After three decades of using email I just sent my first message using the protocol directly by talking to an SMTP server interactively and typing in all the commands by hand.

Have to say, was actually simpler than setting up some of the email clients I’ve used over the years :)

In case you’re wondering why I’m doing this, it’s to understand the underlying protocols of the systems we take for granted and use everyday to try and see how implementations of them can be simplified to design tools that individuals can host/use/maintain themselves.

As I found when making Site.js (, there is a huge amount of complexity layered on top of essentially what are very simple protocols due to the multi-tenant nature of centralised systems.


Once you remove the multi-tenant requirement, you remove a world of complexity.

In a single-tenant system like the Small Web (, instead of designing a system that can work for 1-100,000 (or 1M, or 10M, or more) people, you’re designing a system for one person and one person alone.

Folks creating ethical alternatives: this is our competitive advantage.

If you’re making multi-tenant systems, you’re playing Big Tech’s game in their own house (and the house always wins).

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@aral indeed, this is another reason why I design #coventry around the home, the office, the actual users, and not the cloud or multi-tenancy.

@aral reminds me of Susan Leigh Star's concept of invisible work - the idea that in big systems the people who don't exactly fit have to do invisible work to make the system usable for themselves, and if all that work was taken into account the system would be viewed differently.

@KatrinaMatheson @aral Great point. Also maybe relevant is the contrast between the individual/medical model of disability and the social/relational model. On the social/relational model *anyone* can experience disability insofar as there is a mismatch between their needs and the design of a technology.

M. Oliver, “The social model of disability: thirty years on,” Disability & Society, vol. 28, no. 7, pp. 1024–1026, Oct. 2013, doi: 10.1080/09687599.2013.818773.

I totally agree Aral.
That's exactly why I love the Small Tech Foundation, all your talk and work with; Single Tenant, One Person, An Instance Of One, etc.
It is a pure pleasure to follow @laura you and your Small Tech Foundation project, because here I can reflect myself in the way of thinking you have.
#smalltech #SmallWeb

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