Unacceptable Kryptonite

We’re on a travel break, so there was no Meetup this evening.

This turned out to be a blessing in disguise! Meetups are at 8am over here in the Singapore time zone, and when I got up this morning I discovered that the RINGKNOCKER website was down hard. Regular attendees who might have lost track of the schedule and turned up anyway would have been treated to this message when they visited the website:

Our hosting service reported the first outage at 3:42 am my time, which is puzzling because I’m the only person with access to the breaky parts and I was sound asleep!

The short story is that we’ve got a bunch of third-party widgets on the site, called plugins, that do useful stuff like create a post on the home page when we get a new Subscriber. Those third parties sometimes issue updates for their plugins, and we’ve got so many of them that as a matter of convenience we install those updates automatically. So last night we accepted delivery of a buggy update, and it broke our site.

On one hand: if you want to do stuff all by yourself that would have taken an entire development team ten years ago, this is the price you pay. If you want to be a man of steel, you’re going to have to accept a certain vulnerability to kryptonite.

But on the other hand: you have to choose your vulnerabilities carefully! It’s only dumb luck this happened on a Meetup day with no scheduled Meetup. What if exactly the same thing happened two weeks from today, when we’re hosting VetCor Services CEO Paul Huszar—a RINGKNOCKER Sponsor—in the speaker’s chair?

We’re working on national speakers whose media availability is scheduled months in advance. Is the convenience of easy plugin updates really worth the risk of fouling up one of those opportunities?

This is obviously a question that plays out in contexts far larger than RINGKNOCKER. And, when the stakes are high, the answer is never obvious.

But it is worth observing that before you can decide which kinds of kryptonite pose an acceptable risk, you have to be aware that kryptonite is actually a thing.

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