.com and .org). You can see my previous post to see the different blogs in action. And I’m sure this is going to be a large post, just reviewing the Blogger and WordPress blogs, so I will have a “Google Blogger vs. WordPress, Blog Wars: The Other Options” post following this one where I’ll talk about the other blogs I looked at. But for all intents and purposes, it came down to Blogger and WordPress (2 ways).

I wanted to decide which type of blog would work best for my needs and which one I would recommend to others. It turned out to not be quite that simple. Each of the 3 main blog engines (Blogger, wordpress.com hosted WordPress and self-hosted WordPress) had some serious advantages and some serious drawbacks. So as it turns out, rather than recommending one above all others, I will give an overview of each, what is good and bad about them and why and for whom I would recommend each particular one.

And to make a long story short, I recommend Blogger for people who want someone else to host their blog, don’t want to pay for a web hosting service and/or who want a quick and easy blog that takes hardly any maintenance or technical know-how.

For people who want the all-around best solution, who have their own web host and like to get ‘techie’ (and know how to do installs, use unix and ftp, etc), it’s definitely WordPress from wordpress.org. This is the most flexible, you have the most control over it and your data and it will do almost anything you want if you find the right plug-ins or code. But you have to have the know-how and desire to use it and it is only as good as you make it. And you have to have somewhere to install it like a web hosting service.

Google Blogger: I personally give Google Blogger the edge over WordPress.com hosted WordPress for anyone who doesn’t have their own web host and/or wants an easy and quick blog. I think it is good for:

  1. Anyone who doesn’t have a lot of programming, moving files, installs, bits and bolts of how things work experience
  2. Anyone who wants an easy setup with the most features for a blog hosted by the blog provider and the most options for adding plugins and html code easily.
  3. Anyone who wants to have their own domain name, but use a blog hosted by the blog provider. In other words, who wants to buy a domain name like say, http://www.allaboutme.com (costs about $10/yr) but doesn’t want to have their own web hosting service where they can put and maintain their own data and blogs (costs about $10/month). Redirecting is free in Blogger, it costs $10? (10 credits) in WordPress.com
  4. You might want to have commercial usage on your blog. WordPress.com’s term of service prohibits ‘commercial usage’ (although its unclear to mean exactly what they mean). It appears OK on a Google Blog (see this post from the Blogger Help group).

Google Blogger has the most features, the most choices and the ability to add html code easily including that using javascript. That means that when you find something you like (like say Odiogo, which is the text-to-speech widget you see at the top of my posts on my google and personally hosted wordpress blog), you can add it to your blog posts very easily. You cannot add Odiogo to a WordPress.com hosted blog because it doesn’t allow javascript. I’ve run into several widgets that I wanted to add to my blogs, but could not easily do it in WordPress.com. You can easily redirect it to your own domain name so when they type either your original blog name or your domain name, both will go to your blogger blog. It is an easy, attractive and flexible blog engine. It doesn’t have as nice a built-in statistics page as wordpress, but you can use Google Analytics (which is nice, but isn’t real time) or any other stats tools like ActiveMeter or Sitemeter or ShinyStat (or I’m sure there are others) to keep track of it.

The one thing that seems to keep a lot of people from recommending Google Blogger is that it does not allow you to back up your posts. Therefore, if anything happened to Blogger, you could lose your data. Also, you can’t move the data to another google blog if you wanted to. And looking at the hacks to backup your data, there really isn’t a good way to do it. Except…

What you can do is to create a WordPress.com blog and import your blogger data into your wordpress blog. It is very easy in WordPress.com to import posts and comments from other blog engines, basically just point and click. Then you can export the data from your wordpress blog into a file of your own. You can’t reload that file back into Google Blogger, but you have all your data and can recreate it in wordpress easily. Which is better than losing it all. And if you use a redirect to your own domain name in Blogger, if something happened, you could change the redirect to point to your WordPress blog (for $10/credits per year, I believe). It’s a work-around, but I tried it and it works just fine.

There is some concern about losing your rank if you move (which I don’t totally understand about rank and all yet) but here is a post that explains things you can do to help with that, called “Moving from Blogger to WordPress without Losing Traffic and Page Rank” (Actually, when I qit blogging on all my blogs and switch to one (clear.bluedei.com), I may have to figure out what all this means.) Also, as I understand, Blogger (as would be expected) integrates very well with Google Adsense, which I gather is a way to make money from your website, with advertising, I guess.

Also, if you start with Blogger, you can choose later to go to WordPress. You can’t go the other way because Blogger doesn’t have an import or export function. For the life of me, I don’t know why.

