#9: Returning from the Cloud via Local-First Approach
From Junior to CTO Weekly Thoughts
In prehistoric times (before Clouds), people in IT interacted via whiteboards, files stored locally, and data exchanged via USB flash drives. Online collaboration is a vital component of modern business, I remember how I postponed some discussions until I returned to the office ONLY because that was not comfortable to brainstorm online. Another important aspect was ownership, you owned your files on your machine. In this issue, we will talk about local-first software, the thing that keeps collaboration and data ownership at the same time.
Let me give you a few examples of software that we use nowadays to make online collaboration smoother.
Code with me (by Jetbrains) helps people write code together before something is committed.
Figma helps designers collaborate with other designers or even developers.
Miro helps to draw flow charts and even more.
Jira by Atlassian nowadays are trying to build a better collaboration experience inside Agile Poker.
Google Docs is a standard way to create documents, including sheets and presentations.
Some of these guys are designed for collaboration. Others are trying to extend the experience. Cloud-based tooling is available, so what is wrong?
Another important aspect is the feeling of digital ownership that was available until we all worked locally, so work was not collaborative, but we managed ownership of our data. A document on my HDD, an exported file of my project from any tool installed on my computer, I was feeling ownership of these things.
Local-first software helps you keep both: ownership and opportunities for collaboration. There are a few principles behind local-first software:
No spinners: your work at your fingertips (local data is primary, cloud data is secondary)
Your work is not trapped on one device (data should be synced across all devices)
The network is optional (use whenever you want)
Seamless collaboration with your colleagues
The Long Now (access the data for a long time in the future)
Security and privacy by default (you own your data, a server holds only encrypted data)
You retain ultimate ownership and control (backups on your shoulders)
As usual, there is no silver bullet. We should find the best tool for a particular task every time. Local-first software is not a typical way to implement something with its benefits and challenges. From my perspective, this approach is feasible in private areas (not business ones) because, eventually, a company owns data but not employees.
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