Armchair Scaling Experts

random($foo): Internet Asshattery, Armchair Scaling Experts Edition. If you’re not the largest site using a given piece of software or framework and you’re having more trouble than someone who is, you’re doing it wrong.

With WordPress specifically, there are hundreds of sites I can point to that scale just fine to meaningful traffic levels with no caching, plugins, or anything. If your server is tuned for serving static files instead of dynamic requests, then a plugin to make WP output static files is a fine band-aid, but only if you don’t have the access or expertise to properly configure things in the first place. (In which case you should consider alternative hosting, help, or a hosted service like But people like to think that (1) they’re bigger or more special than anyone else or (2) that the 5-6 layers that sit under WordPress have nothing to do with its performance.

I don’t expect everyone to know about this, it’s very much a learning-by-doing thing and everyone’s situation is different. But at least operate with the assumption that if there’s someone bigger running without troubles that they (or sufficient Googling) might be able to help you out.

See also: the shockingly ignorant comments (over 200 at this writing) on this post. There are some smart people in there, but they’re drowned out by “wind0z sux!” and “that’s what you get for using (PHP|MySQL|WP|IIS|RDBMS)…”

Here’s a WordPress blog doing just fine:

6 thoughts on “Armchair Scaling Experts

  1. I commented over there, and I’m reasonably certain I was ignored. Here’s the gist of what I said:

    “WordPress is a Ford Taurus: suitable for most people, and it CAN be tricked out for NASCAR if you know what you’re doing… but let’s not bash it because it’s not a Formula-1 racer out of the box. Most people can’t afford it, and it’s too much horsepower to carry the groceries.”

    I agree, it is more than somewhat arrogant for programmers to bash the system because they can write something leaner to meet their needs. I don’t give a rat’s butt if it meets their needs… will it meet mine? If not, then the vast majority of us (who never get Dugg or Crunched) will be happy with a tool that is as easy as we need it to be, and as powerful as we want it to be.

  2. Divorced from context, that’s a meaningless graph. You could run a horribly configured box and blog given big enough iron.

    If it’s a 386 SX, kudos to whoever that may be.

  3. I get where you’re coming from, but I am a little discomforted when I see the “you’re doing it wrong” refrain. Because, as you suggest, many of WordPress’s loyal users don’t have the option to “do it right” on the server of their choice.

    I think your message here is directed mainly at people who suggest WP doesn’t scale well for big sites. But isn’t it as or more important to consider the small and medium sized sites that don’t have the luxury of “doing it right?”

    For many people who are shopping around for a blogging solution, “doing it right” means finding something they can install on their shared hosting server that will hopefully withstand a popular digg reference, if they’re so lucky as to get one. For these people “doing it right” could mean installing a system such as Movable Type that doesn’t consider static caching to be a band-aid.

    For what it’s worth, my WordPress blog is hosted on a shared hosting account and when I started receiving sizable bursts of traffic on a regular basis, the standard WordPress install was indeed overwhelmed. From a consumer point of view, it doesn’t matter to me whether this is technically because my shared host doesn’t handle dynamic processes optimally. It just doesn’t work.

    Installing and using WP-Cache these past two years has meant that I could continue using and defending the merits of WordPress, while acknowledging to many people who complain, correctly I think, that its lack of static caching is a weak spot.

    It’s quite possible that if I hadn’t discovered WP-Cache, I would have been convinced to switch my blog over to Movable Type or another static-based solution. So … I think WP-Cache is a pretty nice band-aid! And I think it would be a lot easier to “sell” WordPress to my friends if it was enabled as a standard feature.

  4. I guess the next version 2.6 should be centered around scaling, not that WP is not good, lets say to further improve on the CPU usage.

    Or an actual comparison with MT, you can’t go wrong with facts, right? have a clean default installation and compare it.