Headless Architectures, towards a Game Game Plan, and the Audience Asset – Issue 7

Readers and Friends –

Welcome to my seventh newsletter – I think this newsletter needs a proper name – Suggestions?

Thank you for reading. You can read all of the previous newsletters in the archive at – blog.sbdavis.com.

While subscriptions haven’t gone down, readership has… by 50 percent!

Ouch.

Too much personal stuff?

Summary

  • Headless Architectures (Systems Collection special… in that I don’t quite know what to do with this0
  • Buy vs. Rent (Sendy experiment begins)
  • The “Game” Game Plan
  • Week in Brief

Getting started with this newsletter (skippable)

I hope you’ll treat this letter as one side of our “asynchronous conversation” … I really want to hear from you.

If you like this, please share, if not – let me know – this is a work in progress… and if this newsletter isn’t a good fit, definitely unsubscribe and I wish you all my best (perhaps we’ll reconnect some other day or some other way).

If someone shared this newsletter with you and you like it, subscribing is easy.

As of today, there are 3 of you – thank you all again.

I’m mostly back on track for my target with one article and one newsletter a week – thank you for your help!

BTW, I’d appreciate a note if I forget to send my newsletter…if I can do something similar to help you keep yourself accountable, let me know!).

Headless Architectures, Denial of Service Threats, Deployment and scalability… OH MY!

I was hoeing out my email and found an article on “Headless WordPress”. Curious, I looked into it.

Basically, the idea is to actually separate the server presentation layer (appearance and, perhaps, state information) from the actual application server(s)/database server.

Back in the day, I thought this was a “4 tiered” or “N-tiered” architecture, but, today, things are a bit different as the cost of servers have plummeted, so what used to be a conceptual model for systems, is moving towards an actual implementation.

Thus, the actual web server (or servers) would have a real, internal API that talked to actual backend servers (essentially invisible to the Internet).

This is appealing for a number of reasons.

1. Dealing with Denial of Service

As web servers are inherently “lightweight” in this model and either stateless or only “locally stateful” (holding non-authoritiative state information for the users on that specific web server), your system is less vulnerable to attack because there is less “stuff” on the server to attack. Most of your processing lives on a server that is not visible to the Internet and you can “easily” spin up additional web servers… perhaps even moving them to a different domain.

(NOTE: I think an easy way to reduce the impact of Denial of Service attacks for a SaS business is to have your marketing / static web site separate from your “operational” business site)

2. Serverless / On Demand / Flexible Operational and Deployment Models

“Serverless” servers, on-demand servers, dedicated servers, we are, ironically, moving back to the kind of flexibility and billing options that we used to have in the days of mainframe computers.

Which is great, if you can take advantage of them.

But, our typical actual system architectures often make this difficult. A good internal API model can make it easier to mix and match server / processing / storage … and potentially even providers to give you the mix of price / performance / scalability / and security that you want.

I’m not suggesting implementing all of this at once, but the API / headless architecture should make it easier to grow your system as your system grows.

3. Testing and Deployment and Rollback

This headless model SHOULD make testing and deployment easier… if you can keep control of your APIs. When I was working on serious software projects, we had 3 full environments – operations, test, and development. Too many of our modern tools basically have an operational platform that we tweak while live. EXCITING… and often not in a good way.

4. Build to sell (or build as if you might sell)

One of the things that I really like about an API based design is that your internal APIs can become products (or services). This does affect your choices of what an API might look like, but even “white labeling” your entire offering could be much easier.

5. Am I out of date or off base?

I haven’t been living in the wacky world of software engineering for a while now. So, I may be off base or out of sync… let me know.

Rent vs. Buy

I don’t like “renting” stuff.

Which is kind of funny for someone who invests in real estate and is looking at starting a Software as Service (SaS) business.

I don’t like vendor lock in.

I like to be able to “unscrew” myself pretty easily.

I’m not an open source zealot, but if a company goes away or changes its direction, I want to still be in business.

