January 31, 2023

The Platform Cooperative Cloud

Tom Critchlow has written a great essay about The Magic of Small Databases.

We’ve built many tools for publishing to the web - but I want to make the claim that we have underdeveloped the tools and platforms for publishing collections, indexes and small databases. It’s too hard to build these kinds of experiences, too hard to maintain them and a lack of collaborative tools.

Towards the end he talks about how part of the problem isn't really a technical one:

Actually - maybe this isn’t a real technology problem. Or at least not completely a technology problem. I think Substack is a good analogy here. Substack’s innovation comes in two flavors: firstly it is a lovely UX for creating, publishing and maintaining a paid email list. But secondly it’s also creating social validation and educating people that running a paid email list is a viable business.

That reminded me of a post I wrote fifteen years ago (almost to the day) - Let a Thousand Niches Wither.

In that I was grappling with how to release a tiny web service to let authors track their book's rank on Amazon. In the end I put the effort in to turn it into a service and ran it for a few years; but it wasn't ever profitable and eventually died from API-rot.

These days I'd likely just release the single-user version as open-source code, but that doesn't help most of the potential users if they don't have the technical ability to spin up their own version.

Heroku offers a solution to that, where the developer can add a fairly simple JSON file to give Heroku the instructions on how to run a version of the code. Then non-technical users could—without too much know-how—run a version of it from their Heroku account.

That used to let you run tiny sites on the free version of Heroku, but now there's no such thing. Five dollars-a-month isn't too bad, but soon adds up. More importantly, you'd want the ability to run it on a number of different services; not be tied to a single supplier.

I wonder if the Heroku JSON file would allow the bootstrapping of open-source cloud that supports such services? Ideally there would be a platform co-op (or even better, a number of platform co-ops) which would be owned by the users and the maintainers and developers. Maybe this is what co-op cloud will become?

Let me have a one-click "run this on a co-operative cloud" button to add to my open-source projects!

Posted by Adrian at January 31, 2023 10:08 PM | TrackBack

This blog post is on the personal blog of Adrian McEwen. If you want to explore the site a bit further, it might be worth having a look at the most recent entries or look through the archives or categories over on the left.

You can receive updates whenever a new post is written by subscribing to the recent posts RSS feed or

Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Note: I'm running the MT-Keystrokes plugin to filter out spam comments, which unfortunately means you have to have Javascript turned on to be able to comment.