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DigitalOcean "pulled the rug out from under" Ryan Bates (RailsCasts) (twitter.com/rbates)
75 points by waffle_ss on Nov 10, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 29 comments

Digital Ocean Killed Our Company https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20064169

For quick reference here is their official post-mortem for that incident: https://www.digitalocean.com/blog/an-update-on-last-weeks-cu...?

That's sad. It was your recommendation that led my company to be a customer of DO for more than 5 years.

I'm sure they've gotten 10x more value from your recommendation than they realise, and it fueled their early growth.

Here are the details for those interested:

I received an automated email September 2 stating charges were accumulating on my sponsored DigitalOcean account. This has happened in the past so I assumed it was a fault due to changes in their billing system.

I couldn't find a contact that still worked at the company, so I opened a support ticket on September 5 asking if they were willing to continue sponsorship. I received a response the same day stating they informed the CSM team and one would reach out to me.

I didn't receive a response from that team until October 6. In the meantime I received constant automated emails stating my account was overdue. I emailed them a couple times concerned about this and they stated "Please don’t worry about immediate account suspension."

The reason they gave for stopping sponsorship was "DigitalOcean recently stopped providing a small group of accounts free access but given RailsCasts history with us, I am requesting an exception be made."

We setup a Google hangout meeting on October 15 to discuss renewal and concluded I may qualify for an annual credit under their open source program. I told them I would need a little time to evaluate the requirements of the app since it doesn't receive as much traffic as it used to.

On October 21 at 4 AM my account was suspended automatically due to overdue payment. When I woke up and saw this I emailed them and they reactivated my account an hour later and moved the deadline to Nov 10.

After further discussions we concluded a $360 credit would work for the next year at a new droplet size. I asked "Is it possible to start the $360 credit on November 10 and clear the existing balance at that time? Currently it says my account owes $654, not certain where that number came from."

They responded "I will reach out to our billing team about this. It looks like a majority of the $654 due is what your account has accrued over time. I will work to clear the balance from before the free status was turned off."

I responded "Considering there was no warning that the free status would be turned off, is it possible to clear the balance after I've transitioned to the smaller droplet (by November 10)? There's still a balance for this month which will be around $80."

They responded "It looks like communication was sent out from DO on 7/17 regarding Railscast's free account status being turned off on 9/1."

I could find no record of that email in my Gmail account. I asked for a copy of the email and they said "It looks like the email was sent from success@info.digitalocean.com to your RailsCast email on 7/17/2020. If you have unsubscribed from DigitalOcean emails in the past, this could explain why you did not receive the communication."

Apparently the email was sent through their promotional channels which I am unsubscribed from. I was receiving other emails regarding billing but never received a notice of the sponsorship ending.

They also stated "$558.68 out of the $654.68 was from the usage your account consumed before being set free in 2014. In order to avoid suspension, the balance will need to be paid off by 11/10."

I gave evidence that the $558.68 was a fault of their invoicing system and my account was free from the beginning. In fact, I have an email from a DigitalOcean co-founder stating my account would be setup with "a lifetime of credits". I can understand if they didn't want to be committed to this statement from 8 years ago, but at least be up front about it and don't charge me for something I never agreed to.

They stated "As an act of good faith, I will work with finance to provide a credit towards the balance ($558.68) you previously owed before having your account marked free."

A few days later the deadline was approaching. I asked for an update on this but did not receive any response. By this time my total account balance showed $749.62 which it appeared I needed to pay before Nov 10 in order to avoid the site going down again. That weekend I decided to move the app over to Linode.

On November 9 I received an email from them stating they cleared the $558.68 but "You will still need to pay for your September and October consumption ($190.94). If you do not pay by tomorrow, you run the risk of your account be suspended and losing access to your data."

I was not happy with this result. The $190.94 was largely due to me waiting on them during the discussions. Each response from them would take a few days up to a week to get back. I don't feel right about promoting a business which charges someone for something they never agreed to.

This is when I tweeted that railscasts.com has moved over to Linode. Later that day I received an automated email from DigitalOcean granting my account $1,150.00 credit. I emailed this morning asking about this but haven't heard back yet. While I appreciate the gesture, I have no plans to be sponsored by DigitalOcean again.

Update: DigitalOcean sent a thoughtful apology and is willing to continue sponsoring RailsCasts. While I do appreciate their years of sponsorship in the past, I have no plans to go back.

Update 2: To help make amends, DigitalOcean donated $5,000 to an open source project of my choice. I chose Stimulus Reflex. Nate and team have done an amazing job. What a classy move DO, thanks!

Imagine being the guy who forced Railscasts off DO.

It trained an entire generation of Rubyists and Rails programmers.

Forever grateful for those videos

Oh Digital Ocean... this is going cost you way more that what you intended to charge Ryan, this bad experience will spread like fire among developers.

Ryan - you literally, not figuratively, literally taught me how to program. Nothing to do with your post, just wanted to say thanks :) P.S DigitalOcean... seriously?

I bet whoever handled your support request didn't have any idea what you did for the Ruby/Rails community.

Dear DigitalOcean, you dropped the ball and this will cost you dearly. Now that $2000~ will be a drop in the bucket compared to what it will cost you to regain all those customers using marketing dollars.

Wow, interesting story. You would think that customer success would have the authority to grant credit to a customer quickly with no red tape.

It was only $360. Super inexpensive sponsorship spot.

Maybe you can team up with Chris from GoRails and do some cool stuff together. Dream team <3

That would be so much fun. I originally started GoRails because I missed Railscasts so much. <3 I learned everything from Railscasts when I started with Rails.

I am a long time DO user. I am with them since their first YouTube ad. Anyone remembers "You have been coding like a beast..." ad? I have aggressively promoted them in my circle. But I love Ryan more. He helped me with my Rails chops. I am an Indiehacker and most of my projects are hosted with them. I don't bill much, around $200 a month but I am moving that business to Linode. Bye bye DO.

Major balls dropped, multiple times. Ouch, sorry Ryan.

I’ve been kicking around the idea of moving my stuff off DO. This might be the push that does it.

I did move to Linode a while ago... their hardware per dolar is even a better deal. It feels DigitalOcean derailed at some point in the past, not the same company that got us all to like them in the first place.

It will be interesting to watch Linode claim back the lost ground from DO.

With railscasts you created a real legacy!

I do hope Linode provided some sort of credits to you :)

Really grateful for your work, Ryan. I'm not happy that this happened to you

Thank you for all your help in the past Ryan. Sorry you had to go through this.

Okaaay... I won't be hosting anything on DigitalOcean.

Funnily enough, caught this last week https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24979294 - made me reconsider the value I'm getting from DO given what I can get as Hetzner's "auction" servers for the same money (or less).

Generally speaking, I have nothing but respect for Digital Ocean usually. What they provide is competitive, and have had very few problems. But was umming and ahhing about using some (rare) free time next week to test out that jump - this might just have galvanized me.

The fact you can even have something like this happen says a very bad thing about the company. I will be sure to migrate all my droplets soon, that’s for certain.

this is/was about a sponsorship deal or something related?

It's a long story, but in summary: they pulled sponsorship without notifying me, charged me for hosting while I asked what was going on (they took forever to respond), and shut down the site for a few hours during discussions when they assured me they wouldn't. I have been unable to reason with them and decided I cannot promote a company who does business in this way.

You should really consider providing some more details on the pulled sponsorship so people here can make informed judgements.

The audience here isn't generally the 'summary' type.

Well, since you asked for details, here they are. :)

I posted a separate comment at the root with details.

What has their reasoning been for cancelling the sponsership without nofiying you?

funny they're hosting their conference today

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