Nerd Corner #59

Local-first software, waves, and more!

Hi All!

I’m in Orange County with some friends to enjoy the long Labor Day weekend! Down here weather is always nice even despite the smoke (much of California is still burning right now) and life seems much more relaxed than in Northern California 😅.

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Some news:

  • After a long drought I managed to hit publish on a new post, “How to Stop Optimizing and Start Living”. I’ve been struggling to find a good writing cadence and being brave enough to put new content on my blog. I’m planning to change that in the coming weeks. Stay tuned and let me know what you think about the article!

  • Tiny Rockets launch week was very exciting. To date we’ve onboarded 50 new users! Registrations are still open!

    And if you’re not convinced that building habits will change your life, our blog is growing quickly and has lots of great content (for now only in Spanish). Check it out!


What I am reading 📚

After some friends recommended it, I decided to give “Algorithms to Live By” a try. Surprisingly, even if the concepts and algorithms discussed in the book were familiar to me, the authors manage to give enough insights to make it an interesting read. I’ll share more on it next week!


Nerd Corner 🤓

The best article I read last week was "Local-first software: You own your data, in spite of the cloud”

Local-first software is a new area of research and implementation that has the potential to solve some of the biggest issues I have with online apps and services today: privacy, ownership and longevity of my data.

In the last 20 years we went from programs that ran completely and solely on your computer to apps that require a perpetual Internet connection to work. This has given us huge benefits like almost infinite storage, lots of computing power and real-time collaboration. But “cloud-first” apps also came with a lot of risks. Since the bulk of the processing happens in some far away datacenter (i.e. “someone else’s computer”) there are risks that your data might be hacked, made public or used in very intrusive ways (like learning from your behavior to sell you targeted ads). 

In the article, the authors describe the benefits that a hybrid approach might give us. Rather than building “cloud-first” apps from the ground up, we can go back to apps that are primarily meant to run locally and take advantage of new algorithms and research (like Conflict-free replicated data types) to bake in collaboration and data-sharing but on our own terms. Rather than treating the data stored in datacenter as the primary copy we should treat our local copy as the source of truth. 

This new scenario has lots of benefits baked in from the get-go. First of all our data doesn’t need to leave our computers if we don’t need it to. Second, we don’t need to have a perpetual Internet connection. Third, and perhaps more importantly, we can keep using our data and app forever. Even if the company that makes our favorite tools goes bust we’d still be able to run the service on our machines and keep our data. 

While there are no real “local-first” apps according to the metrics described in the article, there is potential that this concept catches on. After all, there are already tools like Git and apps like Dropbox, and Evernote that provide some aspects of this experience. My hope is that more and more developers become aware of the issues with the current app design and choose to build local-first apps in the future. 


Cool Finds 🤯

  • I just discovered Google’s “new” domains through Recomendo, one of my favorite short newsletters. Lots of popular services are already using it. Chances are that you can perform an action in your favorite tool just by typing “tool.new” on your browser!

  • Related to the discussion of local-first software here is an interesting (and perhaps surprising) metric: the average time it takes to load a website hasn’t improved much in the past 10 years 😮.

  • Waves are magical. Every time I go to the beach I can spend hours just watching and hearing them. Here is an awesome time-lapse of a huge wave touching the clouds as it breaks!


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Have an awesome week,

Alberto