I’ve long thought newsletter services (like ConvertKit which I like at the free tier and I’m using for this newsletter) are particularly crazy, especially thier pricing.

So, I’ve been looking for alternatives. There is the open source phplist (among others), but I’m also not committed to spending a ton of time fiddling… I want something that just works out of the box.

So, I’ve purchased Sendy – a server newsletter software package that uses Amazon’s SES for email delivery. It is both low-cost and costs go up VERY slowly as you add users (each email on SES costs $0.001 or some such and the software is a whopping $69 with an upgrade every couple of years when they do a major release).

Stop paying… and you just stop getting upgrades.

The software is still yours.

I’m setting it up, I may even use it for this newsletter.

I’ll keep you informed.

The “Game” Game Plan

I’ve wanted to build a real game business for a long time. Close to 20 years. Not computer games (or not computer games exclusively or primarily), but a game business that is sustainable.

Before Kickstarter, the classic indie “board game business” cliche was a garage full of unsold games that you spent $10k to have made.

I “improved” this model to $3k of unsold copies of my first game “Dice Holdem”. 🙂

But, that was before Kickstarter, digital distribution, and print-on-demand.

One of my favorite war game companies, Hollandspeile, uses a pure digital distribution and print-on-demand model to create a sustainable business.

The reason I separate Kickstarter is that, while games can be successfully launched and funded on Kickstarter, the outsourced production model that most board game (and role playing game) companies use doesn’t leave them with an ongoing business.

Plus, as a person who loves games, I find it endlessly frustrating to try to buy a game that is one or two years old. If you miss the Kickstarter, you’re out of luck or at the mercy of eBay (and sometimes insane markups).

I think it is now possible to intentionally use the techniques and strategies that are used for SaS companies to build a sustainable game business…

… more to follow.

The Audience Asset

Killing Marketing was one of my favorite books last year. I reviewed the new edition of Content Inc., I’m reading The Embedded Entrepreneur right now…. but I’ve got to say that I’m a bit tired of “Audience First”.

There is a powerful insight that an Audience can be a distinct asset for a business and, indeed, is a critical one in some businesses.

For example, Google and Facebook seem to be following the dangerous playbook of the newspaper industry. Starting with Pulitzer, newspapers started making their money from ads rather than subscriptions. Thus, they saw their customers as the ad buyers rather than their Audience… until their audience went away as the newspaper became full of ads and empty of useful content…

Conversely, the Direct to Consumer (DTC) model for some manufacturers is the explicit recognition of the opportunity that a business can have by developing an audience (for example, Harry’s Razors changed the game from selling to retail businesses to selling to consumers or the model used by game companies on Kickstarter).

… or old school mail order companies like Sears.

You may never need or want an audience. It is another asset that has to be marketed and sold to…and cultivated.

But, it isn’t magic.

You still need something to sell that someone wants to buy.

Maybe you start with a target audience and figure out what to sell them.

Maybe you start with a product and find the audience who will buy it.

Maybe you noodle around and do a bit of both.

Its just another asset.

The week in brief

Back to work! I’ve been working on configuring Sendy as my second platform for newsletter distribution (as discussed above).

I did some major restructuring work / clean up on the “Beyond Bitcoin” article so I can get back to it and add in the additional business models. I’m trying to be smarter from both a utility perspective as well as for SEO.

Hospice continues for my mom. I’m leaning away from hiring a case manager. One would have been nice a couple of weeks ago when setting things up at the same time as moving, but now it seems unnecessary.

Moving (unpacking and changing addresses with everybody and other stuff) continues to be a major time suck.

… alas, no programming.

… and WAY fewer podcasts.

… but a bit of strategic Twittering. I’ve split my Twitter presence into 3 pieces One for Disability work and mostly networking. one for game work and networking, and one for everything else/personal. This allows me to do generic “social networking” as well as “smarter professional networking” in a way that feeds the platform better. My profiles and tweets are much cleaner as the disability and gaming accounts are very coherent while I can comment more freely in my personal account. We’ll see how it goes.

 

All my best.

Steve

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