I have moved my website from my own Linode server to WPEngine.

Why? Because I was tired of my server randomly going to 100% CPU usage and the only way to revive it was to reboot the server! For a long time, I thought the problem was maybe MongoDB which I was using for isbn.net.in which was running on the same server as the blog. But surprisingly, it was most likely WordPress at fault.

On the same point, it has been quite embarrassing when I get tweets and emails that my blog is down, because of this. Especially embarrassing because I’m supposed to be a developer and I can’t even keep a simple website up? Something had to be done.

When I read patio11’s story of how and why he moved to WPEngine, I found myself nodding and agreeing with him throughout the article, especially the part about WordPress, PHP, Apache being very finicky software.
WPEngine
And I found other people who felt the same way as well. I also liked what I read on the WPEngine company website. And knowing that the guy who blogs at asmartbear.com is the same guy who started the WPEngine company gave me even more confidence in moving to WPEngine.

Since companies and projects are moving on to platforms like AWS (to get rid of hardware headaches) and Heroku (to get rid of deployment, operations and scaling headaches), I didn’t see why I shouldn’t move my personal website to a managed WordPress hosting.

That was when I chalked out a plan to move to WPEngine, and moved it wholesale on a weekend.

I’m glad to be no longer doing the constant monitoring of the server and monitoring of the security and upgrades of wordpress, security of plugins, daily backup, etc. WPEngine does that for me. And it even gives me a staging server if I just want to try out stuff. I can’t wait to try out their upcoming Heroku-style git repository feature.

The most surprising and positive upgrade in moving to WPEngine has been the speed. The blog opens up way way faster than before.

No, they haven’t paid me to write this article, I’m just a satisfied customer (so far).

My old superb theme by Divya Manian (Nimbupani) was beginning to show its software rot – it didn’t have support for widgets or the latest options and so on. So I took the major pieces of that theme and converted the default Twenty Eleven theme to use the same branding. Let me know whether it looks decent.

My mutated new WordPress theme

All in all, I’m happy with the move. And as you may have noticed, my frequency of publishing is starting to pick up, thanks to the having no headaches about the website.

I think of this weblog as a small place for me to write. The reason I write is because I have this innate implicit belief that I learn only by teaching. In hindsight, that’s why I wrote those books and that’s why I keep writing in this space.

The “head fake” is that if I don’t have something interesting to write once in a while, it means I’m not doing anything creative or worthwhile in my life. And as a wise man once said “If you don’t like the news, go out and make some of your own.”

There are four reasons why I believe that my weblog has actually been useful or at least interesting to other people.

First was finding out that it was ranked No. 6 in India according to Indiblogger ranking (as of July 23, 2009). I never imagined this writing space to be part of any listing mostly because I don’t write about a niche topic or write about news or tech tips, which are the recipes for a popular website. My interest was in only writing some of my own thoughts, not talking about what others are doing.

Second was finding out that it was ranked No. 5 in India according to Invesp Ultimate BlogRank listing (as of August 17, 2009). And this was ahead of veteran/famous people like Rajesh Jain, FoneArena and others. I was quite surprised.

invesp listing snapshot on August 17, 2009

When I expressed this on twitter, two of my good friends replied saying I shouldn’t be surprised…

@t3rmin4t0r reply

@vinayakh reply

(I hope they don’t mind me quoting them, I wanted to record this just to prove I’m not making this up ;-))

That kind of made me believe that this blog is actually bigger than I tend to think about it. But don’t worry, I’m not going to let it get to my head. Nothing’s going to change. I will continue to write about my observations and this just happens to be one of them :)

I thought I’d jot down some of the writing principles that I’ve absorbed over the years, for those who have asked me this question before:

  • “Blog about your passions. Don’t blog about what you think your audience wants. Post because you have something you are dying to write about.” — Mark Cuban
  • “One doesn’t make art for other people, even though I am very concerned with the viewer.” — Anish Kapoor
  • “I love encouraging people to live a little more consciously. I like challenging people to consider different perspectives. I know that many people think such pursuits are lame, naive, or pointless. I don’t care. This path inspires me. The more I think about it, the better I feel. It wouldn’t matter if the whole world disagreed with me.” — Steve Pavlina
  • The point is not to show up on a list, the point is to start a conversation that spreads, to share ideas and to chronicle your thinking. That’s the work of an author. — Seth Godin
  • Thoughtful comments and feedback are what keeps me still writing, such as those comments by Sridhar Ratna and others, although I usually don’t have something clever to say to continue the conversation, I just listen to others’ perspectives and learn. Intellectual stimulation is/should be one of the basic necessities in life.
  • Every post has to be consistent and of the highest quality (learned this the hard way) — Darren Rowse
  • Have a regular posting habit as much as possible — Darren Rowse
  • 69 Questions to Ask to Review Your Blog — Darren Rowse
  • Don’t write about anything that you wouldn’t discuss with a room full of people.

Thanks for reading.

Note: I no longer work with IonLab since Nov 12 of 2009.

One year ago, on this day, we launched ion, the ipod
charger
. The launch was just one blog
post
.
That’s it. Within two hours, Atul Chitnis bought the first ion in our
online store. We celebrated.

But hold on, let’s rewind the story a bit.

