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The Madness of Crowds

No, this post isn’t about speculative bubbles, but it is about the madness of crowds.

I do most of my blog reading during my commute, so I missed the excitement last weekend at Philly Future when the site was shut down. I was glad to hear that Karl was able to move Philly Future to a new host in such a short time. In the aftermath, I was surprised to learn that the host that cut Philly Future off so unceremoniously was DreamHost. Up until this happened, I had heard nothing but good things about DreamHost. Their hosting plans are generous, and I have a friend who uses them and never had a problem. Shutting down a site seemed drastic to me, so I was curious why it happened and how common this was.

Scott Yang explains some reasons very well, but basically, DreamHost is too popular. Herd mentality led to a stampede that has taxed their capacity. So on the one hand, while they continue to entice users with seemingly limitless disk space and bandwidth, to control usage, they have imposed a rather restrictive “CPU minutes limit.” I think this is the limit that Philly Future ran into.

It’s a natural tendency to go where the crowds go. They must know something, right? But popularity has its drawbacks. Yogi Berra famously said, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” A place gets a good reputation, everybody goes there, and it’s ruined. It can pay to seek out the undiscovered and wherever you see a crowd, head in the other direction. In that spirit, I came across two “anti-social networks” on TechCrunch the other day. Isolatr promises to “help you find where other people aren’t.” It’s just a joke, but a funny one at that.

When I sat down to write I was just going to talk about the Philadelphia Flower Show. Talk about crowds. We have experimented going at different times in a quest to avoid shuffling shoulder to shoulder around the show. Preview Day: forget it. Weekends: impossible. Weekday afternoons: nope. This year we went on a Wednesday night from 7 to 9, which was by the far the least crowded in our experience (please don’t tell anybody, OK?)

It was an unusually good show. There were the usual hideous designs done by overenthusiastic floral decorators (just not my taste at all), but other than that it was a beautiful show. I think my favorite exhibit was Styer’s with the simulated snow and inspired lighting. Sad that all those nice trees were sacrificed, but the show must go on, I guess.

The theme this year was “Enchanted Spring... A Tribute to Mother Nature.” Mother Nature herself put in an appearance in the form of a giant sculpted head. I thought they missed an opportunity here. It would have been cool to model the face less literally by using natural materials in the manner of Giuseppe Archimboldo, but that would have been sheer madness, I’m sure.

Comments

Dreamhost has a decent reputation, and deservedly so, I'm sure. I think we were all (at least those of us struggling with it) a little taken aback by the shutdown.

It may have been a mix of wanting the business and not recognizing how much the usage was going to hurt them until it was too late. Dedicated servers were probably the best way to go from the start anyway. That's my take on it.

Glad you like the flower show. I didn't make it this year, but I hear good things from several family members who would have otherwise compelled my attendance. And don't worry, your ideal time to go to the show should be safe right? It's not like anyone posted it online where it could be readily Googled or anything like that...

I had to move Keystone Politics off of Dreamhost as well! I missed this controversy with Philly Future but it's interesting that we both ran into this problem at the same time.

I had the same problem last January with iPowerWeb.com ... thank Heaven I had make backups and was able to remove my sites to bluehost.

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