ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

FUCK THE CLOUD —

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.

FUCK THE CLOUD.

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.

Update:

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

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157 Comments

  1. Alan says:

    The cloud computing concept was called “computer utility” back in 1961 by the people at M.I.T. who invented time sharing. The presumed difference is that it would be reliable, regulated, and you would pay for it.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utility_computing

  2. Falafulu Fisi says:

    Amen to that excellent post. I haven’t subscribed to any social networking sites, simply because I don’t want to be a sucker. Also I don’t want to look at myself and say, huh! , I am not one of those exaggerated self-important people to give away personal information to the world as easily to the the likes of Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, blah, blah, blah,…

  3. […] http://ascii.textfiles.com/archives/1717 VN:F [1.0.9_379]please wait…Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast) Tags: cloud computing […]

  4. anonymous says:

    Grover, are you aware of the amount of disconnect with reality and logic of which your last paragraph comprises?

  5. […] Cuidado con la nube Actualidad y Variedad, Redes sociales y demás Add comments Mi punto lo pone “negro sobre blanco” (es un decir) Jason Scott en su entrada “Que le den a la nube”. […]

  6. Charles John says:

    Great article. Thanks for writing it. I definitely agree completely. Here’s the thing:

    I nearly went BLIND reading it!

    I get the whole ASCII theme thing, but man… if you want to really get this message out – make thing thing something people can read all the way through without having to look away every ten seconds or so. Sheesh…

    I’m STILL seeing green and black artifacts everywhere I look!

    Again, nice article.

  7. carlos says:

    Why don’t you start growing your own wheat.
    Don’t underestimate the importance that bread has in our lifes!
    Lets not allow those mega-wheat traders in Chicago control our most basic food supply!

  8. Drew says:

    I agree completely.

    There used to be a time when companies wouldn’t do business with people that charged too little or were free, because they recognized the person they were relying on wouldn’t be around when they needed them. The rise of the internet has changed all that, now companies want everything for free and don’t care if the people that support them are starving. It’s another bubble of greed and selfishness that will burst and leave the cloud believers in the shit.

    The financial crises should have demonstrated that NOBODY is immune, and you cannot rely on the Amazons of the world to be around or provide free services forever. One day it will dissappear or they’ll jerk your around massively. Always keep your critical data local.

  9. Yes, please give a way to reset the text and background colors. At least you’re not using Courier everywhere. Aah, the days of the Wildcat! BBS and DOS.

    I also agree, too many rely on the Cloud. Then again, these are the same people that use their home ISP as their permanent (and only) email address.

  10. Jason says:

    You might as well write that about every hosted services on the Internet. Hotmail, GMail, YahooMail, Shared Hosting, file storage … anything. None of those places take responsibility for lost data- none of them. It’s simply a 3rd place to keep shit backed up to that wont be lost if your house burns down. I think of the “Cloud” as a utility. A place to use and abuse and then dump when I am done with it. Hmmmmm … there are compassion to be made there.

    I guess you know people that rely on it as their only source of storage and they got screwed. Since you were working in Tech in the 80’s I assume you’re an older fellow. You don’t like change and don’t like the idea of someone else controlling your data. Even if those people have better tools to do so. We know a few of those ….

    Fuck the cloud, but keep it’s number for later use 🙂

  11. […] Jason beschreibt in seinem Artikel das grobe Marketing der letzten Jahre um das “Cloud”-Phänomen. Alle Daten schweben in einem süßen Wölkchen, das niemandem etwas anhaben kann. Uneingeschränkt trauen sollte man diesen Anbietern allerdings nicht, denn sie haben kein wahres Gesicht. Ich bin nicht paranoid, aber trotzdem ist es nicht verkehrt das Original lokal auf seinem Computer zu haben und lediglich Kopien ins Web zu schicken. Ich habe nichts gegen Dienste, wie Twitter, Delicious oder Flickr, die ich selber gerne und oft benutze. […]

  12. robot jones says:

    It’s amusing that you think paying Flickr and YouTube for the privilege of giving them your stuff for free makes you not a sucker.

  13. John says:

    I have to ask then what you consider save for data storage.

    Seagate’s enterprise drives are having firmware failure. If you put a label on your DVD you shorten its lifespan. Try finding a tape drive for home use.

    • Jason Scott says:

      I know what I do, but what I do is not what everyone else does.

      I split stuff into “generated” and “acquired”, and I split acquired into “rare” and “not rare”.

      So then it goes not-rare, rare, generated.

      Not-rare ends up on two hard drives.

      Rare ends up on 6 hard drives, and is shared with friends (as is not-rare)

      Generated ends up on anywhere from 3-6 hard drives, archive.org, flickr, DVD-ROMs, and in very rare cases, 30 year tape.

