Is DataRobot in Trouble?

The news coming out of DataRobot lately has given me pause. Is a power struggle happening? Are sales flagging? I’m not sure what it is but there are a lot of interesting LinkedIn and Glassdoor Reviews out there for sure.

Before we dive in, here’s my big disclaimer: I work for H2O.ai, this post is my personal observation of what’s going on in an industry that I’m a part of. My views don’t reflect that of my employers or any other employees there.

The big news is that DataRobot laid off 7% of its staff after a very aggressive hiring stint.

…artificial intelligence company DataRobot cut more than 7,500 jobs globally from April 1 to May 16, according to employment tracker Layoffs.fyi. [via Bloomberg]

It gets better, there have been Board departures and former employees speaking out.

Former Board member Christopher Lynch posts:

Shareholder Jacob S laments the recent layoffs that allegedly happened after the Sales Kick-off and the President’s Club celebration. Talk about bad optics! That’s right up there with the “let them eat cake.”

I did do a search for any timestamped photos but I couldn’t find any at this time. My guess? They’ve all been scrubbed.

Of course, the Glassdoor Reviews are all over the place, from praise to downright scathing.

That’s to be expected as the firm tries to manage the message out there but I offer snapshots of two negative reviews. One from before the layoffs and one during (if the April 1 to May 16th layoff dates are correct).

I get it, selling AI software is hard. I’m in Sales, just like that reviewer above. Selling a complex product that is only understood by highly trained people, even if you abstract a lot of it, is so damn hard.

To sell a complex product you need a very focused organization, with clear communication, and a stellar go-to-market (GTM) strategy to sell effectively.

It sounds like there are organizational and communication problems inside DataRobot if you were to believe the review below.

Growing pains

There are a lot of good things about the DataRobot product from what I’ve seen, especially their UI, but after raising so much money and acquiring a bunch of other companies, you would think they had their “stuff” better together.

For the first time since I can remember, we got to peer in behind the curtain of a secretive organization and see what was happening.

What do I see? I see massive growing pains at DataRobot. I see the pain of being under pressure to perform. I see a flat startup organizational structure being forced into the traditional hierarchy structure.

I want to wish them luck, they were the first company to create an AutoML product and they built a unicorn! But unicorns are mythical creatures and money talks, and that’s all that matters in this market.

Chipmaker Broadcom to buy VMware in $61 bln deal | Reuters

In one fell swoop, the deal will almost triple Broadcom’s software-related revenue to about 45% of its total sales.Broadcom will instantly be validated as a major software player with the acquisition of VMware, Futurum Research analyst Daniel Newman said.

“Having something like VMware … will have a significant number of doors open that their current portfolio probably doesn’t open for them,” Newman added.

Chipmaker Broadcom to buy VMware in $61 bln deal | Reuters

America Is Great

First off this is not a political post but I will come out and say it. Make America Great Again is a stupid slogan. I admit there are problems with the middle class but America is great. Period.

Why? Because of what I wrote two years ago. It’s as relevant today as it was back then.

Startup Land

Two years ago I wrote a LinkedIn article on a train ride home titled I believe in America.” I was trying to be cute, tying in a Godfather movie reference in there to make a catchy title. I had just spent a few days at the CIC building in Cambridge, MA, and was just utterly overwhelmed with inspiration. The CIC building is an incubator with every floor bursting at the seams with startups. Even reading what I wrote two years ago still gives me goosebumps.

The CIC boasts that it hosts the most startups in a single location, anywhere on the planet, and I believe them. Floor upon floor is filled with startups, incubators, talent, and raw brainpower the likes of which I’ve never seen. The hallway discussions I overheard, the mathematical proof scribbles on whiteboards, and the presentations I saw as I was rushing to a meeting made me feel like I was witnessing the future of America – and it’s exciting! The startups in that building epitomize the qualities that makes America great, and I was a part of it.

The reality is that a handful of these startups are going to make it. Even fewer will make it big but most will die. They’ll fade away or explode in a ball of fire. Those are the breaks but isn’t that America? The freedom to take a risk and show the world why you’re idea is awesome. This is why America will remain great today and continue to be so tomorrow.

