My Love/Hate Relationship with Social Media

social-media-platformsI make a living in the world of social media. There, I said it.

I’m the one behind the Facebook tab trying to get you interested in seeing that movie. I’m the one behind that flyaway trip to see your favorite artist backstage. I’m the one who advises clients on how to engage you so they can market to you.

Please don’t shoot the messenger.

I am also the one who has never clicked on a Facebook ad, and thinks that the new Facebook Timeline is looking more and more like the cluttered MySpace Titanic right before it hit that social network iceberg and sunk a few years back.

When I help a client design an engaging social experience online I always ask myself, “Would I click on that?” before I recommend or implement anything. I am not a typical user, but I’m your canary in a coal mine. I have a very low threshold for social media BS.

And speaking of BS, there’s no such thing as a “Social Media Expert.” It’s a nascent industry that’s just hitting puberty. It’s like trying to fully understand a teenager. You can’t. And anyone who tells you they fully understand a teenager isn’t living with one.

My Dad is on Facebook

People used to roll their eyes when I told them I was blogging at the ripe old age of 41.

“MySpace is for teenagers!” they’d say. And then they’d ask if I was having a midlife crisis.

Social Media and Social Networking didn’t have a name back then. The word “blog” wasn’t even in the dictionary yet. I wasn’t sure what wave I was riding at the time, but I instinctively knew it was the wave of the future.

My dad showed up in the “People You May Know” sidebar on my Facebook page this morning. He’s 75. Is he having a midlife crisis? I don’t think so.

Ride the wave!

My History of Blogging

My History of Blogging

1976 Snail Mail

My friend Kevin moved away and we wrote funny letters to each other constantly. This was my first attempt at “blogging.” Readership: 1.

1978-1978 Letters from Finland

In August of 1978 I left home to spend a year in Finland. There was no email or Internet back then, so again, I relied on my snail mail connection to my friends back home, and my new found exchange student friends all over Finland. I received over 500 letters during my stay, and I probably wrote 600. Readership: 25 family and friends

1986 to 1994 The Desktop Publishing Years

In 1986 I went to work for a company called Frame Technology. Their main product was a desktop publishing tool called FrameMaker. It was the first WYSIWYG desktop publishing tool I had ever used. It could do column layout, rotated headings (if you knew PostScript), and could import graphics! I was in heaven. I immediately started using the product to create my own newsletter and send it out to family and friends. Readership: 45 family and friends.

1994 I See the Light

In 1994 my friend Chuck sent me a link to a website called “Alex the Girl.” I clicked on the link and found a very simple website where a woman named Alex would post her photographs and her musings about life.

“Chuck,” I said. “This is what I’ve been looking for! This is what I want. How do I make a website like this?”

At the time there were no websites like Blogger, MySpace, or anything of the sort. If you wanted to blog you had to create your own website from scratch. I didn’t have the expertise to create my own “Kelly the Girl” website, so I continued to send my family and friends quarterly newsletters through the snail mail.

2003 Blogging Goes Mainstream

In 2003 a friend of mine sent me a Beta invitation to one of the first blogging websites called Yahoo! 360°. It was kind of crude, and didn’t have many users, but I started posting anyway. My first blogs were posted from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Readership: Probably 15 people

2005 Kelly Discovers MySpace

In 2005 my friend Brandon told me about this cool new website called MySpace. He was using it to promote his films and music, and said I should create a page so I could network too. I created my first blog on MySpace on August 1, 2005. It was entitled “Sunday filming.” Readership: 0. My second blog was called “Asses and Crotches,” and was posted on August 2, 2005. Readership: 1 (a guy named JL).

My readership did not really take off until six months later when Margie Boulé, a columnist for the Oregonian, published a story about my blog.

MySpace was the perfect platform for me. There were about 20 million users when I started, and has now flattened out at about 125 million users. That’s a lot of bloggers and blog readers! But with growth come growing pains, and MySpace has certainly had them.

Stay tuned for my “Dear MySpace” letter…

So, I Met the Chief Data Architect at MySpace…

Originally published on MySpace on June 17, 2009

I’m currently in California (Bay Area) attending what I like to refer to as SQL Server bootcamp, because it’s actually two week-long classes crammed into a single week. The thought of learning that much in a week was enough to kick my geek gene into high gear.

