Social Media Posts

March 22, 2013

Social Media for Brands: Monitor Twitter Search via Email

If you're responsible for monitoring Twitter for conversations about your brand, you're faced with a challenge: You need to know what people are saying about your brand at all times AND you don't want to live your entire life in front of Twitter Search.

Over the years, a number of social media applications have been released specifically for brand managers and social media teams, but most of those applications (especially the free/inexpensive ones) differentiate themselves only by the quality of their analytics and how real-time their data is reported. If that's what you need, you have plenty of fantastic options. Those differentiators don't really help you if you want to take a more passive role in monitoring Twitter search ... You still have to log into the application to see your fancy dashboards with all of the information. Why can't the data come to you?

About three weeks ago, Hazzy stopped by my desk and asked if I'd help build a tool that uses the Twitter Search API to collect brand keywords mentions and send an email alert with those mentions in digest form every 30 minutes. The social media team had been using Twilert for these types of alerts since February 2012, but over the last few months, messages have been delayed due to issues connecting to Twitter search ... It seems that the service is so popular that it hits Twitter's limits on API calls. An email digest scheduled to be sent every thirty minutes ends up going out ten hours late, and ten hours is an eternity in social media time. We needed something a little more timely and reliable, so I got to work on a simple "Twitter Monitor" script to find all mentions of our keyword(s) on Twitter, email those results in a simple digest format, and repeat the process every 30 minutes when new mentions are found.

With Bear's Python-Twitter library on GitHub, connecting to the Twitter API is a breeze. Why did we use Bear's library in particular? Just look at his profile picture. Yeah ... 'nuff said. So with that Python wrapper to the Twitter API in place, I just had to figure out how to use the tools Twitter provided to get the job done. For the most part, the process was very clear, and Twitter actually made querying the search service much easier than we expected. The Search API finds all mentions of whatever string of characters you designate, so instead of creating an elaborate Boolean search for "SoftLayer OR #SoftLayer OR @SoftLayer ..." or any number of combinations of arbitrary strings, we could simply search for "SoftLayer" and have all of those results included. If you want to see only @ replies or hashtags, you can limit your search to those alone, but because "SoftLayer" isn't a word that gets thrown around much without referencing us, we wanted to see every instance. This is the code we ended up working with for the search functionality:

def status_by_search(search):
    statuses = api.GetSearch(term=search)
    results = filter(lambda x: x.id > get_log_value(), statuses)
    returns = []
    if len(results) > 0:
        for result in results:
            returns.append(format_status(result))
 
        new_tweets(results)
        return returns, len(returns)
    else:
        exit()

If you walk through the script, you'll notice that we want to return only unseen Tweets to our email recipients. Shortly after got the Twitter Monitor up and running, we noticed how easy it would be to get spammed with the same messages every time the script ran, so we had to filter our results accordingly. Twitter's API allows you to request tweets with a Tweet ID greater than one that you specify, however when I tried designating that "oldest" Tweet ID, we had mixed results ... Whether due to my ignorance or a fault in the implementation, we were getting fewer results than we should. Tweet IDs are unique and numerically sequential, so they can be relied upon as much as datetime (and far easier to boot), so I decided to use the highest Tweet ID from each batch of processed messages to filter the next set of results. The script stores that Tweet ID and uses a little bit of logic to determine which Tweets are newer than the last Tweet reported.

def new_tweets(results):
    if get_log_value() < max(result.id for result in results):
        set_log_value(max(result.id for result in results))
        return True
 
 
def get_log_value():
    with open('tweet.id', 'r') as f:
        return int(f.read())
 
 
def set_log_value(messageId):
    with open('tweet.id', 'w+') as f:
        f.write(str(messageId))

Once we culled out our new Tweets, we needed our script to email those results to our social media team. Luckily, we didn't have to reinvent the wheel here, and we added a few lines that enabled us to send an HTML-formatted email over any SMTP server. One of the downsides of the script is that login credentials for your SMTP server are stored in plaintext, so if you can come up with another alternative that adds a layer of security to those credentials (or lets you send with different kinds of credentials) we'd love for you to share it.

From that point, we could run the script manually from the server (or a laptop for that matter), and an email digest would be sent with new Tweets. Because we wanted to automate that process, I added a cron job that would run the script at the desired interval. As a bonus, if the script doesn't find any new Tweets since the last time it was run, it doesn't send an email, so you won't get spammed by "0 Results" messages overnight.