WordPress on wordpress.com: This is the most middle-of-the-road bet. It doesn’t really do anything as well as any of the others (except for import/export) but it doesn’t have anything really wrong with it either. Many people would recommend it over Blogger. But it seems that it is mostly because Blogger doesn’t provide a way to back it up and my work-around takes care of that, in my opinion. One thing that I really like about wordpress.com is that they provide an easy to use stats page that tells you how many page views you’ve had each day, which pages were viewed, how people got to your site and what they clicked while there. The one thing it doesn’t tell you is who actually viewed your site. You have to use another stats package like sitemeter or ActiveStats to see that. And Google Analytics will not give you as much information using wordpress.com as it would if you were using Blogger because it requires some code to be added that you cannot add to WordPress.com blogs.

This appeals to all the people that Blogger and would be a better choice if:

  1. You really want to be able to export your data and import it back into WordPress easily, or want to be able to import posts/comments from other blog engines.
  2. You plan to go to a WordPress blog that you host yourself and you just want to get started now with WordPress.com and then import your posts and comments into your own hosted WordPress blog.
  3. AND you don’t plan to have to have commercial usage on your blog. wordpress.com’s term of service prohibits ‘commercial usage’ and you are supposed to use wordpress.org (your own hosted site) if you do…
  4. UNLESS you are a big business and want wordpress to host your blog using their VIP Hosting Service that costs $600 to setup and $300/month hosting fee. If you have that kind of money, you can decide if that is worth it. Briefly looking at it, I would think not. For that kind of money, you have many, many options. But if you have that kind of money for a blog, I doubt that you are reading my post 🙂

As I said before, WordPress.com has some drawbacks. It is not as flexible as Blogger. There are things you want to add that you can’t (but you can in Blogger). You can’t use javascript and you cannot have any commercial usage or you run the risk of being shut down. You also have to pay to redirect your blog to your own domain name (this is something you very well may want to do at some point) and for many other things too, like more upload storage space or the ability to customize your css or unlimited users.

Self-hosted WordPress from wordpress.org: This is, in my opinion, the very best option for:

  1. anyone who is ‘techie’ (understands files, uploading, ftp, unix, etc) and
  2. who likes dealing with the bits and bolts, likes installing, maintaining and customizing their own blog and templates and all and
  3. who has a host server to put their install on.
  4. who wants to be able to do pretty much anything they want to their blog, wants to add all sorts of plug-ins and who wants to really ‘pimp their ride’.

Self-host WordPress offers the most options and is the most flexible of any of the choices. Really, it is about the only option I’ve found for being able to have total control of your own blog, outside a CMS (content management system) like Drupal, which is extremely more powerful than just a blog engine and requires a lot more knowledge and programming know-how.

Some drawbacks of it are that you have to have a host to install it on (either your own, or from a web service that costs about $10/month) and you have to install and maintain and customize it yourself so you have to have some experience with these things and you have to want to do it or it will just be a hassle and frustrating. And your blog will only be as good and functional as you make it. It comes as basically vanilla and you have to add everything to it.
You also have to be sure your host is stable and has good backups in case something happens. The other blog engines are as stable and well-backed up as google.com and wordpress.com can make them so it doesn’t vary so much. But your own host system can be very good or very bad, depending on who you are going with.

Also, I tried exporting from my wordpress.org blog to import into my wordpress.com blog (as if I had a problem with my web host and had to move) and it didn’t move my extra pages (like about me and books I am reading). Nor of course, any of my plug-ins or customization. So it is important to save your plug-ins and files. Since they are just files on a server, you can back-up any or all of it any time you want.

Here is an article that talks about the differences between Google Blogger and self-hosted WordPress from wordpress.org that has some good information. It is part one, but for the life of me, I can’t find part two. It still has good info.

So to me, it comes down to Google Blogger for flexibility and ease of use vs. self-hosted wordpress for control and customization. And that is a choice that depends on what you are looking for and how much you want to do.

I will post my reviews of the other, less well-known blog engines in my next post on this subject.

-Susan Mellott

Beyond Skype: Keeping up with the Web 2.0 World

Well I’m sure you all are getting as sick of the repeated speculations as to what really happened with Skype. So am I.

In many ways, it is unfortunate that so much has been written about the Skype outage, to the point that now that people are looking at it from a broader perspective, such as why did their communication fail, or how companies need to review their backup plans for situations such as these, either no one wants to read about it or it gets buried in the overwhelming amount of Skype related posts.

