Mark Smith’s Newsletter - Saturday 30th January, 2021

AMC stocks, Elastic vs Amzn, self-hosted serverless & CI/CD, Jamstack, Cloud Native, tiny laptop, Twitter, Instagram, newsletters, OpenWebDocs, Elon-Bezos space spat, HPC, cool NodeJS libs & projects

Hello and welcome to my newsletter!

Another season 2 instalment…

I’ve just been going back over all the posts from the week just gone, and it was really difficult to select because there was so much great content this week. Lots of variety from current tech news, to interesting projects, to fantastic tutorials. It’s the digital equivalent of a thrift store where everything is awesome. You’re definitely going to find something marvellous.

As for the me this week, I’ve updated the newsletter cover image photo. The old one was taken years ago, I figured now that it’s season 2, it’s a good time to update it, the new one was taken a few days ago. That’s current me :)

I’ll be updating my photo on social media sites over the next few days.

While my ☹️ Reddit Profile Saga continues, the universe has opened up a new front in the form of my account, that can’t be verified. 

Somehow during the signup I did a few years ago, my account country got set to Romania. Apparently that could have happened if I was connecting over a VPN, and that’s likely since I’ve used several over the past few years. So I’ve been trying to update the setting, but it requires going through a verification, and one of the verification forms has my country selected as Afghanistan, with no way to update it. Here’s the extremely shortened version of my support interaction:

Me: I’m trying to verify my account but the form doesn’t work, I can’t select a country 

Support: You’ll be able to select a country once you verify your account

Me: WTF?

One week of confusing emails and I am no closer to be able to use Now my support case appears to be stuck in a loop. Meanwhile I can’t submit freelancer job proposals :(

I’ve been noticing that my use of GitHub Actions as well as Serverless functions has been rapidly increasing recently. So this week I’ve gotten really interested in discovering self-hosted solutions to these key bits of my stack. A few promising projects including OpenFaaS, Drone and Apache OpenWhisk. There’s also Meli which enables you to self-host your own version of something similar to Netlify. With the recent boom in cloud native tech, self-hosting maybe doesn’t seem as popular as before, but I think self-hosting is going to play a big part in the future, as we build out a robust ecosystem that doesn’t rely on just a few huge hosting providers.

Several big stories this week. The launch of Open Web Docs which has big backers and has already raised more than $500k in funding. Newsletters are even hotter than they already were, with Twitter buying Revue, and Every which was previously a Substack newsletter, becoming it’s own platform. There’s been some controversial happenings in the stock markets where groups of individuals who can now easily trade with new platforms like Robinhood, have been organising on Reddit and manipulating GameStop and AMC stocks.

You might remember I wrote a blog post about the Cloud Native technology trend a few weeks ago. Well this week there’s been a fantastic series published by The New Stack that does a deep dive into the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) cloud native landscape map. Each post examines a layer of the map. The scope of Cloud Native is so much bigger than I thought it was, it’s really very mind blowing, and this series does a superb job of filling in the detail, highly recommended. I’ve been posting a post per day the past few days, and will link to the remaining posts next week. Here’s the initial post of the series:

An Introduction to the Cloud Native Landscape

Also this week an interesting writeup of a well planed and successful Postgres migration by the Coffee meets Bagel engineering team, and a tutorial to setup a very cool NodeJS data extraction pipeline on the Hacker News streaming API.

That’s all from me…

I hope you enjoy the links!

