"as a Service" vs "hobbyists"

There is a recurring issue, and we have to tackle it.

When we started IndieHosters, the idea was more to reach the 99% out there that don’t have IT knowledge. I’d say that 50% of our users are like this, and they love our services, there are no problems for them. When they have issue, they contact us and we solve it.
But with our free software approach, and our natural connections to the nerdiest out there, we also attracted the other part which are the “hobbyists”. For them we also solve a nice problem, they want free software, they know how to do it, but they just don’t have time to take care of it, so they delegate it to us.


After some time, we noticed that the first kind (“as a service”) wanted all the support possible. They don’t want to even bother to go to admin interface.

For the hobbyist, then we’ll take care of Infrastructure support as we always did. When it starts to touch the application, then it is your responsibility. You can come here and ask question, and we respond on a “best effort” basis. (If you need, you can always contract us to help you fix the application issue, or report it mainstream for you).

If you feel it is our fault, and this is really blocking for you, you can always send an email, we’ll find the root cause, and if it was application, then we would tell you the amount of time we spent, and you’d be free to donate this amount (or not). We’d do that, because we trust that if there is something wrong, it might be our fault, so we need to investigate.

Responsibility separation

This is also a difficult question. If we manage it all, then we don’t give access to admin interface. Indeed, if you mess up things, why should we spend time for free to fix it for you. If you don’t have access, and the separation is clear, it is easier for everybody.

If it is for a hobbyist, they want to have access to the bits, I totally understand that (I’m a hobbyist myself :slight_smile: ). So for now, they have access to the web admin interface of there apps. But usually it is not enough.
They also need access to:

  • the code (not necessarily the core code of the apps, but some folder of it)
  • the logs


As you imagine, the first kind, “as a service” is taking us a lot more time, so the price will be different.
Basically, we don’t want to abandon our “hobbyist” users, we love them too, so we keep the price as it was from the beginning.
But we need to raise the price for the “as a service” users, as it comes with more services.

We have to reflect that on our new website, but it is already what we are doing and people are happy.

Empower user

The “as a service” feel empowered if we do everything for them, so they can focus on other things.
The hobbyist want to change things, break things and revert when possible.
What we can promise is that users will always be free (as in freedom and free beer) to change their plans from “as a service” to “hobbyist” and vice versa.

The actual question

Hobbyists want it all then, they want to be fully empowered. So it basically means root access to their environment.
But we run a docker infrastructure so we actually can’t.

Until now, this is what I hear that people really need:

  • access to the logs (at least the web and application server)
  • access to the files to be able to modify them (they all request ftp, but well)
  • phpMyAdmin…
  • MySQL access

This would be possible to add these features, but:

  • it will require some works
  • it will actually be more complexe, so more expensive to host
    And actually the hobbyist want to pay less :confused:

Or maybe there is way, we stay true to our values of the modern web and we offer hobbyists to catch their knowledge by forcing them to use modern tools (and no more cowboy coding )

So the plan would be:

  • find a way to send logs to the end user in a secure way (sincerely, I have no idea how to do that, the best, would be to expose ELK, but ELK don’t offer authorization…)
  • whatever code the end user want to modify, it is done via git
  • if there is a need for phpMyAdmin, well, we have to see

What do you think? would love your feedback!

Thanks for this, Pierre. I’m offering my feedback as these questions affect me directly.

First, I need to correct one thing. I do not actually want free software. I want to pay for software. I want to be the customer, not the product. That is why I pay for email, for my RSS reader, for my social network and for some of the podcasts I listen to. I also want value for money, where possible.

So, although, by your definition, I am a hobbyist, that is only partly true. I do not know how to do it, at least not for some things. I paid for indiehosts to host one of my domains specifically because I did not know how to install an SSL certificate, in the days before Let’s Encrypt made it easy. That was the main task I delegated to you, and I have no complaints at all.

The only application I am interested in here is Known, which I am using as an entry point to explore and learn about indieweb. My problem with support for Known is that I have absolutely no access to fix anything myself. But I do not feel that I get the kind of support you describe for “as a service” either.

So we are both stuck. You say it is not worth your while to fix things for me because you say I am a hobbyist. And although I am what you call a hobbyist, I cannot fix it myself either. And, as you point out, I can’t even look at the logs for the server that I am, I remind you, paying for.

What to do?

One thing I would suggest is to remember that even hobbyists do not know as much as you do. So a statement like this:

But we run a docker infrastructure so we actually can’t.

means nothing to me. I have heard of Docker, but I have no idea what it is or why it means you cannot offer me acces. You need to explain better.