      I use the cloud, assuming cloud means “storage not under my control”, but in the same way I “use” a coffee shop or a gas station. I don’t leave a dufflebag of my stuff there and hope it’ll be there tomorrow.

  14. Shii says:

    Google Video is not “going off the air”. In fact, Google is one of the better clouds you can upload to; they have a revenue stream that practically ensures they will be able to keep information around. But putting valuable information on a revenue-free startup like, say, Rapidshare.de or Vimeo is a waste of time and possibly a loss for others when those websites inevitably blip off. Your essay is a great read for fools who think they can upload an extremely valuable work somewhere and forget about it.

  15. CrossedBearings says:

    The cloud does have one usage pattern I like. A data sync hub.

    Its a great way to sync data between apps and between machines. It doesn’t ‘let go’ of your data mind. Its still in the synced apps.

    And if the cloud goes ‘poof’ then oh well – its just your sync conduit thats gone. Find another.

  16. […] extemporaneous, you can check Mr Jason Scott’s verbose, albeit entirely factual, “F*** The Cloud“: Contrast, though, when people are dumping hundreds of hours a year into the Cloud. Blowing […]

  17. […] Encontrei ontem na net um artigo provocador que merece uma leitura atenta e alguma reflexão. O nome diz tudo: “Fuck the cloud“. […]

  18. Max says:

    Re green on black:

    Just point people to a style zapper:

    https://www.squarefree.com/bookmarklets/zap.html#zap_style_sheets

    Useful anywhere.

  19. Denis Boudreau says:

    A-fucking-men. Speaking from a painful experience as well.

  20. […] these free cloud services offered so widely today. Before you click, I want to warn you that this post uses strong language. Jason Scott is an archiver of old BBS data and producer of a five hour […]

  21. swag says:

    Damn. And I thought this was going to be about Fucking the CLOWN.

  22. Amen. Trusting the Cloud is like trusting the stock market. You’d be a fool not to invest your money in the stock market, right?

    Right?

  23. BigKev says:

    What the hell does it matter, in a hundred years we’ll all be dust anyway. What the hell will all our puny thoughts and lives matter then? Better that we leave no trace of out poluted thinking behind anyway as an influence to future custodians of the earth. Maybe then, the ants or the cockroaches will make a better job of it!

  24. […] Comments BigKev on FUCK THE CLOUDJason Scott on On Comments and CommentaryVersa Dave on On Comments and CommentaryDoug Schepers on […]

  25. Merauderweb says:

    Fuck the cloud!…

    Fuck the cloud!…

  26. […] A sea of digital cameras This photo made me feel old, and at the same time reminded me of hiring a wedding photographer, because if you don’t have pictures of an event, did it really happen? Online Lab Notebooks Good post by Cameron Neylon looking at the requirements for keeping your lab notebook online. As you can tell from the comment I left, I worry about either the IT overhead this is going to cause, or that we’d be placing our data in the very shaky hands of “the cloud”. Great article on how much you should trust cloud computing here. […]

  27. […] Documentary, and writer of recent counter-technocultural foul-mouthed gems like Datapocalypso and FUCK THE CLOUD — is striking up a kind of internet viligante, do-gooders league called Archive Team, which […]

  28. […] 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. via ASCII by Jason Scott / FUCK THE CLOUD. […]

  29. RJ Ryan says:

    Can’t agree more, Jason.

    Another example: ma.gnolia.com just crashed hard:
    http://ma.gnolia.com/

  30. F*** THE CLOUD…

    [UPDATE 01/31/2009] Ma.gnolia Suffers Major Data Loss, Site Taken Offline, says a Wired blog post. Also:”The failure appears to be catastrophic. The company can’t say to what extent it will be able to restore any of its users’ data. It also says the…

  31. Mike says:

    it’s a trade off you self-obsessed turd.

    Enterprises in the cloud? no.

    SMB’s in the cloud? Hm.. not really – private clouds.

    Open social networking apps in the cloud? Absolutely

    you’ve totally missed the point, because you don’t know what you’re talking about.

  32. […] religious fanatics alike. If life is sacred, so is the right to make up one’s own mind and fuck the Cloud at the same time. { Editorial : The story behind the discovering and making the contraceptive pill […]

  33. Ice Cream Jonsey says:

    Hey guys, Mike from the Internet cleared all this up for us on post 86! Thank God he found this comment feed!

  34. Bob the Build says:

    Mike,

    I appreciate you taking the time to clear that up! We’re not from the internets so we don’t know these things. For a moment there I thought clouds just pissed rain on us all day, but provide internet too?! Wow, I thought that was so cool.

