Today I sent the following email to everyone who has used my web app Searchpath. While I’m disappointed that I’ve neglected Searchpath, focusing everything on Micro.blog just makes the most sense right now.
Three years ago, I launched Searchpath to make it easy to embed a search box on any web site. Because you signed up to try it, either at the beginning or as a more recent paid subscriber, I wanted to thank you and let you know about the next steps for the service.
While I still love the idea behind Searchpath, I have not been able to give it the attention it deserves. Lately the service has been costing more to run than can be supported by subscription revenue. I’ve disabled new accounts and started migrating the data in an effort to keep the service running for active users.
Here’s what you need to know:
- If you had an active paid subscription, it has been cancelled and you won’t be billed again. The service will continue to run while you look for a new search solution.
- The current search index included many web sites that no longer use Searchpath. To save costs, I’ve reset the index. Active web sites using Searchpath will be automatically re-indexed.
I hope to return to Searchpath at some point in the future. For now, it will run in this limited mode for current customers. If you have any questions, please let me know via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S. One reason I can’t focus on Searchpath is I’m preparing to launch a new weblog service. It’s called Micro.blog.
As I talked about on Timetable, now that I have the micro.blog domain I get to figure out what to do with it. And what I’m hearing from friends and listeners is clear: throw out my jumble of Snippets-related names and use Micro.blog as the brand for the platform. It’s obvious now.
Renaming a product before its official launch may not seem like a big deal, but in this case it gives the app a new importance. Just by renaming it, the app feels more ambitious. It forces me to devote more attention to it, which means saying goodbye to some of my other web apps that I can no longer focus on.
I have a difficult time shutting down failing products. Over the weekend, I took some much-needed steps to finish winding down Watermark and Searchpath. I’ll be sending an email this week to everyone who has used Searchpath with the details.
For Searchpath, I had procrastinated making a decision because even simple steps like closing new account registrations requires actually writing code and deploying changes. The index on my Elasticsearch server had grown to 90 GB, including Watermark as well. I needed a clean way to reset it and migrate the small number of active paid accounts somewhere else, to give customers time to find a new solution.
I’ve tried a few technologies for search over the years. The first version of Watermark used Sphinx, which I loved but became a scaling issue with its default need to completely reindex MySQL data. Eventually I moved to self-hosted Elasticsearch, but I had to keep feeding it RAM as the index grew. It was never stable enough with my limited skills.
As I noted in my post about Talkshow.im, there’s no perfect way to admit defeat and clean up the mess left by a web app. It’s always a balance of responsibilities — to your own business and to your customers.
But again, the way forward is clear. I should put everything into launching and growing my new microblog platform. It’s too much to maintain other web apps at the same time.
On this week’s Core Intuition:
“Manton and Daniel talk about Apple’s current and future stock price, and their potential to branch out into other technologies such as virtual reality. They discuss Facebook’s shuttering of Parse and the implications for iOS developers and Facebook’s PR. Finally, they respond to listener Q&A about getting up to speed on using and implementing your own web services.”
Toward the end of the show, I also discuss my approach to password-less accounts for Searchpath and my not-quite-released latest web app. While still far from perfect, I think getting away from passwords is an important next step for apps. Passwords are just too annoying for users to keep track of and enter, and a potential security issue and headache for system administrators.
As part of a renewed commitment this year to work on my web app Searchpath, I’ve just rolled out a few improvements. A search engine like Searchpath needs frequent maintenance to keep running smoothly — minor bug fixes and behind-the-scenes work on queues and web crawling — but I also hope to catch up on new features that I’ve long planned for the product.
One marketing bullet I always had that wasn’t fully realized: “Also serves as a text backup for your site.” Searchpath now exposes links to download both the HTML for any stored page on your site as well as a text-only version of that page after Searchpath has attempted to trim out the navigation and other links. Hopefully this will help out any customers who might need to retrieve lost text from their site if their primary site backup failed (or doesn’t exist).
Want to learn more about Searchpath? You can try it out here for free, or sign up for $8/month.
RapidWeaver is a popular web site building app from Realmac Software. It’s got a great Mac UI, a bunch of nice themes, and a strong community of developers and plug-ins. One of those plug-ins is Stacks, which is so useful that it has its own set of third-party components.
Joe Workman has released a stack that makes adding and customizing Searchpath on your RapidWeaver site easy:
“A nice custom site search is difficult to implement. Most website simply piggyback on search engines such as Google or DuckDuckGo. However, Searchpath.io came on to the scene earlier this year and I think its pretty cool. It’s a freemium search service that lets you implement fast and simple search directly onto your website.”
Check out the stack here as a free download.
Here’s a great post from Derek Sivers on not automating everything. Instead, sometimes it’s better to just hire a real person to do some extra work:
“It’s fun for techies to try to find the tech solution to everything, but don’t forget that even a tiny touch from a real person can be the best algorithm, and a massive business maximizer.”
I hit a brick wall related to this with Searchpath. I launched a little early, and hadn’t yet finished the invoicing system so that customers automatically got an email receipt for each charge. Then life and other work got in the way, and weeks later I still hadn’t shipped it. I wanted it to be completely perfect and automated, so that I never had to think about it.
But I did think about it. I thought about what would happen if I sent a receipt with the wrong dollar amount, or the wrong product name, or the wrong wording so that customers got confused enough to cancel their subscription.
So I built half a system first. I’m manually clicking a button to send out receipts, and in the process reviewing them to make sure that customers are being invoiced correctly. It won’t scale much longer — in fact, many receipts were already sent late — but for now it gets the ball moving forward again, and brings some confidence to finish the missing pieces.