MothersClick.com and the entire ParentsClick Network is very proud to announce that we've been acquired by Lifetime Entertainment. This marks a major milestone for a digital company whose online technology stack is largely built on Drupal.

The transaction is further proof that Drupal is competing with the likes of Ruby on Rails as a framework for high-tech startups. Lifetime's strategic acquisition of ParentsClick Network shows its belief that Drupal can power some of the largest online social community sites. Lifetime's VP of technology Nathan Potter states, "With the acquisition of ParentsClick, we continue to grow our core competency in Drupal development. With one of the largest and fastest growing Drupal-based communities anywhere, we will continue to show the world what Drupal is capable of."

About the Business

When MothersClick launched in late 2006, our primary goal was to provide a better group solution than Yahoo groups. Our target audience defined the required functionality: moms want to frequently ask questions and find answers, tapping into to their collective wisdom and sharing the wealth of parenting knowledge with each other. "Creating a safe and useful place for moms to connect, learn, and share online was the goal," says Dietrich von Behren, founder & CEO of ParentsClick Network.

Now take that same concept and apply it to dads, and soon we'll be introducing FathersClick. Finally, our plans include steps to scaleout our solution to a state-specific nationwide network and international sites for parents. With a portfolio of 200+ strategic parenting-related domains, these can now be used to roll out a network of sites, including SEO optimized landing pages like MothersGroups.com. As the technical pieces are wrapped up and marketing efforts are underway, we are on the eve of deploying these sites in the coming months.

How Drupal was Used

So why Drupal? Only two years ago, Drupal (circa v4.7 days) offered not only a group solution but had dozens of modules available to quickly build a full-fledged community. And as the ambition of any startup: we wanted to get our product to market as quickly as possible, and Drupal was great for just this.

But that ease of use comes at a cost: you can't download a module to do everything you want your site to do, and there isn't yet a WYSIWYG option to build a company upon a flourishing online community.

That's where expertise is required. Myself, Ted Serbinski (aka m3avrck), Chief Technology Officer and Scott Reynolds (aka, Scott Reynolds), Senior Developer & Engineer were the driving tech forces behind the site. I've been active with the Drupal project for nearly 4 years (and a former Lullabot too), and have contributed back nearly 1000 patches, from numerous core patches to contributed modules. Scott started as a Google Summer of Code student and has contributed back his fair share of patches too.

With an active Drupal community record, we both realized the inheritance weakness of the community: it was moving too slow and too generalized for us to keep pace with our own sites. Therefore, we decided to start scraping downloaded modules in favor of our own community API to sit on top of Drupal. We developed a custom groups module dubbed "community" that not only handled groups for us, but also tied into multisite allowing us to scale our communities up to entire sites. And all of this with one module that was benchmarked to be 240% faster than OG & Domain modules combined. With that said, our module wasn't nearly as flexible as those, but for our purposes, does exactly what we needed.

From there we created a unique interface by plugging other features to our community API, such as friends and multiple user profiles, with many more exciting features coming soon.

With our new community API we also needed a new system to send alerts, notifications, and emails. To accelerate our efforts, we collaborated with the good folks at Development Seed, who were also working on a brand new api: Notifications & Messaging. We worked closely with them on alpha builds sending feedback and patches as we became the largest site making use of these impressive modules.

Not only that, but we contributed backs tons of patches to Drupal core, views, OG (when we were using it), and other modules. We've released Simplefeed which is one of the main components powering Mom Blog Network. Additionally, we have released our high-performance and SEO optimized theme, Blueprint which sits at the base of all our sites. We have other modules in the works to be released later this fall/spring too.

What about performance? Can Drupal scale? Out of the box, it can do pretty well. But once tuned and optimized, it definitely can. We've benchmarked our framework (we do have a modified version of Drupal we're running, with almost all patches living in the Drupal queue and/or in D6 or D7 now) and servers to be able to handle 1 billion+ page views a month. Not too shabby.

Lessons Learned

In building out this startup, tons of lessons have been learned.

The single biggest one is determination. Without it, none of this would have been possible on both the tech side and business fronts. If you keep forging ahead, despite obstacles and uncertainties which could dissuade you, eventually success will find you.

From a Drupal perspective, don't take the easy way out. Sure, you may think this or that module on Drupal.org may do almost what you need it to. But then you may end up spending more time trying to fit that module to your own needs than starting from scratch. While I'm a huge believer in contributing back, you have to think logically: sometimes the quickest answer, download and use, isn't the best answer. Rewriting a module and trying to contribute back doesn't work and contributing back a duplicate module in most cases doesn't help--it further fragments the module situation. So get back to the basics and write some code. The results will amaze you (as did our community API). And in the process you might just discover where some core frameworks can further be improved, contributing back ideas and patches.