Hug an Engineer and punch a Banker

Howard understands this too and his recent blog post caught my eye.

America is greater than ever in 2016. We live longer, we have awesome drugs, Shake Shack, sushi, uber, free trading, open borders, the social web, Amazon Prime, Google maps, an eye on cancer and Alzheimer’s, and engineers up the ying yang.

You won’t believe how important my iPhone is and how much I use Uber and Google Maps. Entrepreneurs build empires on the back of Apps. Big Data and Data Science will continue to move into primetime and affect everything it touches. Blockchain and Fintech will revolutionize business as we know it. The world will continue to connect more, be more open, and be hyper-aware of bullshit.

Yes, I’m bullish on America and Tech.

It’s no longer just ok to hug an engineer and punch a banker. It’s hug an engineer, hoard designers, suck up to centimillionaires and punch a banker’.

You got that right Howard!

Rewiring Education

Last night the kids and I were across the street at another family’s house for dinner. Their kids are the same age as my daughter and son and often stay for dinner at our house. Last night after the dinner we got to talking about the current state of education and how we can better educate our kids. Both the husband and wife have careers in the creative fields and are big supporters of STEM.

The conversation got me thinking about the role of parents in guiding their children in education but also how technology changes the game.

My wife and I religiously go to Back to School Night” and attend every teacher conference. We are in routine contact with the teachers through email and we give our kids plenty of secondary education as well (Chinese and German language classes).

My daughter just started 6th grade and she was excited and nervous to finally go to a big” school. We visited her school and met all her teachers during the Back to School Night a few weeks ago. Now she has to navigate the hallways to get to her classes and remember her locker combination. She has all the normal classes like French, Math, Science, Social Studies, and PE, but they’re subtle and interesting differences from when I was in school.

Of course, I didn’t expect things to stay the same from when I was in 6th grade – I expected some technological enhancements – but what I didn’t expect was just how intertwined things got.

Her French teacher emails her twice a week with a link to online lesson plans. There she can access French-English word flashcards, listen to an mp3 sound out the French word, and take “quizzes” to gauge her progress. She has the standard math textbook but it stays home and is used for reference. Her math homework is done online and submitted to her teacher. She has three tries to get the answer right and then it records it.

She even has a Research class that meets once a week where the students learn how to use the Internet to research, evaluate, and properly reference material.

The funny thing about this? She doesn’t complain about doing her homework. She accesses her work online through her iPhone and does her homework. She takes to education enabled by technology like a fish to water.

Rewiring Education

What my daughter doesn’t realize is that her education is slowly becoming customized. While the average American complains about Common Core and how it doesn’t make sense to them, there are entrepreneurs figuring out ways to customize learning to each child.

Children and adults all learn at different paces and in different ways. Some people and children are visual learners, others auditory, and some learn by doing (tactile learning). Why, then, should the “one sized fits all” method of education be applied to all children?

While I’m not an expert in education, I do believe that everyone can learn and have a rich education. The hard part is figuring out how each child learns and I believe the computer is the way forward.

Auditory learners can easily access podcasts or mp3′s to listen to. Computers are perfect ways for visual learners to access material, and tactile learners can just start writing code or building projects with a Raspberry Pi or Arduino.

Now, more than ever, online courses are available for free. You can access materials on Python Programming, Anthropology, Art, Humanities, Data Science, and anything you can dream of. High School students can access these college courses and get a headstart on higher learning.” Our High School offers online courses to its students that want to learn a particular course BUT wouldn’t be available because they couldn’t fill an entire classroom with students.

This is the key.

Education enabled by technology frees you from the constraints of filling up a classroom with students just to justify the course’s existence! Now you can have a class filled with students, each one of them learning something different specifically geared for them.

We truly live in amazing times.

What Works, What Doesn’t Work

An important lesson I’ve learned while working at a Startup is to do more of what works and jettison what doesn’t work, quickly. That’s the way to success, the rest is just noise and a waste of time. This lesson can be applied to everything in life.