The script has been in action for a couple of weeks now, and it has gotten our social media team's seal of approval. We've added a few features here and there (like adding the number of Tweets in an email to the email's subject line), and I've enlisted the help of Kevin Landreth to clean up the code a little. Now, we're ready to share the SoftLayer Twitter Monitor script with the world via GitHub!

SoftLayer Twitter Monitor on GitHub

The script should work well right out of the box in any Python environment with the required libraries after a few simple configuration changes:

  • Get your Twitter Customer Secret, Access Token and Access Secret from https://dev.twitter.com/
  • Copy/paste that information where noted in the script.
  • Update your search term(s).
  • Enter your mailserver address and port.
  • Enter your email account credentials if you aren't working with an open relay.
  • Set the self.from_ and self.to values to your preference.
  • Ensure all of the Python requirements are met.
  • Configure a cron job to run the script your desired interval. For example, if you want to send emails every 10 minutes: */10 * * * * <path to python> <path to script> 2>&1 /dev/null

As soon as you add your information, you should be in business. You'll have an in-house Twitter Monitor that delivers a simple email digest of your new Twitter mentions at whatever interval you specify!

Like any good open source project, we want the community's feedback on how it can be improved or other features we could incorporate. This script uses the Search API, but we're also starting to play around with the Stream API and SoftLayer Message Queue to make some even cooler tools to automate brand monitoring on Twitter.

If you end up using the script and liking it, send SoftLayer a shout-out via Twitter and share it with your friends!

-@SoftLayerDevs

August 29, 2012

Demystifying Social Media: Get Involved

A few weeks back, Kevin handed me The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk and said we should give it a read. I'm only halfway through it, but I thought I should share some of Vaynerchuk's insights on social media with the SoftLayer blog audience while they are still fresh in my mind.

The best summary of The Thank You Economy comes straight from its pages:

"The Thank You Economy explains how businesses must learn to adapt their marketing strategies to take advantage of platforms that have completely transformed consumer culture and society as a whole."

The book looks at how human nature hasn't changed, but everything else has. The rise of social media is as game-changing as the radio and the television were, and that presents a combination of challenge and opportunity for businesses. In Vaynerchuk's words, "What we call social media is not media, nor is it even a platform. It is a massive cultural shift that has profoundly affected the way society uses the greatest platform ever invented, the Internet."

I've been "in the trenches" with SoftLayer's social media presences for over a year now, and I realized that I take advantage of the fundamental openness of the company. Vaynerchuk urges businesses to dive into social media, and he shares some of most common reasons companies aren't getting involved — I could list all eleven reasons here, but you'd probably recognize them all as excuses you've heard.* The common theme: People (and companies) fear uncertainty, and while that fear is understandable, it shouldn't be paralyzing. The opportunity and necessity of engagement outweigh the excuses.

When you clear all the hurdles preventing your entrance to the world of social media, you need to execute. Vaynerchuk explains how "Cultural Building Blocks" of a company dictate that company's success in social media, and while they aren't exactly an Easy Bake Oven recipe to viral success, they are profound in their simplicity:

  1. Begin with Yourself
  2. Commit Whole Hog
  3. Set the Tone
  4. Invest in Employees
  5. Trust Your People
  6. Be Authentic

The "trust your people" and "be authentic" building blocks resonated the most when I thought of how SoftLayer's social media is managed. The level of trust my boss has in me is both refreshing and challenging, and I find myself working harder to prove I deserve it. A cynic might read that sentence and scoff at its over-the-top positivity, but I'm as honest as I can be ... And that's an example of the challenge of being authentic. SoftLayer employees are passionate about their responsibilities and the company culture, and that kind of enthusiasm is so rare that there's a tendency to assume that it's manufactured.

If I see someone talking to us via social media about a bad experience at SoftLayer, I'm more concerned about changing their experience than I am about what they share with their social network. Often, when I follow up with those customers, when the problem is resolved, it's amazing how surprised people are that someone actually took the time to make things right. I want to hear if someone has a bad experience because I take pride in turning it around. Are we "in control" of what people say about SoftLayer on social media? No. We are in control of how SoftLayer responds to what people are saying about us, though.

Your business needs to be active in social media.

You don't need a "social media team" or a budget or a strategy ... You need to be passionate about your employees, customers and products, and you need to make time to reach out to your community — wherever they are.

