Arthur Kay

4 Lessons from GoDaddy / #SOPA

If you are in any way involved in web development (or follow internet-related news), you have probably heard about the GoDaddy/SOPA saga.

As a longtime (now former) GoDaddy customer, I have some thoughts I’d like to share. I will try to stay out of the politics surrounding SOPA because I’m not a lawyer, a politician or a loudmouth. That and I’m not sure anyone really cares about my opinion.

Preface

I recently tried to re-read the original statement that GoDaddy released in support of SOPA… and I found it nearly impossible to track down. GoDaddy has removed the statement from its website, and I can’t find any source that has the post in its entirety.

Nonetheless, here are two pieces to the puzzle:

GoDaddy Support(s/ed) SOPA

In the original statement, one of GoDaddy’s executives (speaking on behalf of the entire company) called SOPA’s opponents “myopic”.

As a person whose first language is English, is a college graduate, and is a middle-class professional white-collar worker I was stunned to see that word. Absolutely stunned.

I was stunned because:

  • I had to look the word up just to make sure I knew what I was being called
  • it’s a word you don’t hear every day… meaning it was chosen deliberately
  • a word so deliberately chosen is obviously meant as an insult… not an adjective

The company with whom I have done business for several years and paid hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars just called me “short sighted”. GoDaddy just deliberately insulted me because I don’t agree with their political stance.

In business, you can’t take insults like this personally… but I have had a particularly hard time not feeling angry. I was hurt because I had always said that I was a satisfied customer. I constantly recommended GoDaddy to my clients and friends. I defended GoDaddy’s support team because they were always very friendly (although they struggled to answer my technical questions).

Overall I feel very bad for the employees of GoDaddy. Every sales/support person I have spoken to over the phone has been courteous and pleasant, and they probably don’t deserve most of the things being said about GoDaddy. The low-mid level employees probably have little (if any) input regarding what the company says and does in the media. I bet many of them didn’t even know GoDaddy supported SOPA until the rest of us did.

Moving Forward

The moment I read GoDaddy’s original statement supporting SOPA I decided to stop doing business with them. I immediately found a new hosting company and started moving my domains to my new server… which was harder than I had anticipated.

I underestimated how long it would take me to move more than 20 domains from one server to another. Most of the time I lost involved converting obsolete file paths, fighting DNS settings and making proper backups… but in all I probably spent some 30 hours taking my business elsewhere.

30 hours of work. I didn’t get paid for those hours. In fact, I had to get up early and work late for days to get everything done. That was time I could have spent sleeping or being with my family.

So GoDaddy lost my annual $150 for hosting, plus domain purchases/renewals. Chump change to them, but significant enough for me as a small business owner.

What’s worse is that GoDaddy clearly doesn’t understand how I (and thousands of other customers) feel about the issue. GoDaddy did reverse it’s decision after a massive internet boycott… but the message is clear: “We don’t care about your opinion, we care about lost revenue and bad press”.

Things I’ve Learned

As I said earlier, I don’t want to get into the politics of SOPA – I would rather focus on some lessons I have personally learned from this whole situation.

Lesson #1: Choose your words carefully.

Calling someone “myopic” is risky. In fact, you have to wonder how many people proofread GoDaddy’s statement before it was published. Did anyone think that was a bad idea?

As a software consultant, I constantly find myself in a position where I disagree with someone. Sometimes I’m right, other times not… but you just can’t dismiss what the other person is saying. And you certainly can’t call them names.

Lesson #2: I should have moved to Linux a long time ago.

My GoDaddy hosting account was a shared Windows plan. It served me well… but I never actually planned for the day when I would move my domains to a new server. This meant that I had a lot of backups performed via FTP – which is painfully slow.

My server is a shared Linux box. SSH access and Git repos make backups smooth and fast. It also makes searching the filesystem easy and painless.

Lesson #3: I should not have built websites using .NET

Somewhere around half of the domains I host were written as .NET applications… hence the Windows hosting plan I mention above.

Why did I build so many website using .NET? At the time, I was trying to learn .NET and a handful of small business websites seemed like a good way to experiment. Although I did pick up C# and ASP.NET MVC, I can’t say that I really used .NET for anything useful.

Small business websites are usually simple and straightforward. Using .NET for these projects was like using a sledgehammer on a nail – meaning that it was completely overkill.

The moral of the story: I migrated all of those sites to PHP, which works just fine on both Windows and Linux.

Lesson #4: Stand up for what you believe in.

I think the biggest problem everyone has with GoDaddy is that the company “reversed” its political stance after a storm of bad press. Again, I’ll stay out of the politics… but I don’t think anyone actually believes that GoDaddy has had a change of heart on the issue.

When I contacted each of my clients to tell them I was moving their websites to a new server, I never mentioned anything about GoDaddy or SOPA (I doubt most of them care). One client asked if the SOPA debate was the reason – and praised me when I told him “yes”.

The lesson here is that your customers respect you for taking a stand. No one respects GoDaddy for backing down from the issue. If they felt strongly enough to support the legislation, they should have more effectively communicated their position to educate the “myopic” opposition.

What did you learn?

I know many of you have strong opinions on the GoDaddy / SOPA debacle. What are your thoughts?

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