Data is your friend

We generate data all the time, whether it’s captured in a database or spreadsheet, just by being alive you throw off data points. The trick is to take notice of it, capture it, and then do something with it. It’s the “do something with it” that matters to your success or not.  Your success can be anything that is of value to you. Time, money, weight loss, stock trading, whatever. You just need to start capturing data, evaluate it, and take action on it.

This is where you fail

Many people fail by taking no action on the data they captured and evaluated. They hope that things are going to get better or that things are going to change. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t but you must act on what the data is telling you now. NOW!

My Examples, what Works/Doesn’t Work

  1. My $100 Forex experiment worked really well for a time, then it started to flag. The data was telling me that my trading method was no longer working. Did I listen? Nope. I blew up that account. This didn’t work for me.
  2. Writing RapidMiner Tutorials on this blog ended up getting me a job at RapidMiner. This lead to an amazing career in Data Science. Writing and taking an interest in things works.
  3. Day trading doesn’t work for me. I blow up all the time. What works for me is swing and trend trading. Do more of that and no day trading.

Keep it simple, stupid

The one thing I’ve also learned working at a startup is to keep things simple and stupid. You’re running so fast trying to make your quarter that you have no time for complex processes. Strip things down to their minimum and go as light as you can. This way you can adjust your strategy and make changes quickly, you can do more of what works and jettison what doesn’t.

How StockTwits Uses Machine Learning

Fascinating behind the scenes interview of StockTwits Senior Data
Scientist Garrett Hoffman.


He shares great tidbits on how StockTwits uses machine learning for
sentiment analysis. I’ve summarized the highlights below:

  • Idea generation is a huge barrier for active trading
  • Next gen of traders uses social media to make decisions
  • Garrett solves data problems and builds features for the StockTwits
    platform
  • This includes: production data science, product analytics, and
    insights research
  • Understanding social dynamics makes for a better user experience
  • Focus is to understand social dynamics of StockTwits (ST) community
  • Focuses on what’s happening inside the ST community
  • ST’s market sentiment model helps users with decision making
  • Users ‘tag’ content for bullish or bearish classes
  • Only 20 to 30% of content is tagged
  • Using ST’s market sentiment model increases coverage to 100%
  • For Data Science work, Python Stack is used
  • Use: Numpy, SciPy, Pandas, Scikit-Learn
  • Jupyter Notebooks for research and prototyping
  • Flask for API deployment
  • For Deep Learning, uses Tensorflow with AWS EC2 instances
  • Can spin up GPU’s as needed
  • Deep Learning methods used are Recurrent Neural Nets, Word2Vec, and
    Autoencoders
  • Stays abreast of new machine learning techniques from blogs,
    conferences and Twitter
  • Follows Twitter accounts from Google, Spotify, Apple, and small tech
    companies
  • One area ST wants to improve on is DevOps around Data Science
  • Bridge the gap between research/prototype phase and embedding it into
    tech stack for deployment
  • Misconception that complex solutions are best
  • Complexity ONLY ok if it leads to deeper insight
  • Simple solutions are best
  • Future long-term ideas: use AI around natural language

Subscriptions, Adsense, 20Booksto50K. Oh My!

I’m done with my Medium vs Adsense experiment here. This is all part of a passive income strategy evaluation game I’m playing. I’m trying to see if I can build a $100,000 a year passive income portfolio. I know it will take time but I like playing these kinds of games.

Right now I’m evaluating a mix of different things such as dividend-producing stocks, web monetization, and Adsense. So far for February, Adsense is beating the pants off my Medium income.

Why? That’s an interesting question and without access to the data Google has on my site, I can’t be conclusive but I can guess. My guess? It’s my search engine optimization (SEO).

Optimizing SEO & Adsense

I spent a ton of time last year optimizing my old blog for SEO so I can rank higher on Google search results. I switched from Pelican to Hugo — both static CMS generators — and ported it all to AWS Amplify.

…a hosting platform like Medium can toss you and all your hard work off of it on a whim.

That’s given me blazing speed load times and because of that, I was able to put Adsense on and not affect page load times. Yes, I took a small hit but the load times vastly outperform my old WordPress and Pelican site.

Optimizing my SEO with fast load times has given me a big bump on the Google SERP rankings, almost all of my tutorials are now ranking on the first or second page. The only negative thing about that is that my tutorials are niche topics so the audience will always be small for them. Still, it’s nice to see the fruits of my labor paying off.