But the bigger picture is not about what happened to Skype as much as it is about how Skype tried outdated, 1.0 communcation techniques that failed miserably in the current 2.0 environment. Even in their ‘clarification’ post today on the situation, seems to sort of recognize they have a communications problem, but clearly doesn’t recognize why.

And forget this is about Skype. Think of it as about any company, in a situation that affects their users and how they communicate and handle the situation.

I wish I had written this post, but it says everything I would want to and so rather than repeat it, just go read P.R. 2.0’s post called “Crisis Communication 2.0 – The Skype is Falling“. Or if you prefer, here is the post on a white background (I don’t care as much for black background with white lettering if I’m trying to read something).

And I hope this doesn’t get buried in the continuing rehash of the Skype problem

~Susan Mellott

Skype – Without more information, I don’t buy their excuse

We use Skype and we purchased the SkypeOut plan for unlimited calling in the U.S. and Canada and we buy Skype minutes to call New Zealand since my husband’s family lives there. We also use it to talk to his brother in Italy and we use the video sometimes too, which is really nice.

I like Skype a lot and have been a strong supporter of Skype. And it has been very reliable. But I’ve always said that you can tell more about a company when it has problems and you can see how they handle them, than when everything runs smoothly. Every company has problems and there have been many times that what I thought was a good company, turned out to be bad in a crisis.

I took a cruise on Royal Olympic cruise lines to Greece and Turkey and I really liked their itinerary, their food and the ship (not my cabin, but that is another story). But I had problems with my luggage when I arrived and they were unresponsive and when we were to disembark, they had put me on a bus that gave me almost no time to check in at the airport and they refused to allow me to get on an earlier bus. Naturally, I ended up missing my plane and standing in the middle of the Athens airport crying (the trip was amazing, but was so exhausting that my reserves were absolutely shot). And they had just dropped me off at the airport and split. After much problems, I eventually got home.

But that soured me so much on Royal Olympic that I would have nothing to do with them, even though they had interesting cruises and had (after much hassle) offered me $500 towards another cruise. They have since gone out of business and I am not surprised.

Anyway, I think Skype dropped the ball on this and I think their post that they finally issued today on why they had the problems, just doesn’t make any sense to me. And not just to me. Just read all the comments on their post – it is up to 320 comments so far. Mauricio Freitas speaks on this in his post Skype Outage caused by Windows Update? Yeah, Right. As he points out: the Windows Updates run at 3am local time. So everyone’s PC does not reboot all at once, they would reboot as their own particular local time hits 3am. And by the time the update would take effect in New Zealand where he is, the outage would have already been in affect for a ridiculously long time. Also,Windows Update is delivered every second Tuesday of the month, and has been for the last three years so what makes it cause a problem this time?

The Microsoft Security Response Center blog posted a response to Skype who asserted it was caused by all the PCs rebooting from the Tuesday Windows update and basically said that they were in contact with Skype and there was nothing unusual with this particular Windows update and there was nothing in the update that would have caused any problems. They said “Fortunately, Skype has identified the cause. As Villu Arak notes, “a previously unseen software bug within the network resource allocation algorithm” was the cause, and they have corrected it.” That doesn’t say anything bad about Skype, but essentially says Skype found a problem in their software and fixed it.

But what does Villu’s statement mean? What specifically was the problem and what caused it to occur then and why do they feel it won’t happen again? I would not necessarily be able to understand a full explanation, but the beauty of the internet is that there are people who would and who would determine if what they said made sense and would work to fix the problem. But who can say one way or the other when all they say is that it was “a previously unseen software bug within the network resource allocation algorithm”. And there is a real concern about it being a P2P network model.

And as MyITForum says in their post on this, “Skype’s main development unit is in Estonia. Estonia’s infrastructure was targeted by massive denial-of-service attacks earlier this year. This tied together with the fact that a new Denial-of-Service exploit against Skype server software was posted to securitylab.ru just hours ago has created lots rumors about what’s really going on.”

Infoworld had a very good article called “Skype Users don’t Buy Outage Explanation. CSO, the resource for Security Executives asked some specific questions of ennifer Caukin, a Skype spokeswoman. The answers were weak, at best and she said there was no one in the U.S. who could answers the questions today (maybe tomorrow…?). The Skype Journal writes about this and has several thoughts on what Skype needs to do to address this correctly with its users. And Computerworld had a good article asking “Does Skype’s Windows update story fly?”  (Thanks to Greg of Voip Spider for turning me on to this article.)

