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What do you do when your free service is too popular?

8 July 2014 21:50

Once upon a time I setup a centralized service for spam-testing blog/forum-comments in real time, that service is BlogSpam.net.

This was created because the Debian Administration site was getting hammered with bogus comments, as was my personal blog.

Today the unfortunate thing happened, the virtual machine this service was running on ran out of RAM and died - The redis-store that holds all the state has now exceeded the paltry 512Mb allocated to the guest, so OOM killed it.

So I'm at an impasse - I either recode it to use MySQL instead of Redis, or something similar to allow the backing store to exceed the RAM-size, or I shut the thing down.

There seems to be virtually no liklihood somebody would sponsor a host to run the service, because people just don't pay for this kind of service.

I've temporarily given the guest 1Gb of RAM, but that comes at a cost. I've had to shut down my "builder" host - which is used to build Debian packages via pbuilder.

Offering an API, for free, which has become increasingly popular and yet equally gets almost zero feedback or "thanks" is a bit of a double-edged sword. Because it has so many users it provides a better service - but equally costs more to run in terms of time, effort, and attention.

(And I just realized over the weekend that my Flattr account is full of money (~50 euro) that I can't withdraw - since I deleted my paypal account last year. Ooops.)


Happy news? I'm avoiding the issue of free service indefinitely with the git-based DNS product which was covering costs and now is .. doing better. (20% off your first months bill with coupon "20PERCENT".)



Comments on this entry

icon sven at 10:41 on 8 July 2014

Flattr recently announced some changes to the way they handle payments: http://blog.flattr.net/2014/05/time-for-change-payments/ . I think this means, that (when this is implemented) you will be able to withdraw money without a Paypal account.

icon Steve Kemp at 11:47 on 8 July 2014

Thanks, that's useful to know Sven.

It looks like, thanks to Kai Hamich, I have a new home for the blogspam service.

icon Serge van Ginderachter at 11:55 on 8 July 2014

Not sure if no-one wants to pay for this service. https://www.mollom.com/ has been providing this for a couple of years now.

icon Steve Kemp at 11:59 on 8 July 2014

I've no interest in trying to make people pay, I just don't have endless resources for supporting it myself.

There are some small companies that run filtering on a commercial basis, but the biggest providers are people like akismet who seem to be almost exclusively used for free.

I do suspect I made a mistake not assigning users a key, or some means of tracking users explicitly, but it is too late to change that easily now.

I'm used by many big names, but largely because plugin support is available for trac, and similar products:

  • http://trac.roundcube.net/
  • http://studentsreview.com/
  • https://trac.torproject.org/projects/tor
  • http://trac.mplayerhq.hu
  • https://trac.ffmpeg.org
  • https://code.mythtv.org/trac


icon Gunnar Wolf at 12:51 on 8 July 2014

Steve, as a user of your service and an interested person in having it remain online, I can offer you space in my university servers — A virtual machine (lxc-based) on a not too heavily used server, with quite good bandwidth, in Mexico City. It has, however, basically the condition that it should not be used for any kind of financial gain. Contact me by mail to see if what I have is useful for you.

icon Steve Kemp at 12:53 on 8 July 2014

Gunnar, thanks very much for the offer and the appreciation behind it.

However it looks like I've got a new home for it arranged now, so I won't be taking your offer, thanks again though.

icon Stavros at 13:00 on 8 July 2014

You can code plugins for the popular cms (joomla,magento,opencart,wordpress,etc) and sell them for 2-10 dollars a piece for usage in commercial websites.

Its still a free service.

icon Steve Kemp at 13:02 on 8 July 2014

I wrote the wordpress plugin just to give the service something useful as a starting point - but given that I don't run wordpress support is half-hearted at best. That would almost certainly be the case for other CMS systems.

In short I'm pleased if folk write plugins, and some people have, but I think I'm not the best person to do so.