Fast forward to the beginning of 2021, I started writing more about passive income topics there as a way to diversify my content and attract a diverse readership.

When I added Adsense back in (my guess here), Google saw a site that started in 2007 with newly SEO optimized posts and load times and went wild. It started to serve relevant ads and kept learning what makes people click on the ads.

I use Medium to generate traffic to my site by crossposting articles.

Granted Adsense was slow on the uptake for the first half of the month but I’m generating daily clicks and impression income. Right now it’s paying for my AWS Amplify hosting and that’s a BIG win in my book.

Medium Publishing & The Porn Apocalypse

What about Medium? I like Medium a lot and you can get a lot of notoriety there if you’re a good and entertaining writer. There are several writers that I follow that seem to make a living writing on Medium and kudos to them!

However, Medium feels like a single point of failure if you exclusively write and derive your main income from there. Why? Because you are at the whim of some publication you post to and your topics might not be all that interesting.

If you’ve seen what’s happening with the porn apocalypse (aka pornocalypse), a hosting platform like Medium can toss you and all your hard work off of it on a whim. For those that don’t know about this pornocalypse ( NSFW link), it’s where sites like Tumblr — who have hosted adult content for years — suddenly decide that it’s no longer a safe corporate thing to do and kick off adult content from their service.

Whether or not you do adult content, it’s always best to have your own hosted domain on the Internet. This way you can sell a product, service, or subscription without fear of being shut down. Of course, if you do something illegal then all bets are off, so don’t do anything illegal.

Or in the immortal words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, “kill me now!”

If you do have your own site then you have to think about attracting views to your articles or pages. You have to work on SEO (most modern CMS’s do that well) and build a ‘go to’ market strategy.

I use Medium to generate traffic to my site by crossposting articles. You can post your articles on social media and even buy Ads from Google to drive more traffic to your site. I know buying Ads from Google just feels ‘yucky’ but coupled with a good strategy it can do wonders.

It reminds me a lot of my effort vs time curve.

Remember, all of us are just some person or company screaming in the void of the Internet something like “I’m over here! I got something to say!” Or in the immortal words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, “kill me now!”

Don’t Monetize Your Hobby

There’s a reason why I bring up the ‘go to’ market strategy, it’s because of these two Reddit posts I recently read. They both got me thinking long a hard about what the hell I’m doing with my blogs.

The first Reddit post is about a writer who is giving up on self-publishing.

I can sympathize with him, when you self-publish you perform every single task that a traditional publisher would do for you. You would just focus on writing a great novel and they would market it, distribute it, book your ‘meet and greets,’ etc. Doing all this in addition to writing can be overwhelming.

The other post supports the idea that you shouldn’t monetize your hobby, to which I partly agree.

The idea is with the right cover, right story, and right price point you should generate $50,000 a year from your work.

I’m sure we heard that saying that if you find what you love and earn a living at it, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.

How romantic!

How full of shit that is.

If you’ve got a fun side hustle or hobby it might be a bad idea to try to turn it into a full-time job. There’s nothing wrong with having fun, making a few bucks (or not) from it, and doing it for the rest of your life.

For me, it’s baking sourdough bread. While I find it romantic to have a small bakery making sourdough bread, it’s NOT something I want to make a living at.

20BooksTo50K Strategy

There’s nothing wrong with doing a lot of things for fun and if you can learn from it. For example, I recently found this 20BooksTo50K Facebook group. That group is filled with writers that are writing a minimum of 20 books to be published on Kindle or Kindle Unlimited.

The idea is with the right cover, right story, and right price point you should generate $50,000 a year from your work.

Because blogging was new and no one wanted to pay for it.

That group is filled with advice on how to do all the stuff the original Reddit poster complained about. Yes, you have to bust your butt but the sales from their books sure sound like passive income to me.

It reminds me a lot of my effort vs time curve.

You have to write a novel or novella, then design and make a cover, then market it. Once the writing, cover design, and distribution is out of the way, you can focus on small amounts of marketing to keep your novel in the mind space of people.