I like what Mike McGrath said on his comment to Skype Journal’s post: ”

The great Outage of 2007 has some important lessons. The most surprising to me is that there are many folks out there that believe you have no right to complain about something that’s free. Does that mean I have no right to complain about polluted air?

Still, I like Skype and will continue to use it. I hope Skype takes this opportunity to understand the blogoshere’s reaction, good, bad or ugly and make some adjustments that will be good for everyone.”

Skype should had sent emails to every user of Skype (especially the paying customers) and continued to update with real information regularly. Now they need to answer the questions still being posed and answer them thoroughly. I expect nothing less of them, or of any company.

~Susan Mellott

Skype – It’s not the problem, it’s how they handled it.

Skype appears to be starting to become available. I have been able to access it consistently for several hours. But it is hard to find out how many people are still without Skype and if you cannot get Skype yet, please send me a comment so we can keep track of what the real picture is.

Skype has not been forthcoming at all with what the problem is and there is much speculation that it was caused either by the planned maintenance that took place right before Skype went down, or by a hacker attack or both, through an opening while performing the system maintenance. Here is a good post called Ebay Says Skype was not Attacked and another one by PCWorld on why people feel it could have been an attack and it says:

“eBay attributes the outage to a problem in a Skype networking algorithm, but code has been posted to a Russian security discussion forum that could supposedly be used to knock the service offline in a DOS (denial of service) attack.

The code, which was published anonymously, appears to be capable of forcing Skype’s servers to freeze up, said the discussion forum site’s editor, Valery Marchuk, in a posting to the Full Disclosure security discussion list. “Reportedly, it must have caused Skype massive disconnections,” he wrote.”

Even though Skype/ebay denies either of these and is blaming it on a “software problem” (could they be any more vague?), they are both not unreasonable scenarios. Skype is only going to quell any rumors if it gives a good and specific reason as to what happened. They can, and obviously would, say whatever they felt was the safest and less likely to frighten customers away. And that is not unusual, that is what any company would do.

Look at 365 Main when the big outage hit San Francisco a couple weeks ago. Rather than saying they didn’t have proper power backup systems (UPS), a company representative said “Someone came in sh*tfaced drunk, got angry, went berserk, and f**ked up a lot of stuff. There’s an outage on 40 or so racks at minimum.” ValleyWag had a good article on this with lots of interesting links.

While Skype is not updating us on the situation, you can go to the original post on the Skype blog about Skype login problems and read the comments to see what is going on with people in different areas. And here is the latest update at midnight GMT August 18 on the heartbeat.skype.com official Skype site. Basically, it says “We are pleased to announce that the situation continues to improve. The sign-on problems have been resolved. Skype presence and chat may still take a few more hours to be fully operational.” I wonder if all the sign-on problems are now resolved. There are about 4 million users online at this moment. That is less than usual, but some may not have tried to get back on so it is hard to tell.

Skype has been really reliable and this is a rare occuraence, but I think that Skype did a very poor job of keeping people updated. Many people didn’t even know there was a general Skype problem and spent a lot of time trying to figure out why their Skype was not working.

Skype has everyone’s email address that uses Skype and they could have easily sent out emails to everyone stating the situation and giving regular updates (and specifics on what they are finding wrong and what they are doing to correct it).

People say “Skype is free so who are you to complain?”. Well, many, many people actually pay for Skype, believe it or not, and use it for their businesses, their help desks, their contacts and their phone system. I am a paying customer of Skype. At the very least, they owe it to the people who pay for their service to provide a better communication than just a couple posts on their heartbeat website saying nothing more than Skype is having problems and they are working on it.

According to GigaOm’s post on Skype Groans and SIPhone Gains: “The company saw a 400% increase in traffic this morning, with 4 times increase in sales, calls and downloads of its Gizmo Project software. “It is interesting to see that voice callers are transitory,” Michael Robertson, founder, SIPphone wrote in an email.”

Yes, voice callers ARE transitory. And people who change to Gizmo Project, or use Jajah or any of the other ways to make calls, very well may not go back. And while you can say that these may not be the paying customers, people who use Skype for free today, are the paying customers of tomorrow. I used it for free until I decided it was good and I wanted to expand what I could do. And I recommend it to other people who do business in other countries.

I am going to wait and see how this plays out before I recommend Skype again. I have always said that you can tell more about a company by the way they handle problems, than by how well they do when there are no problems. Every company has occasional problems, its how they are handled when they happen that makes the difference.

~Susan Mellott

WIL WHEATON dot NET

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