Special mentions

Stuff from me

🚀 Self-hosted AWS Lambda and GitHub Actions systems

Stuff from around the web


How I Build JavaScript Apps In 2021 - A fairly advanced javascript developer reviews his current very pragmatic approach to programming for the web, some insightful observations, good tips, I enjoyed reading this level headed piece that has been shaped by years of experience

How To Migrate From WordPress To The Eleventy Static Site Generator - The crux is to create an XML export from Wordpress, then run a special CLI tool on the export to turn all the posts into Markdown files, then you can easily re-style the site to build using Eleventy

Survey claims 62% of Apple TV+ subscribers are on a free trial as Apple builds its content catalog - And apparently only 30% expect to continue with their subscription after the free trial ends, Disney+ had a 48% continue rate

‘It’s not OK’ - Elastic takes aim at AWS, at the risk of major collateral damage - More about the open source license war happening, the thought that I keep coming back to is how did Wordpress manage to avoid this happen to them, they also offer their software as open source and have a managed service offering, and I want to know where does Elastic host it’s managed service offering? It’s almost like there should be a more rigorous separation between software companies and hardware companies, but I’m not entirely sure that’s the answer, because it could affect innovation

How Smashing Magazine Manages Content - Migration From WordPress To JAMstack - Interesting article that is very pro-Jamstack, Smashing Magazine ended up moving much of their operation to run on Netlify and using Netlify CMS, the article says early on that it didn’t get rid of Wordpress completely but doesn’t fully explain how it’s being used in their new setup, I’m curious to know more about that piece

Self-hosting serverless with OpenFaaS - Lots of cool features, enabling to run your own AWS Lambda

How to use GitHub Actions with your own self-hosted runner (aka build agent) - Self hosted runners look interesting, gives you a way to run Github Actions on your own infrastructure

Drone is a Continuous Delivery system built on container technology - Drone uses a simple YAML configuration file, a superset of docker-compose, to define and execute Pipelines inside Docker containers

Fulfilling the promise of CI/CD - A lot of teams do continuous integration, but a lot less do continuous delivery, this article focusses on why that second part is crucial, though one thing it doesn't do is address the non-trivial problem of what to do with all the management people that help to run the current way of doing things

Apache OpenWhisk is an open source, distributed Serverless platform that executes functions (fx) in response to events at any scale. OpenWhisk manages the infrastructure, servers and scaling using Docker containers so you can focus on building amazing and efficient applications

Introducing Birdwatch, a community-based approach to misinformation - I don’t know how I feel about this, I like that they will have transparency of the data and that there seems to be a genuine wish to ‘do it right’ even if it’s messy at times, but I’m also cautious because when the community gets it wrong it can be spectacularly wrong, just ask the Star Wars Kid how he feels about community, I’m also still, after many months, trying to find out why my ☹️ Reddit account is corrupted/blocked, and they simply don’t acknowledge that I even exist, it looks like I have been banned yet I demonstrably have not been banned, so Twitter becoming like Reddit would be in my opinion very bad for everyone

Introducing Open Web Docs - With initial backing from Coil, Google, Microsoft and Igalia, this project is to support existing web documentation efforts like MDN Docs, they appear to have raised $500k already, so definitely an important project to watch, it’s good to see investment in places where it really matters like super high quality web platform documentation

Welcoming Open Web Docs to the MDN family

Instagram's New Professional Dashboard - A push to help businesses and creators monetise their content

Our Journey to PostgreSQL 12 - Great writeup from the Coffee meets Bagel engineering team, just the right amount of detail with some illustrative architecture diagrams, you get a very clear picture of what a Postgres migration looks like

Twitter acquiring newsletter publishing company Revue - Interesting to see Twitter get into long form content and especially newsletters, I’m looking forward to see their product, it would be very cool if they had an API, Markdown support and automation tools

The Teeniest Tiniest Laptop In The West - “The GPD P2 Max is a hyper-powered cross between a palm pilot and an ultrabook”

Monorepo - Chris Coyier explains why his small team have moved back towards a monorepo from lots of smaller repos deployed as serverless functions, personally I’ve tended to have one repo for the website and one for the api in the past which has worked pretty well, I really like one of his monorepo advantages he’s called “growing old together”, there’s something kind of magical about that description

How to Setup Your M1 MacBook for Web Development - Has a script to install a basic dev environment, for something a bit more comprehensive check out my dotfiles Github repo