This is part of the reason I restarted my ThomasOtt.IO blog again. One reason was to see if I could migrate to the Ghost CMS and the other is I needed a new place for my writings. It’s another watering hole for me to lament about things, analyze data, and play the passive income game.

Ghost has some really nice features. For example, I can create a members-only and a paid-members-only section. I experimented with that setup years ago on Neural Market Trends but it failed, but it still remains in my mind space. Maybe this time I could get it to work.

Why did it fail? Because blogging was new back then and no one wanted to pay for it. Now, people will pay for things if the price point is right AND you have something of value to share.

There are ways to make a living by blogging and building content. Medium has shown us the way with subscriptions and I like that method a lot. The trick is to build up a big enough following to get them to come and pay a monthly subscription at the right price point.

Medium charges $50 per year, which comes out to $4.17 per month. I could make a subscription site for $3.99 a month but my problem would be what to share with you all?

Or, I could try the 20BooksTo50K route and write my stories, which I enjoy a lot. I certainly don’t mind doing the book cover designs, the marketing, the analytics (that’s right up my alley), and the SEO. That’s almost second nature to me now.

For example, I didn’t know that Mystery and Fantasy books are more popular than Young Adult and Erotic books. I’m not sure which genre would be harder to break into from a self-publishing aspect but this data shows some interesting trends.

My research phase will continue for the next several months and the data will direct me where to go. In the meantime, I’ll continue to write what I like. I hope you do too.

Natural Language Processing First Steps: How Algorithms Understand Text | NVIDIA Developer Blog

Textual data sets are often very large, so we need to be conscious of speed. Therefore, we’ve considered some improvements that allow us to perform vectorization in parallel. We also considered some tradeoffs between interpretability, speed and memory usage. By applying machine learning to these vectors, we open up the field of NLP (Natural Language Processing). In addition, vectorization also allows us to apply similarity metrics to text, enabling full-text search and improved fuzzy matching applications.

Natural Language Processing First Steps: How Algorithms Understand Text | NVIDIA Developer Blog

Migrate away from WordPress to Hugo

I’m no stranger to trying different CMS’s to see which one works best in terms of functionality, speed, and ease of SEO use. Over time – and many mistakes later – I’ve found that Hugo is the best for all three of those criteria. It’s very functional, fast to build, and easy to tweak for SEO. When you couple that together with the AWS backbone, you get a fast loading website where all the static builds happen automatically as soon as you update your Github repository. I’m writing this post on how I migrated away from WordPress to Hugo and used AWS Amplify to host my blog & website.

Introduction – WordPress Years

I started this blog on WordPress and then transferred it to Jekyll, then back to WordPress, and so on. You can read about my ‘passion’ for trying different CMS platforms by checking out my CMS tag, but the reality is that WordPress is really easy for newbies to get up and running quickly. Many popular blogs and sites run WordPress reliably and manage all their content with it. This is why it’s super sticky and it has some great themes to use out of the box. It’s when you want to ‘pimp’ or optimize your WordPress installation where you start running into problems.

For example, it relies on a database backend, and every time you visit the site it dynamically serves up the page. This is all good until you realize that you pay a loading time penalty for it. It can take a while. Plus you have to worry about malicious code injections from hackers that spam your site for the latest penis enhancement drug or Bitcoin scam. These code injections were the main impetus for me to start looking to migrate to a static blog generator.

If you want to do any SEO with WordPress you have to know PHP. I guess that’s ok but I never really cared much for PHP and found it boring. If you’re in that same boat, you’re going to have to use a plugin like Yoast. That’s great until you realize you have to start paying for it to get any benefit out of it. Do you need to modify your footer uniquely? You need to use a plugin. Want to back up your entire website? You have to use another plugin (and pay usually). Before you know it, you have like 10 or more plugins that are costing you money on top of what you pay for hosting.

All these plugins you need end up slowing your site down a lot too, which affects your SEO in a really big way. At the end of the day, you’re out of money and have a slow site. Sure it might look pretty but if you want to grow organic traffic you have to focus on great and valuable content that loads fast, is SEO optimized, costs a hell of a lot less, and makes YOUR life easy.

