SMUG Speed Solution (I Think)

In an earlier post I lamented some issues we had been having with the SMUG service, in that pages were taking inordinately long to load: sometimes as long as 45 seconds, and occasionally even having some “timeouts.” Not the kind of timeouts modern parents give their children in lieu of spankings, but the kind that made me want to spank my hosting service provider.

Bill Ferris (@billfer) offered some good pointers in response, and suggested that I call my hosting provider to see if we could clarify the problem. But then, having applied some of his tips (and deactivating a couple of plug-ins), the response times seemed to get somewhat better.

So, like the typical male who cancels the doctor appointment when he starts feeling a little better, or who just learns to live with a little nagging health concern instead of getting to the root of the problem, I let the situation continue.

Yesterday, though, I had the blog equivalent of an out-of-hospital-cardiac arrest. When I tried to visit SMUG I got an “unable to create database connection error” message, and got a similar message when I tried to access my WordPress dashboard. The WordPress error message suggested I might want to contact my hosting service.

So I called GoDaddy, and as often happens the problem went away while I was on hold. But the friendly customer service guy checked into it further with those on the technical side, and apparently there had been some problems with the server on which SMUG is hosted, and they were in the process of solving them.

When I Tweeted about the issue, @paulacassin said:

@LeeAase YES! It’s not blindingly fast, but 3-4secs. Much better than before. 🙂 Looks like they tweaked something the right way

…and Monty Flinsch (@mflinsch) echoed the assessment.

So it appears we may have solved the problem. To confirm it, I would appreciate it if you would leave a comment indicating the approximate page load time you’re experiencing, and what kind of Internet service you have (i.e. T1, cable, dial-up, etc.)

I hope it’s not blindingly fast, because I would hate to be responsible for vision loss, but it would be nice if it could be just a little blurry, like Michael Johnson in the 200 meters.

GoDaddy Enhancements?

Long-term SMUGgles will know that in early January I made the switch from hosting this august university on, to a self-hosted wordpress platform using GoDaddy as the provider.

I still plan to do some posts on that process, which was fairly straightforward and has some signficant advantages, not least of which is the little ShareThis button I have at the bottom of each post, which makes it much easier to pass them along.

One problem I’ve experienced lately, though, has been a slowdown in site performance. On Saturday morning at 9:49 CST, for instance, I tried to access the SMUG dashboard, and I got the following message (click to enlarge):


Saturday mornings are the least busy time of the week for Web server traffic. But at 10:32 I got this message:


Followed by this at 10:43


And this at 10:57


Is it just me, or do you see a pattern, too?


One of my pet peeves when traveling is when, after a long delay, the flight attendant or the captain comes on the intercom and says, “Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for our patience….”

How do they know we’re being patient? Is it just because we haven’t ransacked the cabin? Patience is a virtue, fruit of the Spirit in Biblical reckoning, and I’m trying to cultivate it, but too often when I’m being thanked for patience I’m not feeling it. In fact, being thanked for patience sounds to me more like presumption.


So, as your Chancellor I won’t thank you for your patience in continuing your studies even though SMUG has sometimes been slow.

I am, however, inviting you to join me in a research project to diagnose and hopefully fix the problem.

Part of the problem might be that I’m using the Shared Hosting plan with GoDaddy, instead of a dedicated server. Maybe another blog on my server is getting a lot of hits and slowing the performance.

But I’m using the Deluxe plan, which allows the following:


With 1,500 GB of monthly transfer available for my account, I would think the server should be more responsive. After all, I believe 1,500 GB would be enough bandwidth to download every post I’ve written (and every file I’ve uploaded) something like 37,000 times. I know some new SMUGgles have really been diving in, but we only have 274 in our Facebook group, 923 Twitter followers and a little over 300 RSS subscribers.

So somehow I don’t think SMUG is what’s swamping the servers. I also don’t believe I’m running any plug-ins that would be likely to cause the slowdown, although that’s certainly possible. But one of the plug-ins I had installed was an HTML cache that should have actually speeded up the loading.

I want to get to the cause of the problem, so I can solve it to provide a good experience here for SMUGgles, and also to help you – if you move to a self-hosted WordPress blog – to avoid slow page loads for your users.

My hypothesis is that the GoDaddy server isn’t delivering, because while I just loaded this page (where you can buy GoDaddy services) in 6 seconds, the front page of SMUG took 25 seconds (although I just tried it again and it was 8 seconds.)

So I’m inviting you to help me diagnose the extent of the problem. 

