ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog


This will be the last time I go along this area of discussion for a while because it’s just going to get very old very quickly. But I wanted, in one place, a quick manifesto/rant about this position. So here we go.


By the cloud, of course, I mean this idea that you have a local machine, a box running some OS, and a vital, distinct part of what you do and what you’re about or what you consider important to you is on other machines that you don’t run, don’t control, don’t buy, don’t administrate, and don’t really understand. These machines are connected via the internet, and if you have a company then these other machines are not machines run by your company, and if you’re a person they are giving it to you without you signing anything accompanied by cash or payment that says “and I mean it“.

Can I be clearer than that? It’s a sucker’s game. It’s a game suckers play. If you are playing it, you are a sucker.

The term, like many of its sort, has deep, deep roots in the industry that it’s being foisted upon. I’m in no mood to find specific citations today but you can be assured that the idea of a “cloud” to represent the outside network was on whiteboards that I saw working as a temp in NYNEX research labs in the late 1980s. And even by that date, it was an understood context, one going back years before.  (Terms I’ve seen retrofitted to give both the sense of timeliness and timelessness include zero-day, warez, and the war- prefix).

But this new round of it comes pre-packaged with marketer infestation. After all, it’s a great word: it insinuates soft fluffiness, a size and grandeur, and a fuzzy meaninglessness. So if you fail to deal with the underlying hard facts and cases, who can blame you? It’s a cloud. Soft, huggable cloud, I do love you and your rounded edges.

But what this all kind of hides is the situation of how you feel about stuff you generate.

Let me step aside and say that as a historian guy, I am big into collecting a lot of cast-offs. This is what I do. I’ve downloaded thousands of podcasts and millions of blog posts and a lot of other insane stupid stuff. We’ll get from that what we can, in the future. This is not about that.

This is about your data. This is about your work. This is about you using your time so that you make things and work on things and you trust a location to do “the rest” and guess what, here is what we have learned:

  • If you lose your shit, the technogeeks will not help you. They will giggle at you and make fun of your not understanding the fundamental principles and engineering of client-server models. This is kind of like firemen sitting around giggling at you because you weren’t aware of the inherent lightning-strike danger of improperly bonded CSST.
  • Since the dawn of time, companies have hired people whose entire job is to tell you everything is all right and you can completely trust them and the company is as stable as a rock, and to do so until they, themselves are fired because the company is out of business.
  • You are going to have to sit down and ask yourself some very tough questions because the time where you could get away without asking very tough questions with regard to your online presence and data are gone.

These questions that you have all work around that other overused word: value. To me, history guy, your old junk you used to do is of interest to me. But there’s a lot of people and a lot of stuff, so I wouldn’t want you to do it just for little ol’ me. But for yourself? What about yourself?

What of your work do you value? All of it? Likely not. The time you spend downloading a lot of porn, for example, is pretty cool, and if you lost all the porn, you’d probably be unhappy, but you could probably get the porn back or brand new porn that’s like porn 3.0 and new levels of porn. Probably the same for movies, for music – oh no, this data is gone, but why worry about it, you didn’t make the music or movies, so it’ll work itself out.

Less so the things you make: the writing, the linking of friends, the combined lists you collaborate on – maybe that has some value to you. When you die, of course, everyone else starts attaching arbitrary value to things you worked on or forgot about. A childhood photo of you has new meaning because the person the child became is gone. The essay you wrote in elementary school about being successful has more meaning because you turned out to be very successful. Again, this is value imposed from outside.

So what, then? What is really of meaning to you? Your twitters? Your weblog entries? Your list of bookmarks? Your photos? What?

Because if you’re not asking what stuff means anything to you, then you’re a sucker, ready to throw your stuff down at the nearest gaping hole that proclaims it is a free service (or ad-supported service), quietly flinging you past an End User License Agreement that indicates that, at the end of the day, you might as well as dragged all this stuff to the trash. If it goes, it’s gone.