Hugo and AWS Amplify (and Github)

Let me be the first to warn you. Running Hugo on AWS Amplify (and Github) is not as easy as running WordPress with plugins. If you’re happy with your WordPress infrastructure and process, then just close your browser now and move on. However, if you want to have fine-grained control over your blog/website and feel comfortable doing a bit of ‘hacking,’ then please continue reading.

I just settled on using Hugo to make running my blog easier. I no longer have to deal with plugins and pay for them. Of course, this forces me to be more hands-on with how I want to maximize SEO, how I want to leverage the Indie Web, and even Web Monetization. I also have to do manual backups now instead of using Vaultpress, but with Github, that’s become so easy that it happens on autopilot.

Writing content for a Hugo-generated site is like a dream. The build times are fast, it has great image processing ability, and I can check out how my site will look before I deploy it if I run the development server. So I can do a lot of ‘offline things’ and know that once I push my update to my Github repo, AWS will rebuild and deploy my site automatically.

Of course, I have to pay for the usage of AWS Amplify but it will be A LOT cheaper than using the VPS at Dreamhost ($16/month). Sorry, Dreamhost but I think you’re not getting renewed this year.

Install Hugo

First things first. The move will take some time and if you follow these steps, should go off without a problem. However to prevent any mishaps we’re going to start with setting up a ‘staging’ environment. The goal is to build a clone of your existing WordPress site with Hugo and AWS Amplify so that when it’s all up and running you just ‘cut over’ to it.

Follow these steps:

  1. Download Hugo to your local machine and then read the quickstart introduction on how to build a site
  2. Grab a theme and install it for your Hugo installation
  3. Configure the config.toml file to your liking, especially on how your permalink structure is
  4. Startup your Hugo dev server using hugo server and then navigate to http://localhost:1313

You should see an empty local website running at that web address.

One of the biggest mistakes I made was NOT reading up on the permalink structure setting in the config.toml. I created hours of work for myself in creating canonical aliases for posts that I reorganized. So pay close attention to the configuration of permalinks in your config.toml file.

Sign up for an AWS account

The next step is easy, sign up for an AWS account here. We’ll get back to this later!

Sign up for a Github Account

This step is also easy, you’ll need to sign up for a Github account. You could use Gitlab, Bitbucket, and others, but I use Github for personal and work projects. It’s really easy to use for backing up your code and files BUT a little harder to use. You will need to get familiar with Git and I plan on writing a Git tutorial in the future.

How to Migrate Posts from WordPress to Hugo

Now we get into the fun part, the porting of your WordPress posts and pages to your local Hugo installation! First, you’ll need to extract your WordPress posts from your database. WordPress has a generic Export function but that’s not going to map the WordPress fields to the Hugo fields out of the box. What you will need is to use a Hugo Importer from WordPress.

If the WordPress exporter doesn’t work, try using WordPress to Jekyll exporter plugin AND then the Jekyll to Hugo importer.

Once you have your files, open one up to see if the YAML front end is correctly formatted. The YAML front end is where all the fine-grained control happens for your Hugo-powered website. It’s where you can control all aspects of your SEO metadata as well as options for Table of Contents, Keywords, Categories, Slugs (permalinks), titles, drafts, aliases, etc.

It should look something like this:

---
title: Post Title
date: 2020-07-21
slug: post-title  << this builds to /content-directory-post-is-in/post-title/index.html
Keywords:
- Word1
- Word2
Tags:
- Word1
- Word2
---

The key is to have all your post metadata in between the ---‘s at the top of the post. Note, this will be a markdown file with a .md extension. If you’re not familiar with markdown, you can read up on it here. It takes a moment to get used to markdown but once you do you never have to worry about formatting what you write in the ‘frontend’, markdown handles all that for you when your post gets translated into HTML.

Take all your exported posts to move them to your local instance of Hugo and put them in the /content/posts/ directory. Note, Hugo loves content organization and you should think about if you want to use content folders or not. You can read up on content organization here.

Hugo’s Development Server

Once the posts are in the /content/posts/ directory, you should see Hugo rebuilding the site in your terminal.