As people might have heard in our recent running
talk
, it all
started when Vikram,
Niara and myself started training
together for the 2006 Bangalore
Marathon
.

During one of our runs, Vikram told us that he had created his own
charger circuit and came up with this wacky idea of manufacturing and
selling them
. I never took it seriously
but Niara did. She convinced Vikram to take the idea forward. Nearly
six months later, the idea had taken wings.

The prototype looked nothing like something we could sell.

Picture 253
Picture 252

Later, I was planning to attend the first
proto.in
. Vikram and Niara
joined in and we went together. I was totally floored by the energy of
the people there and the fire in the eyes of these startup guys.
I told those two that they should talk to this guy called Arif
Vakil
of “Vakil Housing” fame and how he was
looking to fund interesting ideas. Immediately, Vikram swung into
action, approached Vakil and started explaining the idea.
Surprisingly, he showed interest!

Luckily, Vikram had brought his prototype and went to fetch it from
his bag. Then Vikram started searching for his iPod when Arif said
“Let’s try with my iPod”. Wow. That moment. Imagine if your VC is
a would-be customer and the product solves a problem that he himself
faces. Nothing like it.

We connected Arif’s iPod to the charger and the charger to a power
socket. The blue LED came on. The iPod was showing the charging
symbol. We all had smiles on our faces. Arif was impressed and went on
to even ask us where we live and so on. That means he really was
interested.

After that incident, it was time to head back. Vikram was on an
all-time high. That was when we were all convinced that we were on to
something. And throughout the bus journey from Chennai to Bangalore,
those two convinced me to join ion. I wasn’t so sure. Yeah, it was
a Saturdays-only part-time thing. Yeah, Vikram and me had discussed
about such things endlessly. But still, I wasn’t sure.

I thought about it the next day and thought “Why not?” I don’t lose
much if it bombs and it was a good excuse for us three to keep meeting
up.

For various reasons, we didn’t approach Vakil for funding and put in
the initial investment ourselves. And we went from shopping for
running shoes to shopping for resistors and capacitors and modifying
Drupal code.

Picture 053

Then there was the countless decision-making sessions like coming up
with poster ideas and then the stories about how we decided the logo
for ion
, how we
landed in trouble with the
cops
, and
finally the launch of ion.

We sent an email to friends asking them to forward to their company
internal groups and anybody who would be interested. We also gave
posters to put up on their company notice boards. That was pretty much
our ‘marketing strategy’. The idea was that we marketed it as an iPod
charger and our target audience was the techie crowd.

We marketed it as an iPod charger even though it will work with
anything that can be charged with USB right from mobile phones to
battery chargers. We use the term iPod charger because that’s what
people have most demand for. The second part about targeting techies
was because they will be the ones who will look to finding a solution
that is cheaper than the official charger which costs 2000 rupees but
still is reliable. Ours was one-fifth that price.

The most humbling experience for me was trying to sell ion outside the
Aerosmith concert. That was such a good example of a wrong person (me)
in the right place doing the job not suited for him. But yet Niara and
me did it for ion.

Then came the amazing customer
feedback
and our highest
point – getting featured in a half-page article in Economic
Times
:

ion in economic times

And yes, Arif congratulated
us
.

But you want to know what’s the craziest part? We made just 200
pieces of ion
. Yes, that’s it. 200 ions. Crazy. And see how far it
went.

After that ET article happened, we ran out of stock. That was six
months ago
. Many people have asked me why we’re not selling more
ions. So I thought I’ll tell the hidden part of the story today – We
never intended ion to live longer than those 200 pieces. It was just
a business experiment for us, nothing more. Why? To learn what it
takes to convert an idea to a reliable quality product and take it to
market.

We never called ourselves a startup back then. That has happened only
in hindsight. In fact, I was in it because I thought I could help
since I had some experience in maintaining my own websites and maybe
I can learn a thing or two in running an ecommerce store.

After we managed to the finish selling the batch of 200 pieces and
made decent profit, Vikram moved to USA, Niara moved on to other
things in life and so did I.

But the response hasn’t stopped. Even last Thursday (Apr 17), we got
emails from four different people in a single day asking when we’ll be
back in stock. Crazy, I tell you.

I have had so many personal failures and failed projects in the past
few years that it seemed stupid to kill a successful project of ours.
So Vikram and myself have been working on reviving ion. We hope to be
back with a batch of second generation ions in the next month.

The experiment continues.

I was starting to get bored with my website design (even though I really liked it), so I hired the talented Chugs‘s services and he came up with a really simple and colorful design, and it’s live now.

Note: There are still some quirks to be worked out and the wiki is yet to be themed too.

Usually I don’t pay attention to memes because everybody’s doing it at the same time and it gets boring quickly, but for once, I decided to play along. Pradeep has tagged me to make lists of four things. So here goes:

Four movies I can watch over and over:

Four songs I can listen to over and over (there are too many songs I like, I’m just listing 4 songs I want to listen to, right now):

  • King of Sorrow by Sade
  • Dillagi title song
  • Roja instrumental theme by A R Rahman
  • 1 Stp Klosr by Linkin’ Park (Reanimation version)

Four TV shows I love to watch (I don’t really watch TV anymore):

Four places I would rather be right now:

Four websites I visit daily: