Ray Racine's Blog


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by Ray Racine on September 25, 2013

Tagged as: Programming.

Paying For Privacy?

Today I downgraded my Github account from Personal ($7/mon) to Free and I feel a tad guilty about it.

Though I was a quick to fork over my $7/mon in the early days of Github, I remember being struck by the irony of their business model of offering a centralized aspect to what is by nature a distributed thing, Git. But then again the essential tension of the internet is commercial interests desire to impose an aspect of centralization on what is by nature distributed, the Internet itself.

I never grokked the whole pull request thing. Inflexible and clumsy in comparison to the native git-format-patch options or peer-to-peer push/fetching repos. In executing the nuts-and-bolts of distributed management of source code, Github’s value add of pull requests, forks and click-click-click web pages is an impediment. The Issue system is a plus, not much else.

So the primary benefits of Github are:

  1. Marketing myself via a public display of code.
  2. Cloud availability of my code.
  3. Backup of my code.

Odd isn’t it? We voluntarily give Github our code and then pay them for the distinguished privilege of preventing item #1 while retaining items #2 and #3. $7 x 12 = $84/yr for 5 smallish repos. On par with Hulu or Netflix. It never bothered me too much as I’ve always felt that in some small way I was subsidizing one of the good guys, who gave back regarding open source.

Recently, I ran across a posting pointing out that a 3 year EC2 micro reserved instance is less than $7/mon, on which one can self host their own Github using gitolite. Gitolite is hosted on Github.

Turns out a 1 year reserved instance is $8 and change. There are cheaper options, but I purchased an AWS EC2 Micro reserved instance (1 yr) and migrated my private Github repos. The entire setup and migration of my private repos from Github was ~20 minutes. (Not opting to host my public repos via Gitolite.)

I now have:

  1. Unlimited private repos for an extra $1 a month.
  2. Unlimited READ/WRITE contributors per repo, by appending a public ssh key.
  3. Easy public read-only clonability via git-daemon.

For sound sleeping, in addition I created git bare, mirror repos in my Ubuntu One 5 gig free, auto-sync, cloud folder, snapped an AMI, and pushed a tar ball onto S3 as, you know, 5 copies is what you need when the zombies start to shamble.

SCM For Nothing And A Server For Free.

For me, effectively a 1-1 swap. Gained some things, lost some things in and around how I manage my private code.

The big win of course is netting out a 24/7/365 Linux server sitting on the internet. I bought a vanity domain, rayracine.us and I now push to git@git.rayracine.us. This weekend I’ll move my static blog, generated by hakyll over to blog.rayracine.us. After a pitched battle royal, Postfix and Dovecot are receiving and sending emails. I’ve started the migration of saying goodbye and good riddance to Gmail.

My guilt is that Github now subsidizes me as I’ve left my few public repos on Github. The $7 that used flow to them now pays for unlimited private repos and collaborators, email hosting and a to-be mini social site/blog. Modulo the unobscurable Sauron’s Eye of the NSA, no longer will my own private email be used against me in a marketing campaign.

Bad Things Sometimes Happen to the Less Evil

In the tech world it’s tough sieving “Good” from “Evil” in the context of your assigned role as “the product”. Ranking the usual suspects in degrees of “Less Evil” is especially subjective.

Alas poor Github. Good reputation in the community. Free public repos. Effectively strapped a booster rocket on the pace and scope of the open source community. Certainly falling in the far less evil than most category. In the measure of some, the veritable Mother Teresa of the online, social oriented, commercial tech companies.

Motivations are hard to ascribe. Did Mother Teresa really care about the plight of the lowest among us or did she coldly run the numbers and determined that couple of decades slopping gruel was a small price to pay for prime seating at God’s dinner table for eternity. She was either the most selfish or the most selfless person I shall ever note in my lifetime.

One day, Github, a for profit, commercial endeavor, will be bought out or file an IPO and go public. Maybe Linked In. Maybe Microsoft or Oracle in some last minute gambit to attenuate their rapid descent into irrelevance. Personally I’ve never confused Larry Ellison with Mother Teresa, with little doubt concerning his position on subsidizing open source, never mind expectations concerning the eternal seating arrangement on the dais. Hint: Mother Teresa you are going to have to slide down a seat.

Not a question of if only when and who. Eventually some marketing dweeb will promulgate a plan to, in their view, fully monetize Github’s products (that’s you) and boost EPS by instituting cost controls around offering this free stuff.

Say Goodby To Github

Redirect that monthly allowance you send Github’s way and purchase your own point of presence on the internet. Get a domain name. Get off Gmail. Maintain your own social presence. Start to stop being the product.