What roadblocks have you run into when it comes to your business's social media engagement? If you've been successful, what tips could you share with me (and the rest of the SoftLayer audience)?

-Rachel

*If you're toying with the idea of social media engagement or you're working for a company that hasn't embraced it yet, it's worth it for you to buy The Thank You Economy to read how @garyvee dismantles those excuses.

May 2, 2012

Social Media and the SoftLayer Server Challenge

I've been working at SoftLayer for almost ten months now, in my relatively short tenure, I've written hundreds (if not thousands) of tweets covering a broad range of topics and events ... As a Social Media Coordinator, it's an integral part of my job. Given what I've learned about hosting in the past year, I'm constantly surprised by how second-nature this intimidatingly technical industry has become. I guess that's what happens when you're immersed in a technology-focused company like SoftLayer.

Beyond sharing technical news and content about what's happening in the world of cloud computing, I'm also responsible for keeping our customers in the loop about all of our trade shows, conferences and events. If you've been to a technology trade show in the past year, you probably saw SoftLayer. We sponsor, attend or exhibit at more than sixty events every year, and it feels like I have been to them all. I know the ins and outs of every event on our schedule well before it begins, regardless of whether that event's down the street or in an exotic location like Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore, Amsterdam or London (Interesting fact: In the past week, we had events in all of those locations).

Social media is one of the ways our customers and followers can keep a pulse on SoftLayer's activity and growth. We travel the world to share how we help customers Build the Future, and as a part of the social media team, I get to help introduce that conversation. Let's use Internet World as an example.

Last week, a group of SLayers traveled to London to attend Internet World. To prepare for Internet World, I tried to schedule and share as much relevant content about SoftLayer with the #iwexpo audience to generate awareness and drive traffic to our booth. At larger shows like Internet World, we typically have a conference session or speaking engagement, and on the expo hall floor, you'll usually see a crowd like this one milling around our booth:

Internet World 2012

The Server Challenge generates its own social media — from word-of-mouth "you've gotta try this" conversations at the show to the typical "social media" channels like Twitter and Facebook. The gamifiction of rebuilding a miniature SoftLayer server rack is one of those interesting, entertaining and innovative ideas that seems to be unique to the mad scientists at SoftLayer. Invariably, the competition "ain't over 'til the fat lady sings," and at Internet World, we had the most dramatic competition conclusion ever ... But we'll get back to that in a minute.

From a social media perspective, the folks who stop by SoftLayer's booth want to watch the leader board as the show progresses. The expo hall may be open for several days, so it might be tough to keep an eye on the Server Challenge leader board ... Attendees then trust us to keep them informed via social media. Every day, we post the latest times to beat, and when we look at our analytics, it's wild to see the number of people clicking through to see the current top ten times. It doesn't seem like much, but a few hundred people at Internet World wanted to know what this table looked like throughout the whole show:

Internet World 2012

The top two times you see on the final leader board caused the late-show dramatics. Joseph Waite clocked a fantastic 1:03.68 to secure the top spot on the board in the middle of Day 3 at the show, and Rob McEwen stepped up to the challenge for his Day 3 attempts about 10 minutes prior to the scheduled close of the expo hall. With about 25 onlookers, Rob stopped the clock on his second attempt with a time of 1:02.14 ... Good enough for first place.

The problem: One of the drive trays was not installed all the way.

Because we want to make sure the winner has everything installed correctly in the fastest time, we had to add 5 seconds to his time for the mistake, and we gave him one more chance to complete the challenge to be fair to him. Unfortunately, the final attempt didn't beat Joseph's 1:03.68, so the new iPad was destined for Joseph. While Rob was a little bummed, he understood the reasoning for the decision, and he committed to stopping by our booth next year to win his iPad outright.

I was a few thousand miles away from all of this activity, but I felt like a major part of it given my social media involvement in tracking and sharing the latest updates. The best part of my job is when I get to interact with our customers, whether it be face to face or virtually. I want the messages you see on @SoftLayer and facebook.com/SoftLayer to be entertaining, interesting and helpful. We want you to feel connected to what's happening at SoftLayer and what we're all about.

Speaking of giving you insight into "what we're all about," I can't wrap up this blog about Internet World without sharing a little "insider" information about the SLayers at the booth: They're pretty competitive. They ran their own internal Server Challenge:

Internet World 2012

And if anyone is curious about the fastest time we've ever had in the Server Challenge, you can see it right there at the top of the list. Though to be fair, Kevin's probably done it a few thousand times.