There was a time when we gave the Cloud (before it was a Cloud) a big pass because technology was kind of neat and watching it all actually function is cool. I mean, if someone gives you an amazing Moon Laser and the Moon Laser lets you put words on the side of the moon, the fact that the Moon Laser’s effects wear off after a day or so isn’t that big a deal, and really, whatever you probably put on the side of the Moon with your Moon Laser is probably pretty shallow stuff along the lines of “WOW THIS IS COOL” and “FUCK MARS”. (Again, to belabor, a historian or anthropologist might be into what people, given their Moon Laser, chose to write, but that’s not your problem). Similarly so, with those early BBS writings, or the first web forums, or the first photo album sites, or the sites from 1993 and 1994. Interesting, neat, but your “work” among these halting baby steps isn’t causing you despair if it goes away. (And you’re pleasantly surprised when it shows up again, sometimes.)

Contrast, though, when people are dumping hundreds of hours a year into the Cloud. Blowing out photos. Entering day after day of entries. Sharing memories, talking about subjects that matter to them. Linking friends or commenting on statuses or trading twitters or what have you. This is a big piece, a very big piece of what is probably important stuff.

Don’t trust the Cloud to safekeep this stuff. Hell yeah, use the Cloud, blow whatever you want into the Cloud. The Internet’s a big copy machine, as they say. Blow copies into the Cloud. But please:

  • Don’t blow anything into the Cloud that you don’t have a personal copy of.
  • Insult, berate and make fun of any company that offers you something like a “sharing” site that makes you push stuff in that you can’t make copies out of or which you can’t export stuff out of. They will burble about technology issues. They are fucking lying. They might go off further about business models. They are fucking stupid. Make fun of these people, and their shitty little Cloud Cities running on low-grade cooking fat and dreams. They will die and they will take your stuff into the hole. Don’t let them.
  • Recognize a Cloud when you see it. Are you paying for these services? No? You are a sucker. You are giving people stuff for free. I pay for Vimeo and I pay for Flickr and a couple other things. This makes me a customer. Neither of these places get my only copy of anything.
  • If you want to take advantage of the froth, like with YouTube or so Google Video (oh wait! Google Video is going off the air!) then do so, but recognize that these are not Services. These are not dependable enterprises. These are parties. And parties are fun and parties are cool and you meet neat people at parties but parties are not a home.

So please, take my advice, as I go into other concentrated endeavors. Fuck the Cloud. Fuck it right in the ear. Trust it like you would trust a guy pulling up in a van offering a sweet deal on electronics. Maybe you’ll make out, maybe you won’t. But he ain’t necessarily going to be there tomorrow.

And that’s that.


I wrote this article in January of 2009. Naturally, people who make/made their living off of the concept of “The Cloud” had awesome opinions, some of them by phone. In response, I’ve written a number of follow up articles:

Dancing on Magnolia’s Grave: Fuck the Cloud II

Oh Boy, The Cloud

Outlook is Cloudy

Finally, people who go “wow, I don’t even care about this, I just like that you write long rants that drive people insane” should probably be directed to FaceFacts.

Categorised as: housecleaning | jason his own self

Comments are disabled on this post


  1. Dezro says:

    I have decided that “fucking the cloud” is what Porn 3.0 is all about.

  2. […] (that is, the man with the personal motto of ‘we are going to rescue your shit’) has blogged, rather bluntly, about an important point. Don’t trust the Cloud to safekeep this stuff. Hell yeah, use the […]

  3. l.m.orchard says:

    Thank you. I’ve been tossing around the idea of writing a blog post just like this one, with the same title, for awhile now.

    I’ve also been thinking that this is the year that I write self-hosted replacements or archiving proxies between me and all the cloud services I use.

    I’ve not developed an archival habit with respect to other people’s shit, but I’m hoping that releasing tools that work for me can help others DIY. We’ll see how far I get.

  4. […] Jason Scott: “Don’t trust the Cloud to safekeep this stuff.” […]

  5. Jason Scott says:

    Rob Sayre’s weblog posting is so inherently deluded I’m copying it here before he comes to his senses:

    Jason Scott: “Don’t trust the Cloud to safekeep this stuff.”

    Go ahead and put Stuff in the Cloud.

    Using the Cloud doesn’t mean you have to trust it. The catch is that you have to not care, which is not really a catch, since the alternative is that your Stuff ends up owning you.

    Caring about Stuff means you will fret about the fate of your tweets, the archival qualities of your home movies, the posthumus hosting of your blog, and your home will have closets full of computers.

