I hope very much that they all last forever.
But I will lose nothing if any or all of them disappear without giving me a chance to retrieve my data. Why? Because everything I've ever posted to any of them was already saved on my hard drive first. A simple solution for a frugal, OCD hacker who wants the best of all worlds.
[UPDATE: Several people have suggested automating this or making it easier. My response: If you're a hacker and more than 5% of what you type goes anywhere other than your code repository, you should probably reevaluate what you're doing before you make it any easier to do it.]
In fact, it's ironic that Posterous once wooed users by building simple import tools to pull in data from Wordpress (among others). Now, people are using Wordpress's import tools to pull their Posterous blogs back into the WP platform.
If you have your own domain name set up, rather than a free subdomain tied to the blogging platform, there is no issue of worrying about people finding you. Same goes for using RSS if you use Feedburner or have your feed available at a standard location on your own domain.
I have a custom domain name for my Posterous blog, so links to the main site will not break, but links to individual posts will break if the new blogging platform doesn't follow the same link naming convention as Posterous (which most likely they don't)
Do you guys have any ideas/tricks how I can avoid issues like the above, and how to make sure that certain posts which currently rank high in Google search results keep their rank, if possible?
You can do this by dumping the relative paths of your previous blog posts and current ones into your .htaccess file. This won't get all of the old links (category/tag links, for instance) but at least direct links to a specific post will end up in the right place.
Alternatively, is it a good or bad idea to route all traffic to my blog through a VPS I have, so that all the old blog post addresses go to the right place on one of the hosted blog services? (I'm just trying to avoid hosting my own blog, since I assume there are a lot of headaches involved)
With GitHub pages, you don't need to worry about the hosting aspect and you'll always have a copy of your site locally. Pretty sure you can deal with the .htaccess file stuff too.
If you decide to look into this, check out Jekyll-bootstrap too .
edit: I've just realised I don't need the code to be merged into jekyll in order to use it (facepalm).
edit2: ok, maybe not as straightforward as I thought. I'm not really a coder so it takes me longer to understand what scripts are doing (and then tweak them so they work for me).
Routing all blog traffic through your VPS is a bad idea, IMHO. Your VPS becomes a single point of failure for your blog - if it stops working all of your posts are unavailable, not just the ones that require 301s.
You know, I was more than willing to "agree to disagree" until I read this. Sorry, but I just don't buy the idea that I should spend 95% of my time in front of a computer writing code. I don't think it's practical or even preferable.
Writing things other than code is a useful thing for a hacker. It certainly doesn't seem to have hurt pg, does it? Plus, I can't think of very many people whose emails I've read (myself included) who wouldn't benefit from more writing practice.
In other words, it means that 'if 99.9% of the time you spend typing isn't spent on typing code, you're doing it wrong'. Or at least I understood it this way.
I would hazard to guess that a lot of people reading this are very capable of creating a backup system, but they 'don't have the time' to either implement it or double-check that it's working.
A lot of smart people who deal in abstractions (like computing) are paralyzed. They have understanding how to do a task, but never seem to have the motivation to follow though. Especially if the task has no immediate reward, or no obvious indication that the task is done.
Going forward, I see Dropbox or something like it making "backups to additional local spindles" become quaint and anachronistic. Why backup to an external drive next to my computer, when "the cloud" arranges to have copies (and archives) of all my data on multiple machines I own, as well as on Dropbox's (aka Amazon's) servers?
However, considering how ridiculously easy it is to set up a simple rsync script, I doubt that many tech people do not do backups. Even though proper backups include frequent integrity checks, just setting up a rsync script gets you a long way already. If your data is encrypted though, a flipped bit might cause havoc already, thus making frequent backup integrity checks absolutely mandatory.
TL;DR I agree with the above.
I write everything in TextPad first, saving as I go with Control-S to the appropriate directory using the date & time in the file name. I like to work full screen in large letters and I love lime green on black.
I have one corporate client that deletes all emails every 6 weeks (for legal reasons). Seems like I'm the only one who has a record of anything because of my practice.
