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Farewell, Dropbox

Because I don’t trust you anymore.

July 06, 2017Filed under Tech#workflow#writingMarkdown source

Over the last few years, I’ve grown increasingly annoyed with Dropbox. There have been a number of fairly high-profile misbehaviors on their part—most notably, this one—and then this past week, they started sending me notifications advertising Dropbox for Business.

Notification ads are the worst.
Notification ads are the worst.

So, as I was with Google a few years ago when they pushed me over the edgealso with notifications!—I’m out.

I don’t mind Dropbox’s wanting to have a sustainable business. To the contrary: as I often note, I’m quite willing to pay for software I use, and I currently use a number of paid services where free alternatives exist because I’d rather do that than pay for ads.1 I do mind when a company—any company—decides that building their business means mistreating their users and customers. And harassing me with notifications about a variant of their product I don’t care about certainly crosses that line. Combine that with the misbehavior and the fact that Dropbox has a tendency to hammer my system for no apparent reason, and, well, I’m out.

Transition Plans

File syncing

For basic storage and access to files across my devices, the shift will be pretty easy: I already have paid iCloud storage for backing up Photos (it’s far easier and comparably priced to all the other options, so that’s what we use). So everything I’ve been doing with Dropbox I’ll be doing with iCloud Drive instead. And I have way more overhead there with a 250GB plan that I do in my current 9GB of Dropbox storage.

File sharing

For things where I need to share files with other people, I’ll be using Droplr. If or when I find a need to share something for a longer period of time, more often, or with more people, I’ll think about the Pro plan, but for right now the free plan will more than suffice for, say, sending an audio file to Stephen for editing Winning Slowly episodes. (Also, iOS 11’s Files app will support this sharing workflow natively.)

My writing setup

Probably the most vexing (or at least: vexing-seeming) change here will be to my writing workflow. For a long time, I’ve made an alias pointing from a folder in Dropbox on my main machine into the clone of the Git repository on that machine where I manage my website.2 That has meant that I can edit the source version of a given post anywhere at any time, with any editor that has Dropbox integration. That was a winning combo for a long time, and it’s one thing I actually can’t do with iCloud Drive. (I tried, and it sort of works, for a little while; but iCloud Drive doesn’t seem to expect this scenario. In its defense, it’s a weird setup.) I realized in thinking it through this evening, though: it doesn’t actually matter to me with the ways my workflow has shifted—and, perhaps just as importantly, with the way that the iOS ecosystem has shifted.

For one thing, there are a lot of options for directly editing files from Git repositories on iOS now. I don’t need to have it in Dropbox to be able to open it in any one of several great iOS writing environments, whether to make a quick edit or to create a post from scratch. Both Working Copy and Git2Go work very well. But for another thing, I currently can’t generate the site without logging into my home machine anyway.3 So if I need to make a tweak, well… or Prompt will let me log in remotely and do what I need to. And a little bit of Vim or Emacs will let me make any quick edits that way if I really feel I must.

And one side effect of realizing that is that I can easily enough just copy a file from iCloud storage to my site’s working directory after writing it in a writing folder in iCloud if I so desire. Sure, that’s a little finicky, but for the most part I won’t really need to mess with it: I can just git push from my iPad, git pull on my iMac and be ready to do whatever I need.

Other apps

The last piece of the puzzle is the other “apps” that have made a home in my Dropbox. The reality, though, is that almost none of those actually matter to me. I don’t even look at the majority of that data, and other pieces of it —backups of GPS and heart-rate data from workouts, or copies of all my tweets from when I wanted to maintain a microblog on this site, for example—are really just needless at this point, as I have all of that data stored in several cloud platforms (in the case of workout data) and/or don’t care about being able to retrieve it (in the case of tweets). I can happily just shut those things down and call it a day.

In Conclusion

So that’s it: goodbye Dropbox; hello other tools. (This post written from an iPad, and stored in iCloud Drive before publishing.) It’s been a long, and mostly just-fine ride, but I’m getting off here.

  1. Full disclosure here: I am not a Dropbox paying customer—though that is the fault of their perhaps overly aggressive early customer acquisition strategy. I have never needed to pay for Dropbox, even though I have many gigabytes stored in it, because I earned so much free storage for inviting other users early on.

  2. You don’t want a Git repo sitting inside your Dropbox folder, but a symlink like this works just fine: you don’t end up with the conflicts that can happen with a full repo in Dropbox.

  3. I’m hoping to change that a bit in two ways in the future, by having the generator live on a not-my-home-machine server and by making Lighting much easier to just drop in and use than my finicky Pelican setup currently is. But that depends on actually making Lightning, you know, work.