We look forward to continuing to build out the ParentsClick Network and contributing even more back to the community!

Comments

JohnForsythe’s picture

Off topic, but in the interest of keeping the front page a little more coherent, can we change the headline to something Drupal-centric? Maybe "Lifetime Networks acquires popular Drupal-powered parenting site". For people not familiar with MothersClick, the current headline doesn't really tell you much.

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m3avrck’s picture

Ah yes John, very good catch. Surprised no editors caught this either thanks :)

Partner at Detroit Venture Partners. Sold ParentsClick to A&E. Ex-Drupal dev. Cornell Engineering alum. Tech pioneer leading startup renaissance in Detroit.

iimitk’s picture

Source.

That's great. Hard work pays off well. Congrats.

_________________________
"Creativity is knowing how to hide your resources" - Albert Einstein.

________________________
"Creativity is knowing how to hide your resources" - Albert Einstein.

gollyg’s picture

Interesting write up. Totally agree with the concept of building your own modules when your requirements differ from what's available. There is a great definition of ruby on rails that kind of applies to downloading a module that is an imperfect fit:

Ruby on Rails: The VisualBasic of the Web, making the first ninety percent of what you need to do easy by making the last ten percent impossible.

http://www.eod.com/devil/archive/ruby_on_rails.html

I am guessing this means that your community api is not going to be released. I would be interested in hearing more about what you developed on this front.

Good luck with the site, its great to see people who are so active in drupal development reaping the rewards.

AHerbertas’s picture

very good job, by the way what you have developed and haven't shared with the community?

Greetings,
Herbertas

slayerment’s picture

Great post Ted. Glad to see that all the hard work has paid off and hope all works out well!

ChrisBryant’s picture

Congratulations Dietrich, Ted and the rest of the team! Great work on the network of sites and your contributions to the Drupal community.

Great design btw! ;-)

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Gravitek Labs

thomjjames’s picture

Congratulations to everyone involved! Great news!
I think this is great news for Drupal too because it throws it into the spotlight!

Tom
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Peiper’s picture

Great site and great news for Drupal m3avrck!
We are also running a huge site with propietary code right now and heading to a brand new Drupal redesing. At this time, we need 10 servers (4 of them webservers) to serve 60 million pages/month. I'm wondering if you can tell the community how many servers you are using at Mothersclick to achieve 1 billion pages/month (I guess is 1.000 millions). Thanks and congratulations.

m3avrck’s picture

To reach that number in our testing we were running 10 servers as well, with 6 web and 4 DB. To squeeze out more pageviews at this level requires tons of server optimization and caching but varies greatly on your Drupal configuration. I hope to detail more of this soon on my blog. And thanks!

Partner at Detroit Venture Partners. Sold ParentsClick to A&E. Ex-Drupal dev. Cornell Engineering alum. Tech pioneer leading startup renaissance in Detroit.

Peiper’s picture

We've benchmarked our framework (we do have a modified version of Drupal we're running, with almost all patches living in the Drupal queue and/or in D6 or D7 now) and servers to be able to handle 1 billion+ page views a month

Sorry for the missunderstanding, I've read you're already serving 1 billion page views a month, now I see it is a stress test. Hoping to read the details at your blog about tuning and caching, I assume that figures are reached only with anonymous users on a testing environement.

markus_petrux’s picture

I would appreciate if you could describe a little bit your infrastructure to reach those numbers. If you don't mind, I have a few questions.

running 10 servers as well, with 6 web and 4 DB

How did you approach the problem to sharing readonly -vs- read/write files across web servers?
How were you balancing connections between webservers? squid? cdn? other?
If you were using MySQL replication or similar, how many new/updated nodes/comments/other? a day? Total number of nodes?
If you were using memcached, where in those 10 boxes did you put the nodes? or you where using additional dedicated/cheaper boxes for that purpose?

I hope to detail more of this soon on my blog.

Please post the link here.

Doubt is the beginning, not the end of wisdom.

julma’s picture

Thank you for sharing this.

Would you be interested to tell us and discuss more about what you ve learned in project management with drupal so far ?
http://groups.drupal.org/projectManagement

Blackstallion’s picture

Mylifetime.com looks great!
You are right, Drupal is more of a Content Management Framework than a CMS, if one needs to take full advantage of it, one has to manually fine tune it by doing custom coding.
Thanks for posting this.
Cheers

dmnd’s picture

Hi Ted,
That is great news. congratulations!

Was your site built on 4.7?
Have you kept on 4.7?
How do you deal with the upgrade issue?
5? 6?

Thank you. congratulations again!

John27’s picture

Very interesting, how it works.
Any body use that system?

flash menu’s picture

Could you write time/money you've spent to build that site?