DEAR READER: You deserve better than a non-working Web site

Thursday, March 11, 2010 | 3:53 p.m. CST; updated 10:18 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Dear Reader,

I want to strangle a box.


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Bloody some code.

Mangle a machine.

Thursday morning, I settled in to the friendly confines of one of my regular coffee haunts.

I flipped open my laptop. I punched up the Web browser.

The little spinning wheel thing turned, and turned, and turned. No

I hate that little wheel.

I’ve heard of businesses that specialize in anger management. You go in, pay a fee, and break flowered plates or etched glass or Dodge Darts.

I want to smash the World Wide Web.

Throw a computer off a building.

Something. Anything.

Beginning Monday, the site was either down or as slow as my 99-year-old grandmother. (She’ll tell you: She’s no spring chicken, ya know.)

Once again, the Missourian has been a victim of success.

This time, a link from the Drudge Report caused the site to sit down in protest.

Matt Drudge aggregates news and commentary. His audience, by and large, is a conservative bunch.

Monday he picked one of the stories about the cotton ball incident on the MU campus.

Some weeks ago, the site limped and crawled from the highest number of requests to date. Monday, Matt Drudge's report helped double that number.

The Missourian’s director of digital development, Rob Weir, did an excellent job of explaining the details of the site strike in his personal blog.

The condensed version: It didn’t work.

By Thursday afternoon, Rob’s team had repaired some crankiness in the system and received a whole bunch more server space to store the data.

I apologize to you, dear reader. You deserve better.

A Web site that’s not accessible is akin to a print edition that’s not on your doorstep.

(Print readers: Go ahead and snicker. You’ve earned the right. As far as I know, the digital debacle didn't injure a single copy of the daily Missourian.)

On Thursday, the paper’s technology folks better than doubled the capacity of the Missourian database.

I’ve written to you about this before. I hope I don’t have to write it again.




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Tom Warhover March 12, 2010 | 12:04 p.m.

I received an e-mail challenging my description of Drudge's readers this morning.

Devon Williams makes a point -- Drudge tends to be a conservative, but his readers may be as vast, politically, as the number of blogs created every second.

Better still, I shouldn't have used "conservative" at all, as that doesn't tell a reader much and is open to wide interpretation. (In fact, I think I wrote a column complaining about those labels. Old habits.)

Williams' note:

Why mention whether you think Drudge's traffic is Conservative or Liberal? Could you possibly have accurate survey data indicating, conclusively, that your statement has merit? What is your point?

I know there is a popular perception that Drudge is conservative (he seems to be, to me), but there is also similar conception that all stripes visit his site owing to the frequency of scoop and the large amount of headlines he seems to have culled. So, where are you going with your statement about the audience?

(Report Comment)
Rob Weir March 13, 2010 | 10:57 a.m.

I'd like to sincerely apologize to Missourian readers for our troubles this week. You can read the ugly details, as Tom says, on my blog:

I'm a third generation journalist, and my family has owned newspapers in some small Missouri towns, including Nevada and Marshall. I remember my dad getting calls at home when the paper wouldn't show up. The site being down is just as bad, if not worse, for our readers, because so many of us have become so reliant on the Internet for our news.

It's also bad for our newsroom, because we've moved most of our editing (even for the dead-tree edition) into our Web site backend. We create, edit and publish on the Web first, and then move the text to our print workflow. Our professional editors and students were both extremely patient with our issues, and creative at finding workarounds.

I can't promise that this will never happen again, because, after all, computers crash. But I sincerely believe the changes we've made will keep us going until our next Web system, which is coming soon.

Thanks to all those on campus at the Division of IT and elsewhere who helped us out, including but not limited to lan Marshall, Ashley Sommerville, Richard Winkel, Matthew Stanley, Jonathan Miller, Matthew Dickinson, Mark Jarvis, Eddie Rigway and Will O'Brien.

And thank you, readers, for the calls and e-mails I got during the time we were down. We do this for you, and it's reassuring to know you care so passionately that you can read what we do.

Rob Weir
Director of Digital Development
The Columbia Missourian
twitter: @robweir

(Report Comment)

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