    Egotism is expensive.

  6. Matt McKeon says:

    Great article. People are completely ignorant of “cloud services”; they enjoy sharing their lives on Twitter for instance, but don’t realize there is no direct and easy way to save those moments.

    But, the people who care about their data are doing something about it and that’s great.

    We just need more people who actually care.

  7. Max says:


  8. Thanks for writing this – between this and your previous article about AOL, I’d say it’s high time to code up some de-clouding software that regular people can use, code that takes all your tweets or bookmarks or photos or what-have-you, and outputs it to a regular old folder full of regular old HTML. I’m ready to do this for and Twitter, the two services I use.

  9. Jim Leonard says:

    I think using the term “cloud” is misleading, because you’re really damning free social networking sites, not cloud computing. Cloud computing proper is where you pay people money to hold your shit, and yes, they are responsible for not losing it.

    This is the longest post I’ve ever seen that says “do not put your only copy of data on a site you do not pay for or trust.”

  10. Jason Scott says:

    No, see, the problem, Jim, is that the term “cloud” is now being used everywhere, by everyone, and just like everything has good implementation and bad, the term is now too alluring for everyone not to use it constantly in ways that delight, amaze and sucker.

    The term is dead before it hit the ground.

  11. Robert Sayre says:

    “Rob Sayre’s weblog posting is so inherently deluded I’m copying it here before he comes to his senses”

    Thanks for writing my new blog subtitle! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Jason Scott says:

      I had an awesome review of me that used to be on the top of the page before my redesign/migration to WordPress. It said, and I do quote:

      “Jason Scott is an arrogant, self-impressed idiot who thinks he’s god’s gift to techies because he remembers “the golden days” of BBS’s. I met him at my first (and last) slashdot “meetup”; he dominated the conversation amongst a table of eight, spending hours talking about his favorite subject: himself.”
      SuperBanana, August 28, 2006

  12. Steve Webb says:

    You put it very succinctly and eloquently. My feelings exactly. I’d prefer the client/server model with a bunch of apps running on my desktop where I can access them. It’s faster, it’s more reliable, and I have control over them. If I need some data on another machine, that’s what VPNs are for. Backups are not hard to set up, so the auto-backup argument of “the cloud” is bogus. I find that local apps are much faster anyway. I don’t even like using IMAP for email – I like my email stored locally, so I can manipulate it all faster. Sure, I give up on some convenience, but I love having control.

  13. […] Scott over at ASCII has a rather hearty rant about the Cloud we are supposed to put all our data in. And he is absolutely right. In fact, it […]

  14. Adi R says:

    I want to say that I disagree completely.
    First, generalizing the “cloud” is wrong. We should, and will, make a cloud of everything soon, including your own home network, corporate networks, etc. So this generic thing you have against cloud, doesn’t hold water.
    Second, obviously you should have a copy of everything you “share”, and see cloud as simply useful utility, no more. But how is this a “surprise” to anyone? Are there really people out there that Upload photos to Flickr and delete local copies?
    Cloud is here to stay and we need to Embrace it, and learn to take full advantage of it, Porn 3.0 aside…

    • Jason Scott says:

      Good morning, giggling fireman. Yes, I am saying that some people don’t keep local copies of stuff. Also, if you have time in between giggles, note the part where I talk about using Vimeo and Flickr, sites that some people put into the “Cloud”, but which I utilize as a paying customer. I do a lot of things with The Cloud, except for inherently trust it, and not care whether it has an export function for data I care about that I generate.

  15. JosefA says:

    Coherent arguments are not made up of ad hominem, says this “sucker”.

    I don’t see any connection at all between cloud as it is used in “cloud computing” and clouds on a network diagram. One is just a convenient name and the other is just, well, a way to annotate a network entity. Tracing cloud computing back to your 80s network diagram is reaching.

    I think it’s mature to figure out how new technologies and architectures can be pragmatically employed. Blanket dismissal is to your own disadvantage.

    Regardless of whether cloud computing is new or just a rehash of the old, the mere fact that it is becoming fashionable means that market momentum places it at a completely different price/performance point, and from that perspective it is “new” (even if the specifics of the architecture might not be) and a responsible IT professional won’t dismiss it just because it’s got a new name.

