Category Archives: amazon

Amazon EC2 Cloud Outage: Hiccup or Wakeup Call?

amazon web services outageLast week Amazon Web Service’s (AWS) Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) was down…not just minutes, or hours, but for days. In the process it took down a significant chunk of new web services like Foursquare, Quora, Reddit, and multiple IZEA properties such as WeReward, SponsoredTweets & SocialSpark. Those were long hours and days…

It was frustrating at a business level, but also as an investor in web services, I hated watching the impact cloud was showing for an entire sector. Cloud computing has been flying lately, including innovations like Amazon’s Free Usage Tier to help entrepreneurs launch quick and pay when they actually have something growing. An outage like this was inevitable, but how much damage will it do?

I know the experience has caused pursuit of backup solutions, but I’m curious how much this outage impacts entrepreneur dependence upon cloud long-term. Given the cost and scale benefits of cloud, was this outage a hiccup for entrepreneurs or a wakeup call to rethink cloud dependence?

Amazon, Twitter and Operant Conditioning

twitter downtimeTwitter/FriendFeed updates announced Amazon.com was down for at least an hour this morning. It has since come up and down a few times. CNet, Mashable, TechCrunch and, thus TechMeme, eventually realized it too. It’s up for me now.

I have no idea what happened, but I know Amazon gets a surge of buzz/traffic when it returns. I’ve seen Twitter leverage this strategy masterfully, reaping the rewards of variable scheduling to maximize conditioned behavior.

Wikipedia’s description of operant conditioning has this to say about fixed and variable scheduling of stimulus:

“According to the laws of operant conditioning, any behavior that is consistently rewarded, every single time, will extinguish at a faster rate while intermittently reinforcing behavior leads to more stable rates of behavior that are relatively more resistant to extinction. Thus, in detection dogs, any correct behavior of indicating a “find,” must always be rewarded with a tug toy or a ball throw early on for initial acquisition of the behavior. Thereafter, fading procedures, in which the rate of reinforcement is “thinned” (not every response is reinforced) are introduced, switching the dog to an intermittent schedule of reinforcement, which is more resistant to instances of non-reinforcement.”

Image above from Reinforcement Schedules (VR line shows maximum impact from Variable ratio schedules)

Applying this to Twitter’s intermittent downtime and you can see how Twitter awareness is reinforced every time Twitter comes back from an outage. Services like Twitter need people addicted and, ironically, random outages can help drive the addiction. Hopefully, Amazon’s lost sales make it too painful for them to follow a similar approach…

PayPerPost Gets Some Love, and Gives Some

Arrington had some nice things to say about one of my portfolio companies today. So did Scoble. Interesting that neither one touched the topic of undisclosed affiliate marketing bloggers — a multi-billion dollar FTC magnet (supposedly 40% of Amazon sales come from affiliate links — with disclosure requirements entirely absent in their Operating Agreement). Luckily, PPP’s Disclosure Policy framework can help all those affiliate bloggers who have hundreds of undisclosed aff posts in their SE-indexed archives…

That’s not the only thing PPP is helping with. They just launched another $1000 puzzle — about RockStartup. If you haven’t already found RockStartup, the world’s first real-time reality show, check out what it’s like in the belly of a venture-backed startup. After you’ve done that, collect this piece #19 and find/assemble the full puzzle first to win $1000.