I created a bookish social networking site, Millefeuilles.cloud

Myself, Gersande, with hair in a side braid and wearing a blue patterned top, reading a book surrounded by plants and tea.
A photo Leif took of me this past summer at Cha Do Raku, drinking some tea and reading a very old book about tea. Felt like a good photo to accompagny a blog post about my new project, Millefeuilles.cloud

Back in November, I wrote about starting up my own Mastodon server ("instance") — read all about it here — and, emboldened by that experience, I spent a little bit more time reading about the other kinds of services that interact with the Fediverse.

→ Pour lire le billet en français

It did not take me long to stumble upon Bookwyrm, which is an open source social network software that is all about books. It's essentially the anti-corporate, free and open source software answer to Goodreads and StoryGraph, which is incredibly cool.

Deciding that I wanted to start my own Bookwyrm site was the next logical step.

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The Fediverse describes the universe of websites that use ActivityPub protocols (among a handful of others) to exchange information with each other. Mastodon sites are Fediverse participants. Very recently, Tumblr and Flickr both reported considering joining the Fediverse. Websites running the open-source Bookwyrm software are also Fediverse participants.

What does that mean? It means that if you have an account on a Mastodon site, you can communicate and exchange with people all over the Fediverse, be they on Bookwyrm or WriteFreely or PeerTube or etc., etc.

Setting up Millefeuilles.cloud was seriously outside of my comfort zone, sysadmin-wise. I had to learn how to use Docker, which is truly cursed knowledge (only slight hyperbole). I want you all to imagine my partner running into the room, exclaiming "Are you installing Docker!?!" with great consternation. (Leif disputes the level of exclamation and consternation, but this totally happened, lol!)

Bookwyrm is really not approachable from a newbish sysadmin's perspective, and I ran into a number of obstacles getting everything running smoothly, but — with Leif lending me a hand many times — I did get everything running smoothly, and Mille feuilles is fully functional, running Bookwyrm version 0.5.2!

A screenshot of what my profile on Mille feuilles looks like.

At time of writing, Millefeuilles.cloud has 8 active users (some guinea pigs old friends who agreed to embark upon this experiment with me) who have posted 467 statuses about books both locally (privately) and publicly on the Fediverse. Though there are only 8 users on Mille feuilles, they can interact with millions of other users on other Bookwyrm or Mastodon instances — if they want to! Mille feuilles also has a catalogue of over 2 502 books registered on the server, but can also import almost any book from online archives such as openlibrary.org or inventaire.io, and many more.

Users can also import their books, reading stats, comments and reviews from other sites like Goodreads or Storygraph. Based on some issues I noticed over November, if anyone wants to import more than 1 200 books at once, I'll need advance notice to make sure the Mille feuilles engines hold.

The very talented Arcane Pigeon made me a strawberry-themed mille feuille for Mille feuilles!

There are occasional bugs and the odd timeouts/slowness which makes it clear that the Bookwyrm software is still in active development. But there's a really cool "DIY" vibe to this project, and it's clear all the people working on it right now really care about it, which really makes me wish I remembered more from my days experimenting with Python and Django back in 2013-2014.

On Digital Ocean, with 2 vCPUs, 4GB RAM, a 50GB Disk (and a whole lot more gigs in object storage) Mille feuilles is probably going to cost me a minimum of 24 CAD a month in hosting.

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Update 2022/12/21: On the Mille feuilles blog, I break down the cost of the first month: How much does a month of Mille feuilles cost?

(I'm not requiring any of the users who agreed to join Mille feuilles to pitch in on this since this still feels a little experimental, but I have set up a Liberapay page for if people ever want to help throw a few coins at this project.)

And, in the past few days, Leif also walked me through how to install some blogging software over at blog.millefeuilles.cloud so that I can announce and share any website development and my sys-administrative to-dos for Mille feuilles there. It had been a long time since I'd set up anything resembling reverse proxies!

I've been thinking a lot about social networks and the landscape of the Internet, and how frustrated I feel. I'm likely to revisit this topic in more detail eventually, but for now: I'm tired of feeling powerless. Clawing out small spaces, like Mille feuilles, and drawing a little more attention to the Bookwyrm project, free of any sort of advertisement and corporate presences, feels a little bit like doing good.

Mille feuilles
Une instance Bookwyrm pour les papivores! 🍵📖 A Bookwyrm instance for those who enjoy a leafy snack!

Gersande La Flèche

Gersande La Flèche they/them/their

I am an independent language worker, writing coach & English-French translator. When not working, I can be found drinking lots of tea and scribbling away in one of my notebooks.
MTL // Tiohtià:ke