Prototyping applications with Airtable

Gotta say: using spreadsheet as poor-man’s database makes me feel poor every time. Google Sheets is so convenient that everybody starts a new sheet to hold some information in a table. The problem is, sheets are so convenient that some sheets keep on starting again, and again. Soon the company has 20 sheets holding bad information. It’s the tragedy of the corporate wikis all over again.

Instead I’m one of the few who used to love Microsoft Access: I know, it’s bad as a database but to rapidly prototyping small applications it was awesome. As a poor-mans database, Access was at least credit-worthy compared to spreadsheets.

Unfortunately Google doesn’t have something similar to MS Access so when I discovered Airtable, I got really happy. I’ve prototyped a small application to keep track of conferences and call for papers. Finally I don’t have to keep entering the same data every year in a new sheet and I can keep tables in fairly normalized form. Nice stuff. I wish Google Apps buys it … and the cynical in me says: “so we can have dozens of similar databases instead of hundreds of similar spreadsheets (the same tragedy, at a smaller scale).”

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“Do not feed the troll” is still the best advice

Feels like an innocent request from Techdirt:

Do you have examples of communities or individuals coming up with unique, creative or innovative ways to respond to hateful, abusive or trollish speech?

but I still think silence is the best response. Block and report the trolls to the authorities because engaging in any ways with them will only make things worse.

The old advice “Don’t feed the troll!” is still the best advice.

Why you should not use Slack for volunteer communities

Last night I was asked again to join a Slack channel during a community event and I lost it. I lost the patience for this constant push into a walled garden. I can accept that only at work. I don’t want my email to be given away to a company so they can brag about their growth rate… and for what in exchange? More work for me to signup, pay attention to terms of service, unsubscribe, remove notifications…

No! No! and NO! Community managers, don’t use Slack and please note:

  • It’s tacky to ask volunteers to surrender their email address to a third party who will use to send “occasionally” unrequested “news and announcements”. No, thank you.
  • It’s annoying to force your volunteers to signup for yet another service. Click click click click email click-verify tutorial etc. No, thank you.
  • It’s wrong to archive your volunteers conversations and credentials in a big fat place where the next criminal will grab them. Because you know it will eventually happen, right? No, thank you.

Slack works so well in work environment because it keeps history, it’s very good on mobile, its notifications can be fine tuned… it’s pervasive, and very effective… at work! But the last thing I want as a volunteer is to spend time to fine tune notifications for each and every group I join.

Also, you can’t expect volunteers to keep up with the history of a channel (hey, hello, hi, wazzup, thank you, great, awesome, gif, gif gif… ), so that Slack feature is not useful.  As a community manager, you should know that there is always one that abuses of the @here @channel @all shortcuts to ask moronic “support” questions in the most populated #general channel. There you have your daily “@all it doesn’t work!” even if there is a channel called #support.

Buzz off, and RTFM! I said it!

There are better ways, not intrusive, easy to start and quit when the meeting is done. Etherpads have chat: do the volunteer work, take notes, share links on the chat. If etherpad is too complicated, I’d accept Google Docs.

Do you just need a temporary channel to chat? Just create one on the fly with freenode web chat, mibbit or any other IRC on web. Hit it and quit it: chances are, the archives of your meeting are not going to be read by anybody anyway. Let your community focus on the asynchronous systems: email works well, forums, comments on your website etc.

You should not give away your community members : they’re not yours to give, in the first place!

VCs who miss the point of open source shouldn’t fund it | InfoWorld

People who believe that Apache is a competitor, OSI approves licenses that permit monopolization, Red Hat is a business that’s succeeded through artificial scarcity, and open source communities with diverse agendas are “broken” are not the people you want in your new open source business.

Well said. Via Simon Phipps on http://www.infoworld.com/article/3032120/open-source-tools/vcs-who-miss-the-point-of-open-source-shouldnt-fund-it.html

DreamHost Gives Free SSL/TLS Certificates with Let’s Encrypt

DreamHost has done the right thing, deciding to let go of a portion of its revenues in favor of free SSL/TLS certificates for everybody.

It’s a great pleasure to work for such a company, knowing every day that customers come first and revenues are a side effect. DreamHost may not be the multi-billion dollar juggernaut in the industry but the people here are helpful, nice, competent and believe in what they do.

Let’s Encrypt is another contribution to a free society, pairing up with the contributions Ceph, Astara and OpenStack, WordPress and many other free software/open source projects directly and indirectly sponsored by DreamHost.

Source: Free SSL/TLS Certificates at DreamHost with Let’s Encrypt

PS: we’re hiring a Cloud Storage engineer.

Meet OpenStack at FOSDEM 2016

The most important gathering of free software and open source enthusiasts in Europe is coming on Jan 30-31, in Brussels and OpenStack will have a table booth there, plus many talks.

I look forward to go there to get the pulse on the open source community regarding the abolition of Safe Harbor provision, and how that impacts users of US-based public clouds, like DreamHost. It’s a complicated issue that I’ve just started looking into. One of the talks I’ll make sure to attend to is Rosario Di Somma’s talk about Magnum in production: he’s been evaluating Magnum for DreamHost and he’ll share the first results of his investigations.

On the OpenStack side of things, Adrien Cunin is the main point of contact and he’s looking for volunteers to preside at the official OpenStack table at FOSDEM. If you have holes in your agenda, please consider adding your name to the etherpad.