    • Jason Scott says:

      We’ll agree to disagree, mostly because you’re wrong and it’s no fun arguing with wrong people.

  16. Mona says:

    This is something that I have thought of often, though I don’t know enough about server-side-anything to have thought in these terms. But I share the sentiment. I realized that there are countless dead links out there, that used to be something. I wrote a paper in high school that I also submitted to an amateur creative writing site, and it was featured on the homepage at the time. I went back years later to retrieve the writing, and the website still existed, but was not functional anymore and I was unable to access any of the content from the past submissions. Luckily, I emailed the owner of the website, since his email address was still visible in the site’s footer, in plain text. He sent it to me, which was very cool. But that’s the only case where I’ve been lucky. I save hard copies, as well as upload files that are important to me on SEVERAL different free “services” since the probability of all of them disappearing at the same time is pretty slim, unless that is a misconception.

    But I TOTALLY agree with discouraging the use of any site that doesn’t allow you to make other copies of your own work. That’s bull shit.

    To be honest, and this is a little embarrassing…I wasn’t sure what the article was about, after just reading the title of the post. But my only guess was that perhaps you meant tag clouds…thanks for making me feel stupid.

    And one more thing…are you single? After reading this article, and following it up by reading your quotation of a personal testimonial, I think you’re kind of hot. And no, I’m not joking.

  17. ross says:

    The Buddha would not have used Cloud.

    “Do not Cloud your judgment”

    He would have said.

  18. John Bender says:

    Nice link bait.

    The real promise of the cloud has nothing to do with the end user, but the more cost effective and efficient use of hardware as a service for scalability.

    Maybe it should have been “Fuck People Who Put Personal Information on the Web with no Guarantee”.


  19. Flack says:

    There are two Google headlines today. One is the one you mentioned (“Google video going away”). The other is, Google Drive will soon replace your hard drive by allowing you to copy everything up to the cloud. They probably should have spaced those two announcements apart a little bit to sell me on the second one.

    A friend of mine who works for a nameless Fortune 500 company offers “Cloud Web Hosting.” When I asked him what they meant, he said, “webhosting on virtual servers.” It’s official; “cloud” means anything you want.

  20. Mona says:

    I’m now stalking you, via twitter.

  21. MrMan says:

    Isn’t this crappy blog posted on Cloud? Buddha had his disciples blog Sutras for him, he did not blog. Mona I think you are hot, you should be part of the Cloud.

  22. Paul O'Brian says:

    I read this and thought: he is absolutely right, and I am a sucker.

    I am off to archive my ljs RIGHT NOW.

  23. Frank says:

    The first thing you have to do is understand what cloud computing is.

    You aren’t even arguing against cloud computing, you are arguing against websites. Those websites may or may not be based on cloud computing. Cloud computing is about the infrastructure, not the application.

    Twitter is NOT cloud computing.

    Anyone who argues against cloud computing and then calls Twitter, gmail, hotmail, flickr, etc cloud computing doesn’t have a fucking clue.

    so what i say is go fuck yourself and get a fucking clue and then you can waste people’s time with your ranting bullshit.

  24. Chucho says:

    Frank, you have absolutley no fucking idea what cloud computing is. Cloud computing is a trap!! Web-based programs like Google’s Gmail will force people to buy into locked, proprietary systems that will cost more and more over time. According to Richard Stallman, the concept of using web-based programs like Google’s Gmail is “worse than stupidity”.

  25. Jim says:

    I didn’t read the article or the comments but let me add my opinion anyway:

    You are an idiot.

    Data storage costs money one way or another. I for one *love* that Amazon leases me high-speed, high-availability storage for pennies in the cloud. And I’m now making a killing re-selling Amazon’s infrastructure to my clients. The raw costs are cheap and the support costs are zero.

    And my and my clients data is available everywhere. Always.

    I’ve done all the alternatives: built and maintain a raid array on my LAN, managed both my own T1 with my own servers, leased shared hosting and leased dedicated hosting.

    All of these suck.

    My raid array still needs to be backed up off-site. (Guess where I store it? Amazon S3). I can’t maintain 99.9% uptime on both a data link and a box on my own without losing sleep. Shared hosting is oversold, and dedicated hosting is expensive and wasteful.

