Technical Downsizing

Around ten years ago I ran my own servers at home. I had a free-standing half-rack with several machines rack-mounted in it along with the necessary UPS and network equipment. Even a fancy KVM at one point. I ran my websites on those machines and even my own mail server. It was fun to run this stuff and my equivalent of having a garden to tend or a workbench to tinker with things. However, it was a lot of work and the costs of maintaining it all was too much.

Long ago I decided that running your own website was no longer something a “mere citizen” should do. Email is a massive war of spam and “phishing” and it’s hard to do it well. I’ve been a happy customer of Fastmail for years now and am very satisfied with that.

The same trend has happened with other services. For a while, I ran Fever for my own RSS system and after struggling with that shifted to Feedbin, and it works great.

I got rid of the servers years ago and moved my infrastructure to VPS instances at Linode. Linode has been a great host, and I like their service. However, while the physical side of running hosts goes away maintaining a couple of Ubuntu boxes takes time and I have too little of that.

I’ve decided that it’s time to hang up the sysadmin jacket and no longer run my own servers.


The primary reason I still host everything is to learn. I like having first-hand knowledge of Ubuntu, nginx, WordPress, MediaWiki and many other systems and open-source software projects. However, at some point, the act of learning goes away, and you aren’t getting more value out of it (at least for me). After a while, you’ve absorbed that, and now you have chores. Time to update software. Time to debug a failure. Need to restart something? All maintenance with no learning.

The reality is that there is a certain minimum amount of work needed to responsibly be connected to the Internet. You need to keep an eye on systems to make sure bad things haven’t happened. You have to apply security updates. You need to upgrade your software. If you don’t do these things, you are running on borrowed time and will have a problem in the future that you are very poorly prepared for.

Right now I should have a task to upgrade Ubuntu 14.04 to 16.04. I’ll pass.

Pay for Services

For me this means I shift the effort and costs I’ve put towards running my infrastructure to service providers. I’ve already moved my blog to Squarespace who does an incredibly better job than I ever could running a blog. Why did I switch from WordPress? That’s a different blog post.

I continue to like Fastmail and Feedbin.

What about all of my sites?

One of my favorite productivity quotes goes like:

Saying no to things lets you say yes to other things.

It’s a good reminder that time is a zero sum game. I’ve had a lot of fun building different sites and playing with things, but you need to say goodbye to this stuff to say hello to other, yet to be identified, things.

One thought would be just to let them sit and not pay attention to it but I have two problems with that. First, I don’t think it’s responsible just to have servers connected to the web on autopilot. Second is that I experience a lot of cognitive load from things I’m not doing. Even with years of focus on GTD, I’m not very good at just having something deferred or paused forever reviewing monthly. It still takes up mental energy. I want to reclaim that energy!

Over the course of the next month, I’m going to be archiving and turning things down. Most of my sites are like hobby projects that very few people know exist. I’ll just archive those and shut them down. There are some bigger ones that I hope someone else will decide to host instead.

Jamie Thingelstad @jthingelstad

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