Then I got the email from my instructor…
He asked if I’d be interested in attending a SQL Users Group meeting while I was in town, and oh by the way, the guest speaker would be Christa Stelzmuller, Chief Data Architect at MySpace.
Now the average woman swoons at the thought of meeting Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt. Me? Meeting Christa Stelzmuller would be like my daughter meeting Hannah Montana and the Jonas Brothers at the same time. Yes, I was flying my geek flag high.
So, after class was over yesterday, myself, one other student from the class, and the instructor headed over to Microsoft in Mountain View to hear Christa speak.
We arrived at Building 1, signed in and headed to the Neptune conference room, where pizza and soft drinks awaited us. We picked seats right in the middle, and watched the room fill up…with men. Out of about 50 people there were probably four women, including the speaker. If I had been looking for a date, the odds were good, but the goods were odd.
I must say I had a million questions in my head before I got there, but as soon as Christa started her presentation I was just in awe of what I was seeing.
Many of us have been on MySpace for years. I have been blogging on MySpace for almost four years. We all felt the growth pains when the user base went from 12 million, to 20 million, to 80 million and beyond.
MySpace is a behemoth problem child when it comes to the instant gratification of it’s 100+ million users. It is a mind boggling challenge to manage the constantly changing data.
Christa joined MySpace two and a half years ago when the site was growing so fast that the two (yes TWO) DBA’s couldn’t keep up and weren’t getting any sleep, and the rate of user errors was two million a day.
What it takes to keep MySpace online:
669 Servers
1512 Databases
15120 Disks
6 DBA’s
Each database holds one million users, grouped by user id. So, if you and your friends all signed up around the same time you’re probably on the same database.
MySpace features are split up all over the place. Video, Photos, photo comments, profile comments, blogs, etc. are all kept on separate drives in separate databases. Your profile is managed this way so that if one server is offline your profile stays up, minus whatever feature is sitting on that server.
After the presentation was over, and the Q&A was done, there was a raffle for five prizes: books, software and t-shirts. After all of the software was gone, and the books had been scooped up, Christa drew one more ticket, and it was mine. So, this Oracle geek is now the proud owner of a SQL Server t-shirt.
The meeting host thanked Christa, people applauded, and then most started heading for the door. But I didn’t leave. DId you think I would walk away without asking the question that’s on all of your minds? Hell no!
I went up and joined the throng of database geeks waiting to ask Christa just one more question. I had to meet this woman who took this disaster of an architecture and somehow made sense of it. And I had a question for her, “Christa, what happened to blog indexing!? I have 800 blogs and I can’t find anything.”
Her answer was this: the blogging feature has been ignored for a very long time. But, it’s an issue she has been championing, and she promised some changes were in the works, and things would be fixed soon. I said, “Define ‘soon,’ because every time Tom says ‘sit tight’ it means nothing gets fixed for a year.” She said there was a meeting happening in two weeks and things were going to change very soon. Sigh. Let’s hope so.
If you are at all interested in the database architecture behind MySpace, I highly recommend you take a look at the presentation at the link below. If you have any questions feel free to post a comment and I will try to answer to the best of my recollection.
The link to the presentation –> MySpace Data Architecture
And for the real database geeks, I present the following:
* MySpace runs on Microsoft SQL Server for the most part, and SQL Server Standard Edition at that. There are a few databases that are the Enterprise version. Why? The cost of licensing for the Enterprise version was prohibitive.
* They don’t use foreign keys at all. Why? Imagine that you want to delete a picture from your profile, and that picture has 100 comments, and those comments are from 100 different users scattered across 1000 databases. If the database had to stop and check for dependencies on delete, it would come to a crawl, and you’d be waiting a very long time to get your cursor back. So, you delete a picture, and some crawlers go through and cleanup the orphan data later.
* They don’t use SQL Server replication, because of data integrity issues. It can’t keep up with the traffic. They use their own homegrown solution of replication.
* They use a mix of SQL Server, open source products and homegrown solutions.

Caveat: I did not take notes during this presentation, so I am
writing from memory. The numbers listed, however, are straight
off the presentation.

Two Database goddesses who seem to have the same taste in clothing. That’s Christa on the right.

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