-Rachel

February 7, 2012

Social Media Exclusive: Bobblehead Bonus

SoftLayer has a unique culture. As SLayers, we get company-inspired tattoos, we outfit ourselves (and our families) in SoftLayer gear, we take part in goofy videos, and every now and then, someone gets a shower of 10,000 bouncy balls.

Our company culture is no accident; it has grown organically from the day SoftLayer was born, and the executive management team has been instrumental in showing that it's okay to have fun when you're at work ... and the company's phenomenal growth speaks to that philosophy's success. The latest example of tomfoolery came in the form of customized bobbleheads of many of members on the SoftLayer management team:

SoftLayer BobbleheadSoftLayer BobbleheadSoftLayer BobbleheadSoftLayer BobbleheadSoftLayer Bobblehead
 

Because we happened to have ten extra sets of these bobbleheads, we thought some of our customers might enjoy building a collection of their very own. If you places a new order in the next few months and you're one of the first ten SoftLayer customers to email your order information to the social media team at twitter@softlayer.com, we'll send you that month's "Bobblehead Bonus":

  • February 2012 - Lance Crosby, Chief Executive Officer
  • March 2012 - Tom Blair, Senior Vice President Global Sales
  • April 2012 - Nathan Day, Chief Scientist
  • May 2012 - Duke Skarda, Chief Technology Officer
  • June 2012 - Sam Flietman, Chief Operating Officer
  • July 2012 - George Karidis, Chief Strategy Offcier

To keep everyone on the same page, here are the "official rules":

  1. One Bobblehead Bonus per SoftLayer account per month.
  2. Order must be placed in the same month the bobblehead is requested.
  3. Bobblehead Bonus request email must be sent to twitter@softlayer.com and it must include your SoftLayer account number, order number and the shipping address you'd like us to use.
  4. The bobbleheads will be awarded on a first-emailed, first served basis.
  5. Only 10 bobbleheads are available each month.

If the set I have in my office window is any indication, having a complete SoftLayer bobblehead collection will make you the envy of all of your friends and coworkers. The idea behind this fun little giveaway is to reward you for being an engaged, loyal SoftLayer customer.

Let's be honest ... You've probably been on the fence about ordering a new cloud instance or dedicated server, so what more do you need to hear than "Free SoftLayer Bobblehead" to get you to pull the trigger?

-@khazard

P.S. We've also got a few bobbleheads earmarked for employees who contribute to the SoftLayer Blog. If you're a SLayer and you want your own set of bobbleheads, you better start writing!

December 21, 2011

Spot Influence: Tech Partner Spotlight

This is a guest blog from Spot Influence. Spot Influence provides businesses with detailed information on who's influential in the world of social media and what those influencers actually care about. This data, accessed via an API, enables companies to react faster with more information and, more importantly, to be proactive and execute a strategic social media plan.

Discover the People Who Drive Your Business

If you're involved in marketing, you understand the importance of monitoring your business's community online. You also probably know that engaging with the "Influencers" who speak to your intended audience can be critical to understanding their needs and spreading your brand's message. But existing tools are limited in their ability to find these individuals. They don't allow you to sift through the noise and discover the people who are already impacting your business online.

Spot Influence is a data service that provides granular, actionable information to businesses about their online audience and the people who are influencing them. With this data, business can discover the key influencers they need to be paying attention to and gain valuable insight regarding their existing customers: their online profiles, where they publish and engage with content, and what they care about.

Solving this problem at scale is incredibly challenging. We deal with vast amounts of unstructured data, processing tens of millions of URLs and creating terabytes of data every day. That's why we're excited to be a SoftLayer customer and a part of the Technology Partners Marketplace. SoftLayer enables us to cost-effectively scale our machines to meet customer needs.

If you're interested in learning more about Spot Influence, please check out the following links and sign up for the Beta on our website!

