This is Reality, checking in

The CoPress hosting plan is doomed to failure according to Dean Chen, lead developer at The Chronicle, Duke’s student newspaper.

In an e-mail forwarded to the CoPress Googe Group, Dean wrote: (emphasis added)

I don’t like the idea of sharing a server with other papers, the primary reason being that if another site receives record traffic the response time of our site will suffer as an result. The specifications for the server hosting all the virtual servers is actually lower than what I was planning for our site only. To put it in perspective, the desktop in my dorm is much better configured than that server.

Their hosting plan also seems to be geared towards wordpress, which i much less demanding resource wise than drupal.

After receiving so much good press lately, it sure is refreshing to have someone take us to task on a technical issue — something that we’re supposed to be teaching other people about.

Dean makes some good points and got the CoPress team talking on New Year’s Eve. We’ve realized that there are several things that our organization, which strives for transparency, hasn’t made entirely clear.

We’re in beta

CoPress should have emphasized that our hosting plans our in a beta stage right now. We do have the server capacity to host three to five college news organizations and we will be capping our initial service there.

Yes, part of the reason we are doing that is because we don’t think that server can handle much more. Yes, it is possible that our server might not be able to handle even the relatively small number of organizations.

That’s why we’re in beta. That’s why we’re going with LiquidWeb, which will allow us to expand our server capacity almost instantly to deal with problems if/when they appear.

With all due respect to Dean’s dorm computer, LiquidWeb servers offer enough bandwidth to allow roughly 1.2 million visitors a month to a newspaper website. We think that’s plenty to start with.

CoPress isn’t trying to host the world, but we’re going to give a solid start to a few folks who sign up with us. If we become popular, we’ll be expanding our plans to more news organizations and thus increasing our server capacity.

We are equal opportunity CMS users

CoPress is currently focusing on WordPress-based solutions, but we’re not exclusive. As a matter of fact, we’re not in anyway convinced that WordPress is the long-term solution. It is, however, the best solution that we’ve seen that can be deployed now, and that is valuable for those who want a more dynamic site.

We’ve taken on a long-term project to evaluate many different CMS solutions available (there are several we’re excited about), but our priority to help organizations using College Publisher or other less-than-desireable platforms as soon as possible. WordPress offers a good, workable solution that does much of what we’d like.

If you’d rather host a Drupal, Django, Ruby on Rails, CakePHP or any other sort of site on our servers, please let us know! We’re not making any money off of our hosting — we just want to help you host your own site. It’s up to you what CMS you want to use.

CoPress = easy

Alex Klein, The Chronicle’s editor for new media, and the gentleman who forwarded Dean’s e-mail, said he’s a little disappointed with their progress developing a Drupal-based CMS.

Their project has a lot of support from the school, including a $100,000 budget (there’s politics associated with that number, but according to Alex it’s probably still there). Yet, despite the large budget and institutional support, and a working mockup of their new site, Duke’s nine-month project still hasn’t launched.

This is where CoPress can help!

We’re here to help you avoid these problems. We’ve designed our hosting to be about getting your paper online as quickly as possible on a platform that works.

We’re as transparent as Windows isn’t

(Pardon the geek humor in the subhead.) Here’s the point: we don’t want to make money. Our motivation is based on the idea that the more college media outlets that keep pace with the “new media” evolution, the better off we’ll all be.

Our hosting plan is just an extension of this philosophy. It seems to us CoPress folks that many schools have not been able to adapt to the Internet quickly due to a range of technical barriers.

We’re here to remove those hurdles.

Now.

Keep it coming

We really, really appreciate any and all feedback. The more honest the better. Keep it coming and we’ll keep using it.

What Dean’s criticisms pointed out to us it that

  • We need to make it clear that we’re going to be taking just a few schools on our servers to start. We’re not trying to host the world (yet) but we think speed and reliability are critical, so rest assured, we’ll do our best to keep the servers at full speed.
  • We think WordPres is a pretty darn good solution, but we know there are others out there. We’ll continue to look at them as they are developed. But if you want a site up quickly, WordPress is a great solution that is ready now.
  • We need to step up our efforts to prove to college media that there is a solution to your technical difficulties. We’ve got it ready to go and are more than willing to help you out. Mostly because we’re hoping that you’ll jump far enough ahead to help us with the next big problem we all face.

CoPress is here to advocate for college media. One of the ways that we can do that is offering cheap, well supported, easy hosting. We’re still working on other avenues of support. Look to us to be the community that supports college media.

edited by Greg Linch

Update

Jan 1 14:36 PST — Link to The Chronicle test site removed per their request. Apparently, there was some miscommunication on that link being made public.

8 comments

  1. [...] out my most recent blog post at CoPress. It’s a direct response to our first public criticism that took me too many hours on New [...]

  2. [...] 1, 2009 by Dan Reimold “This is Reality, checking in”: CoPress is being refreshingly transparent about the current limits to its college media CMS [...]

  3. [...] The plan is not without critics. The lead developer of Duke University’s Chronicle wrote an e-mail expressing concern about shared hosting space. CoPress responds here. [...]

  4. Benjamin Garber says:

    While Dean Chen’s criticism of CoPress WordPress hosting may have merit, there are a couple things we should consider.

    First, WordPress plugins like Super Cache can significantly reduce the load placed on the server by serving static html pages.

    Second, and most important, is that not every college newspaper has $100,000 budget and the full support of school administration. It’s a bit like complaining about your Ferrari’s quarter-mile time to a bunch of people who would be happy with, AND only need, a Civic.

    I’m pretty sure Honda isn’t in danger of failing.

  5. Joey Baker says:

    For further reading, a rather intense debate has broken out on the Google Group again!

  6. [...] hosting plan is drawing plenty of eyeballs (and a few eyebrows) at the moment. CICM (@CICM) and Ryan Sholin (@ryansholin) are among a few people I follow on [...]

  7. Scott says:

    Why not use Amazon S3 and EC2 and perhaps consider Windows Azure when it comes out so that you’re not limited by the power of one server? Have you run a cost analysis to see what the price of using a hosted service to run CoPress would be compared to a single server?

  8. Alex Klein says:

    Just want to point out that while we do have potential access to a nice amount of money, we are most certainly not dependent on direct support from Duke University and its administration.

    The Duke Chronicle is independently owned and operated — it’s its own company. Any money we spend comes from advertising profits.

    Also, We do realize we are in a much different economic situation from most college newspapers right now. We are lucky enough to be situated in an area that benefits from many students (Duke, UNC, Durham Technical, NC State, NCCU) and spends lots of money on ads.

    That higher amount of money, and the fact that we’re on the high end of traffic in terms of college newspapers’ websites, means that we can, and have to, be more selective when we consider hosting-related services.

    We’re still big fans of CoPress and its hosting solutions and we’re still heavily considering partnering.

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