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When Things Go Wrong

While learning how to manage your own devices and software can be good for privacy, the trade-off, often, is time. However, when things break or go wrong, you may experience an extra level of pressure to solve problems quickly, especially if you have set up systems for other people in, or even outside your home, to use.

In today's post, I want to explore the importance of not panicking when things go wrong - though, invariably, panic is a natural first response when systems you manage stop working. I'll outline some specific problems I've run into as I began to take greater control over my own devices, and I'll end with some lessons I've learned from those experiences.

Examples of things that went wrong


If you're just tinkering on your own, then a crash or breakdown is a nuisance, especially if it happens at a point when time is precious. It can be tempting to think: maybe I should just return to the mainstream alternatives, so I don't have to deal with these issues.

However, if you have managed to bring a few family members or friends on board, then this ramps up the consequences. You'll have encouraged them to participate on your self-managed data server, or use your Whoogle search instance as their default search engine. When things crash, you might inadvertently discourage them trying privacy-respecting software alternatives. To add to that, if you yourself are just a beginner at managing devices and software and don't have expertise to fall back on, you may feel under pressure. The experience can make you feel like an amateur.

But in the end, it's never as bad as that. The friends who were using my Nextcloud instance were not totally reliant on it for day-to-day use; the shared audio library was more of a fun side project. And my kids, they know how to switch to DuckDuckGo whenever the Whoogle instance stops working.

Lessons learned

Here are a couple of practical lessons that I've learned from these experiences:


Learning how to manage your own devices and systems as a beginner, and trying out privacy-focused software alternatives like the Whoogle search engine can be very rewarding, but you have to anticipate crashes.

I still feel all of this is worthwhile, as long as you can afford the cost in time that it will take to fix problems. Secondly, make sure you're clear about your own levels of competence if you decide to bring other people on board your self-hosted systems, so they don't end up rejecting privacy alternatives as a result.


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