Linode, end of an era

My Linode account was activated November 17, 2009, and I shut it down January 14, 2013. During that time, the longest stretch of uptime was 545 days.

I originally switched to Linode from shared hosting on Dreamhost. I really enjoyed the freedom of being able to run my preferred distro (Debian) and call my own shots regarding what tools I used (Lighttpd, Varnish, memcached). So I set everything up, threw some sites on there, and locked everything down — and then left it mostly alone for 3 years.

Here’s the thing: in those 3 years, a lot changed. At some point when I wasn’t looking, Amazon Web Services matured into something really accessible and affordable, especially for people like me who don’t need much in the way of RAM or CPU for their vanity domains, but who do like to tinker with server-level things. Once I realized I was behind the curve with my VPS, I was kicking myself for being so complacent and loyal to that paradigm.

A new year’s resolution is as good of a reason as any to take on a new project, so shortly after 2013 began, I began to migrate my domains away from my Linode to an EC2 instance. Then, I switched my nameservers away from Linode this past weekend, thus signaling the end of a very satisfied 3-year term.

Loyalty shouldn’t keep you from learning new things

Part of the reason I didn’t pay much attention to alternatives to my VPS was that I was a satisfied customer. Although I recognized that cloud computing services and platforms as service were becoming things people actually used, I didn’t want to spend the time and effort to learn something new if my VPS still met all my needs. Besides, I had plenty of other things going on career-wise to keep my brain occupied.

But for someone who identifies as a sysadmin type, I did a disservice to myself by being loyal to my VPS for so long. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating eschewing loyalty in the pursuit of marginally lower prices or anything like that. Loyalty is generally good. But in this case, loyalty became an excuse I used to avoid learning new skills, and I missed out on emerging industry trends.

This got me thinking: I’m a loyal customer of Drupal, too. I’ve been working with Drupal since 2006. That’s six-going-on-seven years of being a full-time Drupal developer, and my focus on Drupal development has come at the expense of my not learning new frameworks and languages.

We can’t afford to stand still for very long

Here’s the hard truth, folks. Developers — and all corners of the information sector, really — can’t afford to stand still for very long. Every semester, there are kids graduating college who have been brought up in an era of X paradigm and Y framework. They’re going to be kickstarting new projects with incubators and crowdsourcing and whatever other thing that is trending right now.

If you’re not staying on top of things, or if you’re not at least dipping your toes in the shallow end of whatever, then you’re running the risk of becoming out-of-date. These kids coming up will lap shortsighted, loyal developers. The longer it takes for us to notice, the worse it gets.

Sure, you can be the type that complains about it, who says X paradigm is just a buzzword, Y framework is a fad — “just you wait, technology is cyclical” — but you’ll reach the point where what you’re loyal to is no longer relevant. And whenever you eventually realize that you picked loyalty over professional development, are you prepared to invest the time and effort to change course?

What’s next?

I’ll come clean: learning more about AWS was eye-opening. I recognize that I’ve only just discovered the tip of the iceberg, too. There’s the whole PAAS sphere that I need to explore, not to mention all the supplemental tools and products that exist. I’m excited to learn more about all of it.

I’m also nervous that my web development skills, which were state-of-the-art 6 years ago, are now showing their age. I’ve set a goal for myself in 2013 to not be loyal to any one technology merely for loyalty’s sake.

I want to stay relevant (and employable!) for a long time to come, and I think being open to new things is the only way to ensure that. I’m reminded of the sage words of Johnny 5 from Short Circuit: “Need input. Input.” I do feel as though I need to play catch-up, but I’m equal to the task, and in truth, energized by it.