Thursday, June 30, 2011

Time to Grow Up

Anyone who knows me knows I dread nothing more than growing up. I have a huge Peter Pan complex, and will generally shout "No! You can't catch me and make me a man!" at anyone who tries to get me to act my age.

Despite that, even I know it's time for this little project to grow up.

I got some interesting news today. I'm not going to go into great detail, as I'm not sure how much I'm allowed to or supposed to say. Suffice to say, I have a very strong feeling that in about a month, our user count and usage is going to explode. Considering we've already got 16,000 registered users, that's not a small expectation.

I've been contacting everyone who would humour me for the last few hours. I've ranted, I've raved, I've fretted. I've driven my roommate nuts. Because the thing is, I should be ecstatic. Our technology can scale to handle the load, thanks to the wonderful engineers behind App Engine. Increasing our user count should be something to celebrate. Instead, one thought dominated my mind: oh God, how am I going to pay for all this?

A lot of you have donated. We love you. A lot of you have given far more than we would ever ask you to give. We cannot express our gratitude enough. But we have to stare a dark truth in the face almost constantly: donations cannot support this application indefinitely. We need an actual business plan.

I think we may have found one. I think you're going to be pretty pleased with it. I know I am. I'm not sure if we're going to end up using it yet. We're going to try a lot of things in the next month or so, in preparation for our event. I was going to release a new iteration of the software with a bunch of shiny new features and some bells and whistles attached. That plan has been shelved for the time being. Instead, we're going to focus on what we have and make it solid. Spit-shine it, if you will. Dylan is working hard on some UX/UI stuff. I'm working hard on the software to run our new business plan. Tino is fretting about money and doing all the boring math to try and measure whether or not our plan is working.

I'll let you know when I know more and can say more. All I know right now is that we're going to have a frantic month, and it's going to end with a bang. And when it goes bang, we're going to need your love and support to see us through. If you have thought about donating but haven't yet, now's a wonderful time. The team feels like we're standing on a precipice; we can either end the month with the project rising to a new level none of us ever dreamed it could rise to, or we can end the month chasing servers, donations, and bills, trying to make ends meet.

And all we know is we're going to need your help. You've held with us this far, and we're grateful for that. We hope you'll weather this with us, too.

Monday, June 27, 2011

We Want To Know You

I'll keep this one brief, guys. We have a special occasion coming up in the next few weeks, and have a few ideas on how to celebrate. But we'd really like to involve our users a bit, too. So here's the deal:

Email I don't care what you send me. Send me a drawing. Send me a song you wrote. Send me a picture of you. Send me an explanation of why you use 2cloud. Send me your favourite memory. Send me anything (legal and family friendly) you'd like, so long as it (in any way, shape, or form) represents you. There are a lot of you, and I'd like to get to know some of you on any level I can. I've been blessed with getting to know some of you pretty well. The rest of you... I'm friendly. Say hi. I love to meet users and talk.

Please understand that by sending me things, you're giving the project permission to republish them. It hasn't been determined how we'll do that, yet. It really depends on what we get and how many of them we get. But we'll do something (unless we get nothing). This project exists because of its users, though, and I'd really like to include something that shows off our amazing users in our special event. If you're shy or embarrassed or have some other reason for wanting to maintain privacy, that's okay too. I'll respect the wishes you attach to the emails. If you don't want to be named, just say so. If you don't even want it published, just say so-- I appreciate you sharing a bit of yourself with me.

Thank you. All of you. Almost daily, I'm amazed by how awesome all of you are.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Why We Love Open Source

We work really hard to make 2cloud in an open source, dentralised format. We spend a lot of time making everything in such a way that you can set up your own server, your own clients, and run them without us knowing anything about it. We believe (strongly!) that you don't need our permission to use our software how you want to.

Fortunately, we aren't the only ones that believe in this. We wanted to take a moment to thank the companies and individuals who have offered us discounts and free services just because our software is open source. These people deserve a round of applause.

  • Tender runs the 2cloud help site. We love it. It makes handling user problems, suggestions, and requests easy. It helps keep everything running, keep all the questions answered. And because 2cloud is open source, Tender has graciously provided this service to us for free.
  • Github stores our code base and issue trackers. It's amazing. Anyone can contribute a patch to any of our software using a pull request. We all stay on the same page, thanks to their phenomenal issues support. Because our repositories are all open source, we get this for free.
  • Balsamiq Mockups helps us figure out how to make our different software. We hear a lot about how terrible our UX and UI is, and we're working hard on that. Balsamiq is making everything so much easier. We generate mockups quickly, and they help us clarify our thinking. And again, thanks to their support for open source projects, Balsamiq has provided this software to us for free.
Are these the only products we use that support open source? Of course not. We use a lot of open source applications in our development: Android, vim, Eclipse, NodeJS, Chromium... The list of open source software that makes this project possible is staggering in its size.

We're eating a lot of costs to keep the public server up, and free. While your donations are appreciated and helpful, they don't cover the hosting costs... by quite a margin. Since Second Bit acquired 2cloud in January 2011, it has spent $400 on keeping the server online. That's $400 more than has been donated. And while we've made strides that make our server cheaper and cheaper to keep online, we've been struggling to keep pace with more and more users. Our next iteration will cost about as much to run, but will be available on more platforms than ever, and the upgrade is focused on adding more and more platforms in an easy, scalable, modularised way. We're really proud of the system we've come up with, but it's going to lead to increased costs as iOS and Firefox users (eventually) join our ranks. We've been talking with Spaz about including it natively in their award-winning Twitter client for Adobe Air and HP's webOS. We're really excited about this, but again, we need to find a way to pay for all this new traffic. Between January 1st and today, 14,700 people have used 2cloud. That's a lot of people in six months. And as we advance to new platforms and add new ways to share links and new features, we expect that number to explode.

We're working on a donation system that will let you sign up to be a subscriber. It will bill you $5 a month, for as long as you want to support the service. It will also accept one-off donations. Of course, our top donators will be listed (if they choose) with a (optionally) a link to a website of their choice, as our way of saying thank you for support. This system isn't ready yet, but we're working hard on it. In the meantime, I encourage to donate if you can. The public server is surviving by the skin of its teeth, as money runs out for it. Don't worry-- when the new service is ready, we'll email everyone that has donated with instructions on how to claim your donations publicly if you'd like.

Thank you all for your support of this software. Really, it's mind-blowing. And a huge thank you goes to all the companies and individuals who support open source software. You make this project possible.