I operate under the assumption that anything free will go away at some point. I plan on moving somewhere else with my data. Also, it's really easy to find anything on my hard disk.
A little background:
Years ago, I found my best friend from college and we started to exchange emails. I emailed him a trivia quiz with 20 questions. He later told me that he was laughing like crazy while he answered them for the next hour. His wife called him when he was on Question #19. By the time he returned, his computer had crashed and he lost everything. (This was obviously pre-Gmail.) Now we'll never know what he answered.
I don't know what will be important later, so I'll never let anything like that ever happen to me.
I'm gently surprised you haven't created a more automatic solution. Something that's autosaving (with a timestamp in the name) every X seconds, perhaps. Something that allows you to enter text direct to the browser text field but still saves a copy for you.
I'm sure a many people would like to automatically capture everything they type and have it saved, but would not have the discipline to copy and paste.
But, as I say, if it works for you that's all you need.
Isn't this kinda weird? How exactly is he operating his business, such that needs to leave absolutely no paper trail?
What do you do with those texts? Reading them back months later and say "oh, what a sharp mind I have"? And what about the context (other's messages you answer to or that answer yours)? Do you also save it? Are also as worthly as yours?
I'm really surprised somebody does this.
Of course, you are welcome to judge it as simple ego-stroking or whatever, but quite a few people would disagree.
I'm a hacker but I'm also a blogger, marketer, entrepreneur and many other things. And I am sure many other users here also are. The idea that you should only write code all the time is flawed, at best.
And hard drives crash. And other backups also can get lost.
But I agree one shouldn't worry much about online data being lost. And for any data you really care about, have some backups, yes.
However, how do you deal with threaded conversations and tracking the 1 liner replies to those mails? There are a large # of mails that I write that fall into this category.
Someone I know wrote his own email client that is essentially a long text buffer where email conversations are persisted to a single text file. He has commands that allow him to select portions of text from that file to compose in his replies. He's used that system since the 1980's and still has all of his email from back then logged into individual files.
Tracking replies is done automatically as long as you actually click "reply", because mail clients add the In-Reply-To header with the ID of the message you're replying to.
I'm not trying to be obnoxious, I just don't understand what's the issue.
I only save that last copy in the same .txt file. I email it to myself, Ctrl-A, Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V, X-Delete.
edit: Has anyone here migrated from Google Sites to Jekyll before?
For example, I use Read It Later, so I wrote a script to fetch the URLs and then use wget to mirror each URL.
Tumblr is even easier: open the e.g. Liked page, use xdotool in a bash loop to keep pressing pagedown, then just save the page with the browser itself.
Which would be a very useful tool indeed.
Proxies already exist for linking your Twitter and Facebook feeds, and this trend is going to continue and possibly one day even replace the WWW we use today.
Good examples are:
* Instapaper — Marco's one-man-shop, stable and profitable,
* Smugmug — family owned, users pay them money, stable and profitable,
* Dropbox — which I also pay for — but is still unlikely to find an acquirer.
I recently decided not to sign on several new services because I couldn't see a business model.
I'd like pg to address this in one of his essays, given that YC is all about building stuff people want without paying too much attention to the business side of things (e.g. actual cash flow), and with the explicit goal of reaching an exit for the founders.
Would raganwald be writing his essay if he owned his data and could easily export it from Posterous?
Or would he have just exported his data and imported it into another blogging service?
People have been asking Posterous for a data export solution FOR YEARS, and Posterous NEVER supplied one.
There is backuperous, but that's some guy's project and doesn't save media.
I wanted to learn more, so I wrote my own data export tool in elisp -- it took me a couple of weeks to do so, with the main task being learning elisp and how the url package works, and now I feel confident I can get the data in several client's blogs back from Posterous and import it into another blogging service. But it will surely be a pain in the butt.
So while you are looking for a) and b), also look for c) companies that allow you to own your own data and export it and back it up.
On that scale, Posterous is/was always just absolutely terrible for their customers, and at the risk of alienating people here, I absolutely condemn Posterous and their behavior in this manner.