It will then generate the website as a live preview. Any editing that’s saved will automatically rebuild and you can see your results in real-time. The great part about this is the debugging part. Since Hugo is written in Go, it doesn’t ‘suffer fools’ and will break if it’s not perfect. This is good and bad, it’s good because it will tell you exactly what went wrong. It’s bad because you need to fix that mistake first before you can build your website in production.

I use this development server ALL the time. It lets me confirm if what I’m about to push to Github is what I want the world to see. This is where I test new partial templates, new shortcodes, and try new Hugo features. The development server will become your best friend and you can read up on some more of its functionality here.

Use Github to backup your site

I use Github for my code and project-related stuff. The concept of Git is just brilliant. It’s version control, process control, and backup all rolled into one. Granted, Github is an extra step in my regular workflow but it makes sure that my blog remains consistent over time. No weird hiccups unless I screw up! If I screw up, Git has a ‘rollback feature’ so I can undo my mistake quickly. The older I get the more I realize that Git is the true power here, especially if you’re in a heavy development environment.

You’re not going to take your entire local installation of Hugo plus your content and sync them with a Github repository. The terminology you will hear is that you’re going to ‘push your code to a remote repo.’ Github is the remote repository where you’re going to push your content and files too.

You can use the git command line but I like to use Github Desktop. Makes things easy!

  1. First, you’re going to create local repository in Github Desktop
  2. You’re going to select the folder of your entire Hugo website, I name my folder neuralmarkettrends.com and when I create a local repo, it automatically names the remote repo the same name.
  3. Then you click ‘Publish’ and it will create the remote repo on Github. Note: your site is NOT backed up yet
  4. To back up the site in your remote repo you will need to create a commit message and then push it
  5. Once you push it to your Github repo, it should populate

Make sure that your repository is marked as private, this way no one can see your posts and stuff.

Success!

How to Put Hugo into Production with AWS Amplify

Once I had my blog backed up on Github I just followed the AWS Amplify instructions and generated the site successfully!

There was one big tweak that I made. AWS Amplify uses Hugo version 0.55 and that’s not compatible with many of the better themes. I had to update the version of Hugo the build was using to 0.74.2. It’s not hard, all I had to do was go to the Build Settings and follow these instructions.

End Notes

I migrated to AWS Amplify for selfish reasons. I was about to renew my VPS at DreamHost for over $200 and thought that it was a tad bit high. Using AWS Amplify I expect to pay around $5 a month based on my past traffic, if it gets more active then I’ll pay more but that’s ok.

The added benefit to migrating here is that I get a wicked fast load time on the AWS backbone. I get like 1 second mobile device load times and millisecond desktop device load times. Wowsers!

But…

I realize that doing this migration is tricky for many non-hacker types of people, but you can learn if you want to. One of the things we didn’t go over in this post is using a custom domain with AWS Amplify. That was a bit tricking to set up and I’ll write another post on that shortly. Still, these steps should get you to a mirrored site of your WordPress blog on AWS Amplify.

Coil & Web Monetization in Hugo

I was on Twitter one day and I came across an announcement that HackerNoon had joined the micropayment world and gotten an infusion of cash from Coil.com. That’s a cool $1 million to implement a new method of web monetization.

I think the current web monetization model is broken and power is concentrated into too many corporate silos. Granted Coil.com is one of those corporate silos too but they’re building their model on a proposed web monetization W3C standard, which is a great first start to ‘leveling’ the playing field for content creators.

Make Content – Get Screwed Over by the Big Dawgs

For years content creators, artists, writers, whoever, struggled with being at the mercy of Google Adsense, YouTube, or Medium to earn some money for their content. Their content was siloed behind those corporate systems and if terms changed or they didn’t like your content, it was booted or hidden. They had the power to censor or not, based on whatever corporate policy they decide.

For example, YouTube changed how Creators were able to earn money from ads by making you have a minimum subscriber base of 2,000 people and something like 4,000 view hours per year. This killed the income for many small-time content creators that were actually supplementing their incomes or just making a plain living from it.

I’ve been around the blogosphere since about 2004 but not in an organized manner since 2007 with this blog, so I’ve seen a thing or two. It all started going downhill once Google killed off its Google Reader. The blogosphere fractured and in one fell swoop pushed people to other social media platforms and away from blogs.