Website: http://spotinfluence.com/
Blog: http://blog.spotinfluence.com/
Twitter: @spotinfluence

-Dave Angulo and Rich Grote, Co-Founders, Spot Influence

This guest blog series highlights companies in SoftLayer's Technology Partners Marketplace.
These Partners have built their businesses on the SoftLayer Platform, and we're excited for them to tell their stories. New Partners will be added to the Marketplace each month, so stay tuned for many more come.
December 15, 2011

Fighting SPAM and Abuse on a Global Network

For better or worse, one of the most engaging posts on the SoftLayer Blog is "We are a No-Spam Network," written by Jacob Linscott in June 2007. When it was posted, it celebrated a completely clear Spamhaus listing page – quite an accomplishment for a large hosting provider (for reasons I'll illustrate below). Since the post was published, it has become a hotbed of conversation about any and all abuse-related issues. Google "SoftLayer SPAM," and you'll see the post show up as the second result, so a lot of Internet passers-by will come across the post and use the comment section as a platform to share abuse-related concerns they have for us.

That engagement is a double-edge sword: It's good because we hear the concerns people have. It's bad because the post was meant to be a celebration of the continuous work that the abuse department does, and uninitiated visitors seem to consider it a unilateral claim that we've beaten spam once and for all. In the course of responding to comments on that post, I shared an analogy to convey what it's like to run abuse for a large hosting provider:

Scenario

Let's say you're the security manager for a huge mall. This mall has 100,000 stores with people walking in and out 24x7x365. In this scenario, there are "good guys" and "bad guys" who walk into and out of the mall, and every person looks exactly the same. Some of those people are store owners while others are customers of those stores. As the security manager for the mall, you want to maintain the safest, most well-maintained mall in the world, so when you find bad guys walking in and out of your mall, you do everything you can to kick them out and keep them out. Sometimes those bad guys are store owners who attract and send the wrong crowd; sometimes they are bad guy customers of a good guy store owner.

How would you manage your mall? It's not possible to differentiate whether a store owner will be a good guy or a bad guy when they're applying to lease space in your mall, so you can't "keep the bad guys out" in that regard. You can't have a security team of 100,000 people monitoring what's happening in those 100,000 stores, much less have someone individually check the millions of visitors streaming in and out of the stores. What's a security manager to do?

If you look at how Las Vegas casinos address that concern, it's clear that your best bet is to install security cameras and have a team monitoring them all the time. You might not be able to watch everything at the same time, but you can document what's happening around your mall and respond if you notice something unusual (or if someone calls in to report that they've seen bad guys coming from a store in your mall).

That's the position we're in.

SoftLayer Abuse Team

SoftLayer's network is the mall, the stores are servers, the store owners are our customers (who are often responsible for several "stores"), and the good guys and bad guys are traffic into and out of the network. We try to differentiate good guys and bad guys, but even if we know that all good guys have purple eyes and all bad guys have neon green eyes, it's still difficult to look 26,000+ store owners in the eye every day as they're walking into and out of the mall.

We staff a team of people intent on clearing the bad guys from our mall, and we know that even though good guy store owners may inadvertently host their own bad guy customers, they want to remove those customers from their store as well, so they appreciate us helping them pinpoint those customers so they can be removed.

We keep an eye on our security cameras and get our security guards to the stores where bad guys are reported as quickly as possible. If no one reports that the people coming out of store #73,403 are all bad guys, it's hard for us to know that they aren't good guys ... Which is why we encourage anyone and everyone to report abuse-related concerns to abuse@softlayer.com so we can mobilize our security force.

As Edmund Burke once said, "When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle." Or more colloquially, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

Given that illustration, the abuse team deserves a LOT of credit for the work they do behind the scenes. They are constantly investigating reports and working with customers to get remove any and all content that violate SoftLayer's MSA, and too often, that can be a thankless job. Fighting abuse is an ongoing process, and while the nature of the beast might suggest the overall war will never be won, we're always getting faster and stronger, so the individual battles are easier and easier to win.

-@khazard

November 30, 2011

Kred: Tech Partner Spotlight

This is a guest blog from the PeopleBrowsr team about Kred. Kred is the first social scoring system to provide people with a comprehensive, contextual score for their Influence and Outreach within interest-based communities.

Company Website: http://kred.ly/
Tech Partners Marketplace: http://www.softlayer.com/marketplace/Kred

We All Have Influence Somewhere

The social networking revolution provides the unprecedented opportunity to observe, filter and analyze conversations in real time. For marketers and anyone interested in human behavior, it's now possible to examine the collective consciousness for insights into consumer behavior and detection and engagement with the most influential people.

Increasingly, we find that the elements that determine "influence" in online networks are the same as they are in "real life" relationships: Trust and Generosity within small close networks of friends and subject matter experts. These in turn have become the foundations for Kred, a brand new way to understand anyone's Influence and Outreach across social media and within Communities formed around interests and affinities.