Posterous had years to supply a backup/export solution and consistently, and clearly intentionally, failed to do so. In contrast, I wrote my own backup solution in a very short time. There was no technical reason why Posterous could not supply a backup solution. And the resources required were minimal, almost trival. That they did no do so indicates this was part of a strategy of customer lock-in, and was a value-subtract to customers, not a value-add, and just abusive of the customer in general.
Here at HN, we love to laud the founders and act all clubby with them, but ya know, what Posterous did to its users by failing to provide a backup was just terrible and shame on Posterous' founders for using the user's data as an element of their lock-in strategy.
But fundamentally YC is about shooting companies out of a cannon. Charging users a fee puts user acquisition and retention at risk. For Instapaper and Pinboard that risk is well worth the reward. But most YC companies have acclimated themselves to the idea of working for a VC-funded board of directors; if you're going to take VC, the risk is very often not worth it in the first year or two of your company, because traction trumps revenue in most VC-funded companies.
The overwhelming majority of YC's returns come from exits from VC-funded companies.
So the interests of free users and YC don't really so much line up here.
And I think there's room for more Dropboxes. What I find strange is that so few startups (YC-funded or not) even try the freemium model seriously. It took Dropbox a long time and a lot of experimentation to find a scalable business model, and they wouldn't have found it had they not been persistent.
Building something great is harder than making money, but even YC's success depends on startups that can do both.
It's only companies with a good business model that can support free users as a marketing cost in the long run. All others die once they run out of funding cycles.
I can easily see them being a massive acqui-hire, as they've solved the problems Apple, Google, and Microsoft (lexicographical order) have been trying to solve for years, and I mean the technical problems and also the marketing problems.
I don't pay for dropbox. I love it, but I could replace the utility it affords me with a couple of shell scripts and an S3 instance in a heartbeat.
I've got my website on Tumblr and by using their service I feel like I'm making a pretty big commitment to them, but since it's free it doesn't feel like they have the same level of commitment to me.
I freaking love Tumblr and would be happy to pay. But right now it's not clear to me if they're making any money at all and that's a big concern as a user. Just remind me, how do those guys make money again?
Also, Pinboard founder Maciej Ceglowski wrote on the topic of being a free user not that long ago: http://blog.pinboard.in/2011/12/don_t_be_a_free_user/
The TL;DR version was: Exploding growth + free service = losing lots of money. Ouch.
The sensible middle ground is to host your site anywhere you want, but only using your own domain. If someone pulls a Posterous, you just point your domain at the next vendor, export from old and import to new.
Same with email. Your address should be under a domain that you own, then you can host your email anywhere that allows you to use your own domain. Even gmail does this.
The fact is, Posterous tried and lost. By all accounts, valiantly.
I find myself nodding when Maciej writes "Don't Be A Free User", because he is competing with free (and also because I want him to give me a tour of his vault of golden coins). Pointing out that your pricing scheme makes you a sustainable competitive alternative is fair.
But to the best of my knowledge, you aren't competing with Posterous. Why do you feel the need to rub this in?
I sincerely apologize if I'm just missing some parodic element of this post.
I did, however, try to make a point that I would never move my business onto a free or pre-revenue site.
FWIW, I knew this could happen when I first started using Posterous, and I deliberately cut my blogging in two. The stuff that is just hot air—like this post—is on Posterous. I could honestly live with losing all of it, permanently. It’s personal and not mission-critical to my livelihood.
The stuff that I cherish, the stuff with code, is on Github. That’s my business, and I treat it differently. They seem to have a working business, and I have an automatic backup strategy, I have other places I can re-host it, I can Jekyl-ize it to a standard web host, I have my own exit plan.
So no quarrel with Posterous, I’m not losing a thing. I’m just pointing out that while I might do something personal with a pre-revenue business, I’m not betting real money on it.
> I did, however, try to make a point that I would never move my business onto a free or pre-revenue site.
That sounds like (and certainly comes across far more strongly in the blog post as) a criticism. It sounds fairer the way it was put here than how you said it there. Not having a monetization strategy that involves charging customers is not coextensive with being a mere portfolio exhibit.
