—an indie website by joe crawford since the nineties

Slack costs money, of course.

WebSanDiego was a mailing list I ran for a number of years. At one time it was a terrific way to do conversation on the internet. Before MySpace, before Facebook, before Reddit. I did a visualization back in 2011.

WebSanDiego Visualization
In the heyday we had several hundred of messages per month on the WebSanDiego mailing list

I got the notion to start an alternate version in 2019. I started it very low-key. I invited people by email. I announced it on some Slacks and person-to-person. There was no usenet to announce it on. Commenting on the number of email bounces I got from inviting prior members, I tweeted on April 5, 2019:

I revived the mailing list I started in 1999 as a Slack channel. I used the original email addresses. SO MANY BOUNCES.



I never promoted the Slack. And as a community without much purpose, it never thrived. I had a sense that Slack was not the correct tool to replace the WebSanDiego List. At one time a locally focused list was great. It was a great way to meet fellow practitioners, freelancers, get work, get answers to tech questions. Now there are other ways to do that.

Well, Slack on a free plan was never a great way to do this, it simply doesn’t scale to the costs of a community of size. And as we know the relative value of a community is a function of the number of connections between people.

Metcalfe’s Law:

Metcalfe’s law states that the financial value or influence of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system (n2). The law is named after Robert Metcalfe and was first proposed in 1980, albeit not in terms of users, but rather of “compatible communicating devices” (e.g., fax machines, telephones). It later became associated with users on the Ethernet after a September 1993 Forbes article by George Gilder.

WebSanDiego had hundreds of members at its height. Say we restarted it on Slack and got to 500 members. That’d be 500 times $7.25/month per user for a lower tier plan. Or $12.50/month per user for the full plan. Roughly $10/month per user works out to $60,000 per year. It’s no wonder really that Facebook and Reddit and Discord is how people do this these days, but none of these really replicate the simplicity of how a mailing list worked way back when.

At one time Slack kept that history forever, and if you stopped paying you would lose access to messages older than 90 days or messages over your limit of 10,000 messages. Now, they won’t do that anymore. This is 100% the deal they’ve made with users, to get full access it will cost money. I’m not begrudging their need to monetize expensive and reliable and high quality tooling, but there is not a good replacement for people for this kind of thing anymore.

The email today from Slack explains the change:

slack logo

Free workspace content older than one year will be deleted
We wanted to let you know about a change in policy for free workspaces.

What is changing?
Workspaces’ data, including files, messages, and other content that is older than one year will no longer be stored. Free workspaces will continue to have full access to the past 90 days of message history and file storage. This change will not impact workspaces on other plans, such as Slack Pro.

When will this take effect?
This policy will begin taking effect August 26th, 2024. Workspaces will be notified prior to the policy impacting their workspace.

What does this mean for you?
Your workspace, websandiego , is on a free Slack plan. This workspace has content that is older than one year which will be deleted once the policy takes effect. Moving forward, Slack will not retain messages and files older than one year for a workspace. This policy will impact your workspace starting August 26th, 2024.

To retain access to content older than a year, the workspace needs to be on a paid Slack plan. These plans can be reviewed on our plan page. Free teams will continue to retain access to messages and content sent in the last 90 days.

If your team chooses to upgrade to a paid plan after the policy goes into effect, you will not be able to recover any content that has been deleted under our new policy.

I likely will shut down the websandiego Slack instance, it’s not particularly useful to me or anyone else as-is. One approach I might take if I revive websandiego some day is to use IRC as the core infrastructure and use tooling to allow views into it using Slack and Discord, which is the way the IndieWeb Chat works.

I certainly wish there were more reliable and less expensive and easy to use tools for this.

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