Kred

'We All Have Influence Somewhere,' so Kred sifts through billions of social posts from over 110 million people in real time to uncover who is most influential on any subject, keyword or hashtag. This all summarized in Kredentials, which displays anyone's history on Twitter over the last three years with a single click, including their top communities, most used words, most clicked links and much more.

Kred

Here are just a few of the other ways Kred is an evolution of influence measurement:

Dual Scores for Influence and Outreach
Influence – scored on a 1-1000 scale – shows the likelihood that your posts provoke actions from others. Outreach demonstrates your generosity in ReTweeting and replying to others.

Community
Real influence comes from expertise and passion. Kred is calculated for everyone in Communities that naturally form around interests and affinities.

Complete Transparency
Visitors to Kred.ly can see how all of their social actions count towards their scores - and how their connections' actions affect them as well. Those who want a more thorough accounting of their score can take advantage of our Score Audit feature.

Offline Kred
Kred is the only influence measure to integrate offline achievements with online identity. Visitors can add their accomplishments - anything from academic honors to club memberships - by sending us a PDF from the 'Get More Kred' menu tab inside the Kred site. We will then hand score it and manually add points.

Kred is free for everyone at http://kred.ly and deeply integrated into Playground, PeopleBrowsr's social analytics platform. For those who wish to build custom applications off of our datamine of 1,000 days of social data, Kred can be accessed via our Playground API, Kredentials API and through a standalone API.

Many key unique features of Kred – including score audits, privacy controls and real-time activity statements – are based on feedback from our community of friends and colleagues. What would you like to see in its next evolution?

Give Kred a try and let us know what you think via email: kred@peoplebrowsr.com or on Twitter: @kred.

- Shawn Roberts, PeopleBrowsr

This guest blog series highlights companies in SoftLayer's Technology Partners Marketplace.
These Partners have built their businesses on the SoftLayer Platform, and we're excited for them to tell their stories. New Partners will be added to the Marketplace each month, so stay tuned for many more come.
November 21, 2011

The SoftLayer Server Challenge - ad:tech Expertise

If you've visited SoftLayer at a large conference this year, you probably came face-to-rack with our Server Challenge. Your task: Reassemble our miniature rack of SuperMicro servers in the fastest time at the conference. To do this, you need to install twenty drive trays in five servers and connect network cables in the correct switches to mirror the server rack setup on our data centers. If you're able to score the best time, you win an iPad 2!

In the sometimes-boring world of collateral and T-shirts at trade shows, the activity around this competition stands in stark contrast. It's been huge hit everywhere we go, so if you haven't had a chance to try your hand at the challenge, I'm sure we'll bring it to several of our 2012 shows. As a way of rewarding those of you who loyally follow our blog, I thought I could give you an advantage by sharing some tips for when you're in front of the Server Challenge rack ... And to give you an idea of how important these tips can be, look at how close the top two times were at ad:tech NYC:

That's right. 17 hundredths of a second between victory and defeat. Now are you ready to take some notes?

SoftLayer Server Challenge

The Start
When you start the challenge, don't look at the timer to see if your time started ... If it doesn't start, we'll stop you. By focusing your attention on the network cables or drive trays (whichever you choose to start with), you can save yourself a half of a second.

SoftLayer Server Challenge

Network Cables
You don't have to connect the network cables first, but I have to choose something to complete first, so the network cables won the coin flip. When you're connecting the network cables, it's best to grab all three cables of the same color and try to snap them in together. Plugging in the cables one-by-one requires three times the work.

SoftLayer Server Challenge

Hard Drives
When you're tackling the hard drives, the key is to line up the drives and have them installed completely before moving on. My tip for installing the drives is to tilt them in on a sideways angle, not at an upwards angle. If you try and tilt the drives upwards, you'll most likely get the drive tray stuck and have to remove it to try again. If you can do it precisely, picking up two drives at one time has worked well, and our all-time record of around 54 seconds took that approach.

SoftLayer Server Challenge

SoftLayer Server Challenge

SoftLayer Server Challenge

One last pointer: Lock them in place immediately after installing them. If you leave the latch open, it makes it harder to get neighboring drives installed, and it's such a small incremental effort to close the latch that even if you perfect a "close all the latches" technique at the end, you'd still end up spending more time.