Also, this:

And actually the hobbyist want to pay less :confused:

is your assumption. You certainly haven’t asked me, yet.

If you want to force me to use modern tools, which I apprecaite, it would be nice if you would also either provide tutorials or, even better, point to some useful resources so that hobbyists can catch up at least a little.

As with the Docker business above, I do not know what this means either:

  • find a way to send logs to the end user in a secure way (sincerely, I have no idea how to do that, the best, would be to expose ELK, but ELK don’t offer authorization…)

What is ELK?

In email, you and I have discussed using git to modify the Known application, but with a five-minute interval for polling it will take me forever to see whether a series of changes are doing what I want them to do. And If I don’t do them one at a time, I won’t know where things have gone wrong. You must appreciate that.

My two most recent issues concern a series of errors from PHP and a server error from woodwind.xyz. The PHP errors are still not resolved. And you tell me there are no errors in the server logs. Of course I trust you on that, but now what do you think I can do? The developer of woodwind is likely to ask me for extracts from the logs. How do I give them to him?

I am slowly and reluctantly coming to the conclusion that one of my original reason for me coming to indiehosters – to get SSL so that I could experiment with indieweb – is no longer valid, if I can get Let’s Encrypt to work on a host such as Dreamhost.

The other reason – to support indieweb – remains, but not if I am not getting what I need and what I am paying for.

What do you think? would love your feedback!

So, that’s what I think, and that’s my feedback. Thanks for the opportunity.

Free as in freedom of speech, not free beer :slight_smile: Libre if you prefer :slight_smile:

Sorry for the trivial explanation. Every part of every application of every user runs in a docker container and is well isolated from the rest. Each container produces logs that are difficult to route towards a file for instance. I mean it would be doable with some modifications, but I don’t want much modifications. I want to run your known, the same way I run mine. I want every piece to be standard, and the standard is to not route logs to files.

Hum, I I guess the “as a Service” option for known would cost around 200€/year, but in the case of known, we wouldn’t be much competitive with withknown.com for instance. But if you want me to run it as service, just ask me, I’d be happy to do it, then whenever you have a trouble, I log there as an admin, and fix your issue.

In the long run, we would. It is just that the time is missing right now. But just ask what you need to get started and I point you to the right direction. (That’s what I try with this forum, make people ask things here, so little by little, we answer questions, instead of planning upfront what would people need.)

ELK stands for Elastic Logstash Kibana, it is a known stack to do central logging for modern infrastructure. This is what we are builinding to be able to monitor some critical services, and be warn of some errors before users. This is where the logs would be routed by default. The idea would be to give you access to this interface, so you could see your logs. But currently, the way it is implemented, you would have access to all logs. We need ACL (Access control list) feature to have more fined grain control over who has access to what. This is an entreprise/paid feature. (But maybe, we have to explore this possibility: https://floragunn.com/search-guard-5/ )
Again, all of this would require developing new features.

It is actually now one minute. But still, you should test your changes locally, and then push them to master. If you want to setup a local known that is like in IndieHoters, we can also help and guide you :slight_smile:

This is difficult topic, I agree, the easiest is me investigating. Can you open an issue with woodwind, and ping me if there is anything I can do?

I understand perfectly.

Well, to be honest, and I hope you were not mislead, I am part of the indieweb, I am a supporter, and we did IndieHosters to support it also, but I’m not the IndieWeb. In my opinion, you would support indieweb as much, maybe even more if you run your own server. We created IndieHosters to help people get up and running without the knowledge to run a server. So indeed, it was really targeted to hobbyists. But it is nice to have also hobbyists, as they are willing to discover early bugs.
We need to adapt I guess, and it would take time. I would totally understand if you leave, and would help you. It is up to you, I can’t say more, and be more honest :slight_smile:

I opened an issue a couple of days ago; no reply yet.

Thanks for the rest of your explanations.

To be honest, if I am going to have a local development instance of Known (or anything else) and push it to a repository, I may as well try to operate my own server. I have some spare domains. Maybe I will experiment and then, if I get things working to my own satisfaction, you can hand back my domain and the export from Known and I will strike out on my own.

In all cases, it is recommended :slight_smile:
Here you could use: https://github.com/indiehosters/known/ to develop locally, this is what we use in prod :slight_smile:

Are you sure?


Dokku is really nice.

Adminer, if you please.

@jeremycherfas Believe it or not, but I just tried a new feature, and it would give you access to your logs among other actions.

I sent you an email with details.