It's just a goofy thing I do.
There are people out there trying to compete with free and building slow, deliberate, organic growth on the model. So it's hard for me to feel sorry for the users who feel burned when "free" doesn't work out.
The problem is that it has also conditioned people to believe that all office space should be free. Those who build incredibly efficient office space are still going to have a hard time charging rent.
These architect aquisitions are every bit as much about the investors as they are the architects. Until investors get selective and demand real value, I'm not sure it's going away.
(Wow, I might need to go to prison for extended torture of an analogy.)
For that reason alone I would never consider hosting something like a blog on real estate owned by another party.
Another risk is that the domain sooner or later ends up in the hands of some scammer or pill pusher.
This is, off course, assuming you are comparing products that are like-for-like in features and that the product is good. Paying for a crap product won't save it.
Completely separately, Posterous lost all personal credit when they did that anti-Tumblr campaign a while ago. Not that I care at all about Tumblr, but I felt it was in bad taste. When a company does bad things, I cannot help but imagine that they will do other "bad" things.
But if there’s a big lock-in, as users you have to do your due diligence (we used to jokingly call it “doing the dew”). Say there’s a service for managing software projects. Well, if I’m going to bet hundreds of thousands of dollars plus my career and reputation on a service, I want to ask a lot of questions, that’s natural.
I’m actually cool with Posterous, I hope the folks behind it do really well.
I realized just now that I sounded very critical of Posterous. I also hope they do very well.
Posterous' "badness" is more of a matter of corporate moral personality. As a company develops, its leaders will have opportunities to make decisions which show their opinions on things. It doesn't surprise me when their future decisions also reflect those opinions.
For a high-profile example: Remember when Google decided it was going to start censoring search results in China? At the time, it was huge, extremely surprising news. However, it also showed a change in corporate opinion. Given subsequent developments, you can "see" the change in corporate decisions.
The reason this doesn't happen with real-estate is because unlike startups - there are no Facebooks.
Someone once explained Disney's town of Celebration to me this way:
It took Disney more than a decade to develop Celebration. They spent several hundred million dollars. In the end, they made about $200 million. The ROI on Pocahontas was significantly better.
Maybe Aladdin said it best...do you trust me? (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkwMEwenaQQ)
1. An interesting story itself: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LiveJournal
of the alternatives he listed, 6 are dead.
of the supposedly dead and gone bubble 2.0 products he listed, all are up and running.
When friends call me for marketing advice, I enjoy talking about it, and am always willing to share some insight for free, but this makes me wonder if I am doing them a disservice.
Odds are, they just resent the advice, or even if they agree with it, how likely are they to use it if it's free.
Seems like sharing ideas and free advice is a lose-lose.
If you really want to help people, make them pay for it!
Assume that Posterous was charging for their services with a monthly fee. Is this any guarantee that they wouldn't take the same offer to sell? Or would you just be out your monthly fees and still have to move?
The more money they have coming in, the more desirable an acquisition they become. In theory, they might have less pressure to sell if they have cash flow, but it's not clear this is enough to counteract their increased appeal to an acquirer. Rather than indicting "free" services, it would seem more rational to avoid "cloud" services whether paid or unpaid.
Perhap you should choose only services from companies you feel are too large to be acquired (Google) or companies whose code is available to run on your own if they were to close down (Github). Or stick with self-hosted solutions with that plan that you can change hosts as necessary.
For any company you chose, I think you have to presume that while they will try to keep their service running, they will be doing so primarily out of self-interest. The more you can align your interests with theirs, the better the chance that the service will continue and you won't have to move.
It is valid concern that, for example, Facebook may decide that providing their graph APIs is suddenly not in their interest and cut off the service.
Same thing happened with some Google APIs like the Buzz feed. I only briefly used the Buzz feed for a small customer task one time, and the termination of Buzz and the feed does not hurt me, but it could have.
I find the user experience using G+ to be good, but the APIs are not in anywhere near a form where I would build part of a business on them.
The situation is different with other infrastructure like AWS, Heroku, and AppEngine: I understand the long term business model of the providers and trust that these services will likely be available for a long time.