SoftLayer Server Challenge

The Finish
Don't forget to put both hands back on the timer to stop your time. :-)

SoftLayer Server Challenge

Now that you're equipped with some of the best Server Challenge tips and tricks, we want you to start training. In 2012, we expect to see someone complete it in under 50 seconds ... And that person probably will carry the all-time record home – along with a new iPad 2!

Keep an eye on our Event Schedule for upcoming shows, and if there's a conference where you really want to see the Server Challenge, let us know and we'll see if we can set it up.

Good Luck!

-Summer

October 30, 2011

Celebrating and Looking Forward

Inspired by Robert's NFL rival blog, I thought I'd contribute my own football-related post. Before I go any further, I should probably say, "PONY UP!" As a proud alumna of Southern Methodist University (SMU), I'm always happy to share where I sent to college, but when the SMU Mustangs take down our biggest rivals in football, you can bet that I'll talk about it. For the past century or so, SMU has battled the TCU Horned Frogs for "The Iron Skillet," and this season, that skillet headed back to Dallas (where it belongs).

In a HUGE upset, the Mustangs beat the Horned Frogs 40-33 in overtime to break a four-year losing streak. The past four years have been "rebuilding" years under June Jones, so this win over a quality, ranked opponent was even more significant ... Which is clear since I'm still talking about this game in particular a few weeks later. But this lingering buzz is nothing compared to the roar of attention to SoftLayer's international expansion.

We're not exactly the "underdog" anymore, but October marked a huge step in the growth of our company when our Singapore data center and network points of presence in Tokyo and Hong Kong went live. The SoftLayer passport is starting to fill its pages with stamps.

As we put the finishing touches on Amsterdam, we have Softlayer staff on three continents, so day-to-day operations get a little more complex in some areas of the business. As a member of the social media team, I've been watching the clock a lot more these days ... And that's not to suggest that I'm counting down every day until 5pm (which isn't really a "stop time" for me anyway since social media doesn't turn off at the end of our time zone's business day). What I mean by "watching the clock" is that I've had to start thinking about reaching customers on the other side of the world with relevant SoftLayer messages. I feel like I need five clocks above my desk like what you usually see in newsrooms.

When engaging in the world of social media, timing is everything. Whether it's a matter of coordinating with a press release, trying to reach people in a completely different time zone, or just responding to issues, being where you need to be when you need to be there is 90% of the battle. When you think about it, everything in life comes down to that!

Sometimes events can be planned like SoftLayer's global domination. Others catch you by surprise ... like the SMU Mustang victory. As I get close to my three-month mark as a SLayer, I'm glad I was in the right place at the right time to join the SoftLayer team. I'm excited to see how our business is going to grow, and I'm looking forward to having to invest in more time zone clocks to keep track of the local times in all of our new data center markets.

Oh, and GO MUSTANGS!!

-Rachel

October 8, 2011

Smart Phones: Technology Replacing Contact?

So much of our life has been moved to digital devices these days. Smart phones are one of many devices that have made an impression on our lives. Smart phones these days have become a must for most, whether it is for business or personal use, almost everyone has one.

On the plus side, smart phones enable users to conduct business from just about anywhere in the world. Access to email accounts, VPNs and other tools that make business move on a daily basis have become accessible from the palm of your hand. You can even administer your web server from your smart phone with the right application setup.

You're carrying a small computer around in your pocket. It'll be interesting to see what new devices will emerge in the market in the next few years. Tablets are becoming wildly popular, and mainstream consumers are starting to keep an eye on the newest innovations, joining the "tech geeks" in the "early adopter" line.

There are several players in this market with Google, RIM and Apple leading the pack, and dedicated fans rally behind each. With smart phones becoming so increasingly common, I've started wondering if it's really for the best. Do we really need to check our e-mail every 10 minutes? If we're not on Twitter, Facebook or one of our other social networks, will they be there when we get to our computer?

Being digitally connected all the time give us a false sense of "socializing" in the old school face-to-face sense, and that pull us away from those IRL (in real life) encounters. Numerous crashes have been caused by people texting or updating their statuses while driving, and there have been cases of people walking into a busy street while being distracted by their phones.

When it comes to technology like smart phones, how do you keep those devices from becoming a dependency? How do you keep yourself from letting them take the place of direct human contact rather? It's something to think about as technology continues to evolve and permeate our lives.

-James

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