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Fully Self-Hosted by End of 2021?

Is this a new year's resolution I can keep?

 The fireball sun rising behind hills.
  The fireball sun rising behind hills.

20201215-DSC_5362.jpg by Harshad Sharma is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

I have been procrastinating it for years now. Self-host everything, not only because it's a matter of privacy, which is quite high on my priorities, but because other platforms come and go.

...and they take your years of work with them when they die.

It's been almost a decade now, but I am still not over the anger I felt towards Twitter for buying two companies whose products I loved and used - and shutting them down. IWantSandy and Posterous were brilliant companies, but they were lost to time. And with Posterous, went my meticulously documented log of a trip of a lifetime. Almost ten years later, I still have not gotten around to re-publishing that story.

Somewhere I gave in to the "common sense" that you can't host everything yourself, the effort isn't worth it. It is a lot of work to maintain a server on the public Internet. The risks are too high, the costs of serving high-quality images and videos is way too high. Storing all your data in the cloud is advisable, because the generous companies subsidize your cost of storing the data and sharing with others through their platforms. Unfortunately, it's true. Then why the scare quotes?

Because when all is said and done, I feel I've lost more time keeping up with the terms and conditions, shenanigans around private data and all-out surveillance by these platforms which completely negates the benefits. And then they die on you.

 Spider's web dotted with droplets from condensed mist.
  Spider's web dotted with droplets from condensed mist.

20201215-DSC_0335.jpg by Harshad Sharma is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

And as someone who is capable of running a server, it pains me to see when the common knowledge around web design/ops insists that you need to depend on CDNs and route your data through several third-parties to deliver your content to your audience. And these third-parties have their way with tracking everyone's every move, building profiles of people who show interest in your work.

I refuse to accept that as the only way to run a site.

If you bothered to come read thist post, I owe it to you that your reading habits are not tracked. Simply because I expect the same when I read other blogs. Because it's the natural thing to do.

I have been running this blog as a static site with no cookies, no Javascript, no advertisements, no CDNs and barely kilobytes of download to share my words - and rarely have I written much. But I want to give it a shot one more time to change the part about posting here.

Along with text, I want to shift my focus of posting photos from Twitter and Instagram to this blog. I might set up a separate gallery with ability to search by EXIF tags someday. Until then, a chronological stream suffices.

But it does not end there, I am seriously considering moving my source code to self-hosted git repos. I already have been running my own Syncthing instance, a replacement for Dropbox - which is great because the good folks at Dropbox can't be bothered to run their app on FreeBSD anymore - or at least that was the case last time I tried. And the unthinkable - some day, run my own mail server.

All this has two benefits as I see it. First, I keep my sysadmin skills sharp, it is hard-earned knowledge that I do not want to lose. Hyperscaled automated deployments are fine for companies, but I'm in no need for all that jazz. There's a certain charm in actually knowing the systems you build upon. To grow your familiarity over years and be intimately aware of what really goes on under the hood of your machines. Given a choice between learning what some company thinks is the new hot way of doing things, versus learning the basic building blocks and putting them together, even if clumsily, I choose the latter.

Second, I can make it easier for my family to get the archive of everything I've posted - it'll be on the home server, even when this server goes down after I die. I'll use other services to mirror my content so it remains available for a while for others, but it is likely that those companies will bite the dust long before I do. And when they do, this time, my data will not be lost with them.

 A sky full of stars.
  A sky full of stars.

20201215-DSC_5517.jpg by Harshad Sharma is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Here's to the starry-eyed enthusiasm of resolutions we may be making for 2021! May you succeed in things you plan to do, or avoid. 2020 has taken much from us all in many ways, it's time to return the favor and do some awesome things!

For me, it's taking back control of content I create.