A friend of mine has stepped forward to help with support and operations. He's inspired me to keep going forward so I can go wander into the woods while you all get your servers for cryptocurrency. He's one of the few people I actually trust with access. So, not closing up shop any time soon. So please, unless your offer is for $14.88M, hold off on it for a while.
For a long time I thought it would be wonderful working for myself. I finally found out that in many ways it is. But SporeStack, while not a huge consumer of my time, lives and dies by me and me alone. I always have some level of concern for it. This online thing that needs to always be working. I can't take off to the woods for a week. I can't go with a friend on a long roadtrip without connectivity. I try to get online every 24 hours at the very least. I keep paying for an unlimited data hotspot that I hardly ever use just because I might need it. There's a lot of unlikely but possible things that could go wrong at any moment.
And while I completely control SporeStack, now it controls me. If I don't want to have to be tethered to it, I have two options.
I like SporeStack a lot and I have some amazing customers. I am just trying to see out into the horizon of where this will eventually end up. I don't want to be on the hook for it for the rest of my life. How long I will let myself be tied down to it, I don't know.
The reality I now see is that hosting businesses need to be big enough that people can take breaks as normally it's a 24/7/365 business. And one person is just too small for that. So, I don't really know what to do. At this point I would consider selling it to the right buyer, someone who would take excellent care of my customers.
Ideally, it would grow to the point where I could hire someone to run it. But that takes almost as much trust and a lot of money that I'm not making with it. For the amount I'm making from SporeStack it's becoming obvious that it really isn't worth the time I've put into it. That might change, but realistically it also might not.
I finally have full time work. The sad reality is that I make more in one day of this new job than I do all month with SporeStack.
For my long term goals, I'd rather help people host themselves. We live in a world of centralized services. Slack, Discord, Zoom, Github, Skype, Gmail, etc. Everything is so helpessly interconnected and there's no real digital independence. The nice thing about VPS hosting is that at least it's a modular, well established component. Nowadays, so much is built upon pillars of things built on other pillars. "Cloud" storage, loadbalancers, queues, IAM roles, etc. It becomes something you could never actually reproduce at home or in a lab easily or quickly.
Yet, a $5 a month server (or about $9 a month on SporeStack) is perfectly sufficient to host chat, forums, Gogs, etc, for a small group. But instead people are willing to give up their privacy and use a "free" service, becoming the product?
I'd much rather see people selfhosting (not just because it benefits me financially) than becoming increasingly reliant on things they don't control. I've thought a bit about this with Small Scale Technology, mostly in regards to an offline hotspot. Technology should be more of a tool than a burden.
Regardless of my paranoia of central points of failure, SporeStack's critical one is me. And ultimately, all servers on SporeStack come down to that one point of failure. If I can't find some way that I can actually unplug from SporeStack, I'd like the freedom to breathe again. Even though you all are pretty easy to support on the whole, once in a blue moon, someone hosts something horrific that jeopardizes all servers hosted on SporeStack. Or there's a $2,200 bandwidth overrage which Digital Ocean was nice enough to void (they don't have per-VPS bandwidth tracking in their API).
There's a long way I could take SporeStack. I have lots of features and improvements in mind. But all it would likely bring is a few more customers whose servers would be wholly reliant on myself. And while I can handle that, I can't handle it 24/7. So in effect I've built my own cage while promising some semblance of reliability for all of you. I don't want to just half-ass it and not care. If I'm going to offer a service, I'm going to do it well.
I know this has gotten long. If you have some idea that I'm not seeing, please tell me. I'd like to know what really is the most important to my customers. And please understand that SporeStack isn't going away tomorrow. Worst case, say I never find anyone who I trust to run with it. Then I would eventually only allow builds/topups by token. Once those balances run dry, users would have to host somewhere else. Maybe allowing direct crypto topups for a short period, providing ample notice.
I've had SporeStack going strong for over three years now. I'm really proud of it and I'm proud of myself. Most of all, I'm grateful. I hope you can understand my own limitations though and that this can't last a lifetime for me. Some point, whether in 2 months or 2 years, I need to put out the torch or pass it on. Unless by some miracle it could ever grow to the point where I could have staff. Even then, it'd be some stress. But if it could run itself, if I could actually go and camp without worry, that would wonderful.
Thanks for reading,