Optimising serverless for BBC Online - Interesting writeup of a serverless architecture that is clearly offering many advantages at the BBC, including cost benefits, massive scaling capacity, very detailed request tracing for improved debugging, developer workflows that enable separate testing environments per pull request, and easy rollback in case of failure

Shipping Jamstack like a hero - beware, it's cool - Run-through of how to setup a self-hosted Meli environment, it’s based on the Caddy server, that gets you a very similar environment to Netlify, with Github integration and deploy previews, the only major thing missing is simple serverless functions

SpaceX’s Elon Musk and Amazon’s Project Kuiper stir up a war of words over satellites

Matt Mullenweg on Twitter buying Revue - “I’m a huge fan of the idea of better newsletters and Automattic was the largest investor in Revue”

Substack vs. Revue - Comprehensive feature comparison from a group that know a lot about newsletters

Cloud Native Series - An Introduction to the Cloud Native Landscape

Reddit’s GameStop traders turn their attention to AMC stock - I’m mostly posting this because of the film industry connection, not sure what to make of it currently, seems like it’s going to be quite a big story, I don’t currently have an opinion aside from trepidation because of my recent ☹️ Reddit experiences with my account, feels a bit mobish

The unreasonable effectiveness of simple HTML - Looks at a specific example where having a simple HTML website that rendered well in any browser made all the difference, progressive enhancement is really important, more than we realise

Hawk expansion will accelerate research combining simulation and artificial intelligence - There are some really interesting high performance computing use cases where combining AI reinforcement learning with classic simulation can speed up discovery, I’d like to learn more about the workflows they are building, this article looks at sheet metal production in manufacturing, explosion simulation in astronomy, and fluid dynamics simulation in aerodynamics and combustion

Cloud Native Series - The Cloud Native Landscape: The Provisioning Layer Explained

GameStop and the Real Market Manipulators - Has a pretty good explanation of the happenings in the markets the past few days, in short, lots of new participants have been trading via web tools such as Robinhood, which give access to trade to regular people, and it has exposed double standards, and raised serious questions about what constitutes market manipulation, and fundamentally every single trade is a form of manipulation - I see lots of parallels in many industries, this type of thing is happening all across the economy

Tim Cook condemns Facebook business model, says valuing engagement over privacy leads to ‘polarization’ and ‘violence’ - I really like Apple's vision, it sounds like the sort of world that would be pleasant to live in, the one thing that would make it even better, and I know this is very unlikely, is if they had that vision AND the software was open source, as we continue to integrate these softwares into our lives and especially when we begin integrating them into our bodies, this is going to become very important, what better time for Apple to transition to open source when it is flush with cash?

Cloud Native Series - The Cloud Native Landscape: The Runtime Layer Explained

Why does it take so long to build software? - Focusses on essential complexity and accidental complexity, then puts it into context by looking at the past, current and likely future of technology, well written and paints a clear picture

Newsletters are growing up and leaving the coop - Looks at Every a newsletter that has been built on Substack is breaking out into its own entity, I think it’s great that the Substack team is fully behind them, this feels like the way things should work more often online, hosting providers should be helping others to become hosting providers, so the ecosystem becomes more robust for all

Capturing Hacker News Mentions with Node.js and MongoDB - Really neat tutorial on how to setup a data extraction pipeline using Node.js and the HN streaming API, the technique could be used in many different scenarios, the use of real-time streams is particularly cool

middyjs/middy - The stylish Node.js middleware engine for AWS Lambda - I think I’ve already posted a link to this library previously, it’s got a great interface which makes a lot of sense, middleware are one of the express primitives I really miss when I’m writing Lambdas, however I personally found the description of the promises in the interface a bit confusing, I’d like to try the library out on a real project


No podcasts this week :(


Thanks for reading!


Mark Smith‘s Newsletter is a weekly roundup of some of the best javascript, tech and web development links published to my daily linkblog.

If you liked this newsletter you might like my blogdaily linkblog or experimental podcast :)

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Have a great weekend and a fantastic next week!