    So now I make sweet sweet love to the cloud, and in return it rains down pennies.

  26. Jason Scott says:

    I didn’t read the article or the comments but let me add my opinion anyway: You are an idiot.

    Evening, Jim. From Slashdot, I presume.

  27. æon says:

    The best definition of cloud I saw is rich unger’s “outsourcing your data”. When your primary resource is your data (whether you’re an enterprise, or an independent creator) you have to think extra hard before you outsource it. Most of the times the answer to outsourcing of the primary resource is “don’t”. Techies recognize that, when it comes to outsourcing developers to india in core IT enterprises (there’s an article on the subject in joel’s book) . But cloud is new and shiny and it’s almost all about the tool construction, so the bullshit detectors fail to go off. Considering that techies also tend to mostly ignore the significance of the result (e.g. “a book”), and fetishize the means (e.g. “emacs vs. Word”), there’s really no surprise that there’s so much unchallenged hype.

    (i’ve not come up with that, i found the original thought here

  28. George Glass says:

    I’ve lost so much shit in the cloud it is not funny! I don’t think it’s fair either…maybe Barack can do something about this…I really don’t like the cloud. Thank you author!

  29. ross says:

    i don’t give a fuck whether they call it cloud or mashed fucking potatoes it’s still not trustworthy.

  30. Michael says:

    Funny, weren’t the same things said about eCommerce when it first hit? “I’d never trust a site taking my credit card.” Sure, there are still issues with security and privacy as related to eCommerce.” But wait now, could we live without our Amazon’s or other eCommerce-enabled sites? Hmmm.
    Also, your “understanding” of Cloud Computing is very shallow. Sure, Gmail is the cloud but it’s much broader and deeper than that. Of course you can bash and bad mouth things you don’t fully understand…and raise the FUD factor. New isn’t bad, new is different and takes time to be fully vetted, then either adopted or discarded. It’s your call.
    In the meantime, you can live in “history” but you might want to check out: as it sheds a different perspective on this…with a bang!

  31. Although I don’t agree with your thesis, I love the way you describe it. Keep us thinking.

  32. Flack says:

    Mmmmmm. Mashed fucking potatoes …

  33. Oldskool, Fuck the Cloud …

    This comment by Jim Leonard, Trixter/Hornet for those who still remember our previous lives , is right on the spot.

    “This is the longest post I’ve ever seen that says “do not put your only copy of data on a site you do not pay for or trust.”

  34. Your title and rant are certainly attention-getting, but in the end your post could be entitled “HARNESS THE CLOUD”. Your list of four points toward the end is an excellent guide to making good use of the cloud instead of being victimized by it. I too take my own backups, and only rely on services that I pay for — and I’m a big fan of the cloud.

  35. John says:

    There is a third way.

    I have never been excited about “the cloud” (about as substantive a label as “web 2.0”) mainly because the protocols and methodology are not truly open and there is a very, very high level of complexity underlying products that should be as simple as possible.

    For instance, what is more “open” ? Accessing blocks of data stored as tables in a database cluster using a very high level scripting language ? Or just get/put over SFTP ? I know that on paper these methods are extremely efficient and suitable for back end serving, etc. I am sure someone out there absolutely requires the feature-set that these services provide. But most people do not – and certainly not end users.

    The logical option is self-providing these services, which is also not viable for many people. Self-providing an extremely fault-tolerant, highly available infrastructure is prohibitive in many ways for most.

    The third way are the small number of providers, like, that present highly available, enterprise level services that are NOT in “the cloud”. Real files stored on real filesystems accessible with standard unix tools that you already have installed (if you are using Mac OSX or any flavor of unix).

    If there is any doubt as to the net result of unnecessary complexity, note the number of _significant_ service outages at Amazon s3 over the last two years. It’s awfully hard, on the other hand, to knock over a FreeBSD file server running on hardware raid6 arrays.

  36. mroblivious1bmf says:

    fuck. i resized+uploaded the bbs doc to google video and now it’s gonna get wiped!

  37. Danno says:

    Eh, it’s just Multics 2.0

    Not like most of the worthwhile ones are hard to make local backups of either.