    I thought I’d run outside and plug my internet into the next raincloud that passes but I’m really glad you took the time out of your day to clear up the confusion. We must not know what we’re talking about. Sounds like someone I know..

  35. Bob the Build says:

    Oh crud, gravatars. I’ve been had!

  36. […] Scott: Fuck the cloud: So please, take my advice, as I go into other concentrated endeavors. Fuck the Cloud. Fuck it […]

  37. Bill Sithiro says:

    It (cloud) has its uses… However, everything new (or recycled) that comes out doesn’t mean you have to be threatened by it nor just blindly embrace it. This goes without saying. At the end of the day it’s just marketing; annoying as it can be at times. The cloud is far more ambitious than being there just to hold pictures of your cat and other artefacts of your digital citizenship. It’s about the next big thing: infrastructure as a service. Hosting service companies have been doing it for a while now, so they’re in the line of fire more than anyone. Sure you can keep it in-house, it might even give you a competitor’s edge, but it better be faster, cheaper and safer! The only “suspicious” thing about that cloud is that only a handful of companies can pull it off as a viable business or product line solution. Maybe that was what T.J. Watson was thinking of when he said: “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” Maybe the cloud is, IBM’s revenge.

  38. Minhajuddin says:

    Nice blog post about the free services. One up for “De-clouding software”

  39. […] now has your full addressbook – it’s all or nothing. I’m not paranoid, but I dislike […]

  40. mreklektik says:

    Yeah, this is all fine for u guys who have connections to the Internet that don’t have hosting restrictions on them. And who has time to keep up with the latest **nix patches – not me brother. I say if you need something quick and dirty, why not use the cloud to your advantage. If you need to do something that’s so important that you can’t lose it, then you should back it up anyway! This whole “ftc” movement is just so much fluff and nonsense.

  41. sbeam says:

    apparently some of you people think “cloud computing” means “free websites like Gmail and Twitter and delicious you put your personal shit on”

    that’s not it.

    How about running insanely CPU-intensive Bioinformatics algorithms that run on genomic datasets measuring in terabytes. I do it on a distributed, redundant set of virtual systems owned by a 3rd party (AKA, a cloud) for about 1/10000th of the cost of running enough dedicated hardware to do the job in the same time.

    I also backup all my personal photos, writings and other stuff to AWS/ECC with persistent storage. Costs $5/month for about 250Gb now. What do you do, put it all on DVDs in your closet? hope you don’t have a fire…

    The cloud is over-hyped and kinda meaningless but sorry, the author of this post doesn’t know what he is talking about, at all.

  42. Bill says:

    640 K should be enough for everyone.

    use two clouds, Problem solved.

  43. Oyunlar says:

    The cloud does have one usage pattern I like. A data sync hub.

  44. oyun says:

    Fuck the cloud !..

  45. […] may want to check out FUCK THE CLOUD. It’s worth the read. It basically states that if you put your trust and faith into anything […]

  46. tahrey says:

    and now for a light, frothy, throwaway comment with little real value:

    fucking hell, I’m so glad to find I’m not the only one with this opinion. though it took a while to wake up to realising that my webmail is part of it… :-/

    maybe we just need to come up with a big golden rule that _the internet is not a reliable place to put stuff_. Consider it as an old and well-used 5.25″ floppy disc. Sure, it’s convenient, and you can pass it to your friends, and it seems to work ok when you put the data on… but you’d be freaking insane to have it as your only copy of something precious. Like business documents…

  47. corq says:

    I realize this is an ancient posting, but after coming back from DefCon and knowing for a fact that anyone, and any time, can essentially be ‘up in ur stuff’ however they please, I prefer to keep my stuff where I can physically walk over and yank the cord, and interrupt my participation in the presumed botnet. Or, in the case of utter failures, at least make a feasible attempt at recovering data. I take a calculated risk using gmail for correspondence, but it isn’t where I archive my meaningful crap, I promise you. I’m still not in the least convinced that cloud computing, distributed processing, or any other remote outsourcing of data management. Recreationally I love Web 2.0 gadgetry, but I’ll draw the line at staking my sustainable income or my privacy to it.

  48. Çilingir says:

    in the case of utter failures, at least make a feasible attempt at recovering data. I take a calculated risk using gmail for correspondence, but it isn’t where I archive my meaningful crap, I promise you. I’m still not in the least convinced that cloud computing, distributed processing, or any other remote outsourcing of data management. Recreationally I love Web 2.0 gadgetry, but I’ll draw the line at staking my sustainable income or my privacy to it.

  49. […] Geocities. Archiveteam was setup by Jason Scott, creator of BBS: The Documentary. His blog post FUCK THE CLOUD prompted quite a reaction and now, six months later, it is still getting […]