Sure there are other RSS readers out there but Google intended to push people from syndicating their content to syndicating content on their platform.

Why would they do this? It’s all about the data, your data. Sure it’s all free but that means YOU are the product. In my opinion, Facebook is even worse when you see how they handle privacy over the years.

So you can see that whoever has the most data, the more they can make money off you. The more they can sell to marketers or politicians, the more they divine the patterns and ‘next best action’ you’re going to take.

Over time, your content was being packaged up on someone else’s platform and your data (which you gave them freely when you accepted their TOS) was being sold to marketers.

Rise of the Indie Web

I’m a big fan of the Indie Web since I discovered it. It starts to pull back YOUR content away from these big silos. I dare to dream that it will reinvigorate a new Blogosphere renaissance but that remains to be seen if it will happen or not.

Taking back your content and your work is really important for Creators. It’s who you are and if you choose you, you should be able to charge for access. That’s what a lot of Creators have been doing via Patreons or toll-gating their entire site. I too did try this many years ago. I experimented with ‘member only’ content here but it turned out to be too hard to manage and no one cared.

While I’m against the idea of ‘toll-gating’ your entire content, I don’t have anything against providing ‘bonus’ content under some ‘pay as you go’ model. The regular content is free and open-source while some stuff is there for readers will pay a few pennies to read it.

Monetizing viewing time

I will be the first to admit that I’ve used Google Ads on this site. At one point I was making like $100 a month at it. It was great, and if I lived in a country where the GDP was low, $100 could be the difference between food and shelter or starving and freezing. So Google Ads were good at one time.

The money was nothing to sneeze at but then the Internet went another way. Google Ads became too onerous. They slow your site down and clutter up how nice your site looks. I’ve since abandoned them for good but there might be one or two bits of code hiding somewhere, like a ghost in the machine.

The thing with Google Ads is that they require you to click on them which is annoying in itself. Firefox and other browsers figured out a way to hide Google Ads when the page loads and that’s led Google to stop this on their Chrome browser. After all, Google Ads is a HUGE revenue generator and it can only work based on YOUR content. See how this all ties back to how you’re getting screwed over by the big dawgs?

There has to be a better way to monetize your content without being obtrusive and fair. Instead of a click-thru model, a viewer time model was adopted. That’s where Coil and the Web monetization system comes in.

Now Coil is the first mover and they remind me a lot of Medium BUT you don’t have to use their platform. You pay Coil $5 a month to view anything that’s subscriber content (locked by the web monetization protocol) and the longer people read or watch your videos, the more micropayments you get. If your content is any good, then people will spend time on it. If it’s full of fluff, like a lot of stuff out there today, then you won’t earn any money. In a sense, it’s going to force you to make great content again.

You need to install the Coil.com browser extension which picks up the web monetization protocol on your site and then starts streaming money to your account when someone views your content.

The cool thing is that this works with the interledger system, a type of blockchain where payments and transactions are recorded and money USD is deposited to your account. This happens in near-real time and sure as hell beats waiting for someone to click on an Ad on your site.

But you’re stuck on Coil?

Yes, this is true for the time being. Coil is pretty darn new but they’re being adopted like crazy. Since the Interledger system and the Webmonetization protocol is open (not yet adopted by the W3C), it will make sense that other providers will emerge in time.

Web Monetization with Hugo

Now we come to the bonus part of this post which will be locked for non Coil subscribers. If you want to know how I implemented it for this site, which runs on Hugo then just follow the link below. Note, this isn’t perfect but it’s a start.

Coil subscribers will see the bonus video content below.

And that’s it. It’s super simple and I plan on making this more elegant over the next few months. You can download the sample coil.html and exclusive.html files. Just remember to call the partial template in your header file. Thanks so much for watching and supporting me.

End Notes

In the long run, I don’t know if I’ll be toll-gating anything. I’ll probably continue writing content in a completely open manner but I’ll have the web monetization code running in the background. This means if you use Coil and come to my site, I’ll get a few pennies. If you don’t use Coil, well then thank you for reading! As always, I appreciate you coming by here to support and read my site.

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