    I do take your advice in consideration with regards to cloud computing platforms. Those assholes need to develop some standards or you’re just going to end up with fucking vendor lock-in again. Oh yeah, it’s great that your cycles are a utility, but if you can’t switch utility providers, you’re f’d up the a.

    I dunno, do people really just put *all* their data into Amazon S3 and not have copies peeled off weekly or something?

  38. ross says:

    danno: if it’s the easiest option, then of course people do it 🙂

  39. […] ASCII by Jason Scott / FUCK THE CLOUDScuzzy dreams, bro. […]

  40. […] ASCII by Jason Scott / FUCK THE CLOUD If you like it, share it…: […]

  41. Grover says:

    Overall I agree completely about throwing away your data and not keeping local local backups, but a few nitpicks…

    “Are you paying for these services? No? You are a sucker. ”

    Why? What makes paying for something different? If you pay Vimeo $25 a year and it goes out of business or gets bought by another company that closes them down, how is that any different than if I pay $0 to Viddler and the same thing happens to them? Who’s the sucker at that point?

    “If you lose your shit, the technogeeks will not help you. They will giggle at you and make fun of your not understanding the fundamental principles and engineering of client-server models.”

    You realize this is exactly what you’re doing by calling everyone who trusts the cloud stupid, right?

    “this is kind of like firemen…”

    Not really. It’s the firemen’s job to stop your house from burning and if you paid a computer consultant for advice, they surely wouldn’t laugh either. The scenario is more like going into a bar where you know fireman hang out and saying “Oh hey, my house just burned down because I had 20 hotplates plugged in under my curtains.” I imagine votes of sympathy would be pretty hard to come by.

  42. Four short links: 23 Jan 2009…

    Potty mouth, piracy, pointers to the future of the web, and Presidential technology woes, all in today’s link roundup. F*ck the Cloud – Jason Scott’s brilliant (and profanity-strewn) rant about cloud computing and the things people throw away without…

  43. […] better understand the ramifications of this sort of odd behaviour I highly recommend reading Fuck The Cloud by Jason […]

  44. Fred says:

    It’s all about choice my friend. Common sense would tell you to back up your data. If you are dumb enough not to do so, well, you get what you deserve. No one has a gun to anyone’s head saying YOU MUST USE THE CLOUD! I’m a fan of the “cloud” and I don’t think it’s for everyone. I just like being able to have the choice to use the cloud if I want. Use it if you want or don’t, it’s your choice and I feel that is what the core of the matter is.

  45. Huy says:

    I agree. Cloud Services, used incorrectly could be the next Subprime crisis:

  46. […] Scott says F**K THE CLOUD: By the cloud, of course, I mean this idea that you have a local machine, a box running some OS, […]

  47. Agile Cyborg says:

    Fuck the nebula! Yes. I love this bitch. No wanky pencil headedness or newbish callow-yearning-suck-KawasakiCalcanis-dick.

    Your fucking site is ripping my eyes out of their resting places. Even so, thanks to the O’Reilly blogger for this hammerhead resource.

    I shall return to haunt.

  48. […] is probably pretty shallow stuff along the lines of “WOW THIS IS COOL” and “FUCK MARS”. ASCII by Jason Scott / FUCK THE CLOUD   « There’s an old saying about budgeting; truthful budgeting starts with being […]

  49. John Cowan says:

    I must agree with Grover that trust is independent of price. Being a customer is not enough: unless you have a written contract with the company for long-term data preservation *and are in a position to sue to enforce it*, you effectively have nothing. Even then, if they turn out to be chimpanzees with deep pockets, you still can’t get your data back, all you can get is money — hardly the same thing. (Full disclosure: I use S3 for backup and I’m happy with it, because I’ve interacted enough with Amazon in a variety of circumstance, including dealing with defective products, to basically trust the company.)

    But then, when you have local backup, you have nothing either: heads *will* crash, houses *do* burn down, and CDs *will* eventually become unreadable. There is no single solution to data preservation, except for eternal vigilance. (Maybe you could find a dozen good friends, preferably in other cities, that you could mail DVDs to on a regular basis? Of course, that means trusting your friends, not to mention the Post Office.)

  50. islami video says:

    better understand the ramifications of this sort of odd behaviour I highly recommend reading Fuck The Cloud by Jason