Saving blogging and other self promotion information is important. I hosted my own blogging solution in the past, but now I compromise: use Blogger, map it to a subdomain on my main web site, and make sure I back up Blogger's data so I could re-host it with some effort. So, I trade off some control for making life easier.
Profit is not crucial because the only asset that has seen substantial investment is time. However, I don't feel sorry for consumers of these services. The services are, after all, free, and don't usually make any guarantees that they will be around for ever. In this case we're talking about a blogging website that's been around for a few years, not a bank. A little perspective helps a lot.
Putting the onus on contributors to back up what they publish would be a crap shot; even with backups there may not be a plan for recovery, and recovery may be impossible if the contributor is unable or unwilling to handle it themselves.
Commenters and other participants have it even harder, due to the variety of sites and platforms they participate in (Lazarus can help saving one's own comments now that CoComment is shutting down, wget can be used to rescue content with advance warning).
Maybe the best alternative would be a commitment from the platforms to keep a low-bandwidth, possibly throttled archive available; failing that, to outsource the work to an organisation like the internet archive. This would be a step up from the current standard, which is, at best, a period of warning (lets external participants make backups), or a commitment to data liberation, which unfortunately ends up with many contributors failing to republish their content.
It's probably worthwhile giving your users a chance to recover their content. It's probably not worthwhile to be a digital packrat.
You might be surprised. Archaeologists are forced to derive much of what they know about vanished cultures from bits of ephemera from their daily lives -- things you'd find in a midden heap, like shards of discarded pottery, spat-out plant seeds and gnawed animal bones, and the like. Why? Because those are the things that survived.
Would our understanding of those cultures be richer if we could hear their songs and read their poetry? Undoubtedly. But we can learn an awful lot about them from their ephemera, even without that.
relying on anybody else to do backups for you is the crapshoot. doing it yourself is really the only way to be sure.
I just don't buy it, how do we know Google will be around in 20 years, never mind free solutions not supplemented with paid for services?
Nothing is guaranteed, nothing is secure, nothing is forever. I wish I could say I could make a solution that would ease this problem but my solution might not stand the test of time. Shit happens! Saving it to your hard drive means you are only backing it up to something that could explode (dramatisation). Further backing up to the cloud is relying again on a solution that you are expecting to work and stick around, it may not!
You need to go into any situation like this with some level of acknowledgement that it just might not work.
That actually sounded like a great deal. Easily worth the hassle of possibly having to move out and find space elsewhere.
Hopefully this will help other posterous user wondering where to go
Stephen Wolfram (though an egomaniac that has picked some unfair fights against his employees) and his company Wolfram Research built a rather solid offering in "old style" proprietary commercial software with Mathematica and now Wolfram Alpha, making his money on incredibly high quality and pouring decades of revenue back into product development and offering a generous free tier of access and deep discounts for educational and personal use.
UPDATE: Thanks for the clarification everyone. I guess I'm way too literal early in the morning.
You don't pay for it, so you don't have any claim as a tenant when they decide to cash out.
Paid business models do not guarantee success. If they did, Posterous would have charged. It seems land is so cheap, landlords have concluded the best possible chance to find a business model is to be a free landlord. That is a great world for tenants since they don't have to pay rent, and it's a tough world for landlords since they have to maintain beautiful buildings with donation boxes and ad banners.
Given the lack of tenant laws (imagine if there were tenant laws...) paying rent is no guarantee of anything. You can be evicted, abused, moved around, neglected, or anything else without warning or compensation. That's a good thing, which demonstrates how strained and poor this analogy is.
Good luck finding quality, innovative, paid services to match Facebook, Twitter, and Posterous. Let us know how that goes. You'll have some luck, but I'm not sure your chances are much better. I call bullshit.
What does this say about Twitter that they have to buy product staff? What does that say about the value of their IPO?
The Thiel proposition would be, long-term, we should be betting against every one who IPO'd thus far.
The issue is that a bunch of folks who will flip IPO shares need to quote a number-of-employees. The implication is that a high number of employees is an indicator of the viability of the company.