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

  1. Have a clock ready that enables you to measure time in seconds
  2. Click this link to open the SMUG front page in a new window, and note how long it takes to load.
  3. Leave your measurement in the comments on this post, or if you are on Twitter, send your measurement as a tweet with the hashtag #smugtime. Please also indicate what kind of Internet service you have (i.e. DSL, dial-up, cable modem, T1) Your comment on this post could just say, for instance, “12 seconds DSL” or your tweet would say something like:

Helping @LeeAase diagnose server issues. #smugtime = 8 seconds cable modem.

Either way, I will get time stamped measures for what users are experiencing (in addition to my snapshots from last Saturday) to help me determine the extent (and hopefully the cause) of the slowdown.

Thanks for reading this far (note that I’m inferring, not presuming!), and please help in this project if you can by taking a few measurements at various times of the day.

I will update this post as I learn more.

My Last Post (I Hope)

As I mentioned in Blogging 310, I’m making the switch from to a self-hosted WordPress platform. I appreciate all the suggestions and guidance I’ve received via Twitter and through the post comments. I particularly want to call out Bill Ferriss (@billfer), who also works in the health care Web world. He also runs a blog about the Detroit Tigers, which means I guess that he should be my sworn enemy, since I’m a Minnesota Twins fan. Just goes to show the powerful unifying force of Twitter. 😉

It seems there are a lot of good hosting options available, ranging from shared hosting, in which your space is among several others on the same server, to dedicated hosting, in which you are on your own real or virtual server. The former is generally a few dollars a month, while the latter typically starts at $50 a month and goes up from there. As I mentioned, I’m really cheap, and Bill says shared hosting is probably a good place to start (although he’s outgrown it.)

I had gone to check out options at these various sites, including, where I have registered the domain name for SMUG. I also got a good illustration of some smart techniques for upselling customers, when I received this email yesterday:


The folds at GoDaddy know I’m in the market for hosting services because I visited those portions of the site, and they’re giving me an incentive to choose them. Smart business.

So that’s what I’m going to do. Tonight, after I get back from my son’s basketball game against the nearby rival Albert Lea Tigers, I’m going to start the switch. I’ll be tweeting about the process on the @SMUG_U account (please follow if you haven’t already) using the hashtags #smug and #blogmigration, and giving a real-time account of the process. As you follow and get my Tweets (although I know most SMUGgles have better things to do on their Saturday nights) , please feel free to share any pointers.

I’ll also be capturing screenshots and videos for more 300-level Blogging courses. Through Twitter I’ll have time stamps that mark how long each step takes. Hopefully I will be resuming the Twitter curriculum (and the advanced Blogging courses) on Monday on my new GoDaddy server and with a new theme.

Updated 1/5/09: As of this morning, about 35 hours after I activated my GoDaddy hosting account, they still haven’t completed the account set-up. I understand that my purchase at 10 p.m. on Saturday is probably unusual, but GoDaddy advertises itself as a 24/7 provider. I guess setting up is more labor intensive, and I don’t mind them not working Sundays. In fact, I would support that. But when they say it should be done within 24 hours, they should indicate the weekend exception.

Check Out Our SMUG New URL!

Social Media University, Global is still hosted on, but thanks to the wonders of domain mapping, we now have a URL worthy of a higher education institution:

I have said previously that I would only put things on this blog that were free. The reason for that was so I could tell FUD-plagued prospective bloggers, “If you see it on my blog, you can do it without spending any money or involving your IT department.”

I decided to make this one exception, because it’s only about the URL, not what you actually see on the blog. And maybe I’ll create a new page called “What’s not free” where I can indicate this and any other enhancements I decide to purchase.

This blog has been at since its inception, but with the rebranding I did last month, it seemed reasonable to spend the princely sum of $19 to get an appropriate URL. That way, as I recruit new faculty members, they’ll be writing for, which sounds a lot better than

So I registered this new domain with for $8.99, and then paid the $10 to for domain mapping. It took a while for my credits to go through, but all-in-all it was a painless exercise. The gang at gave really clear instructions, and if I would have purchased my domain through them instead of GoDaddy it probably would have been simpler (although it would have cost an extra dollar.)

I mainly used GoDaddy to better understand how the domain mapping process works. If I had bought the domain through it would have been simpler (they would have managed steps I needed to do manually), but the process would have been opaque to me, and I wouldn’t have learned as much. And practical, hands-on learning is what SMUG is all about!

I will be writing about this experience in a future course in the SMUG Blogging curriculum, Blogging 305: Domain Mapping.

Meanwhile, I’ll be seeing if this change creates any problems for RSS feeds or anything else. I expect it will drain some of my Google juice for a bit, but I think it will help a lot in the long run, having descriptive words in my URLs.

Let me know what you experience with this change.