A lot of open source projects are very tech centered. Stek.io’s mission is to change that and “make installing and hosting tools like a blog, a forum or a project management app a one-click affair”. Stek.io is a Dutch-Greek open source software-as-a-service that includes Ghost, a blogging platform, Discourse, a forum and community builder, and Hackpad that can be used to collaborate on docs, texts, to do lists or projects.
Stek.io: open source non-techies
The Dutch startup is an initiative of Erwin Blom (Fast Moving Targets), Mark Pors (former WatchMouse) and Dimi Balaouras (former WatchMouse), a trio with decades of experience regarding media, open source, and software development. CEO Erwin Blom explains how it makes open source easy for non-techies.
How did you launch Stek.io?
We started thinking about Stek.io and working on it since last year and released it just a week ago.
A long time ago I said somewhere online: ‘wouldn’t it be nice if there was a place where a nontechie as myself could easily install and host open source software’. Mark is a very technical guy. And a long time later he asked me: ‘Erwin, did you do anything with it’? He liked the idea and wanted to pick it up. So we did. He lives in Athens and asked Greek programmer Dimi to join. That’s how it started. At first, we worked remotely with each other. Until a couple of weeks ago. Then we met in person for the first time.
What differentiates Stek.io from other open source software?
We don’t offer one tool, we offer a set of tools. We started with three: Ghost, Discourse, and Hackpad. We integrate the different tools into one set of apps. So, for example, with one Stek.io account, you can log in to all the tools. We aim to become a one-stop open source shop.
Why does Stek.io cost money? Isn’t Open Source free?
Technical people will be able to install open source software themselves. But they will need a place to host it too. And hosting costs money in every case. With Stek.io, you pay for ease of use, privacy, and security. Compare it with WordPress. You can install and host it yourself or look for a hosting provider that does that for you. And then you have to pay for that service as well.
Do you plan to expand your product portfolio?
Yeah, definitely. After Ghost, Discourse and Hackpad we will offer Rocket.chat and Mattermost. And more to follow. We will start talking to our customers about what they want and miss. So they will have an important say in our future. At the moment, most of our energy goes into Hackpad. That is a great tool to collaborate on documents. But later on, we will work with and for the rest.
Who leads the technical team?
Mark and Dimi are the technical guys. They have a background in complex tech stuff when they worked for Watchmouse. So they make the difficult bit of installing and hosting easy.
What challenges you came across during Stek.io’s development?
It is easier said than done that you are going to install, host, and update open source software as a ‘one-click’ experience. But to get there is really difficult. One of the reasons is that every bit of open source software is different. It has been built in different programming languages, with different structures. So making something feel easy has been the hardest bit.
We only just started. We are still in the hundreds, not the thousands of users. But the responses are really good. From now on it’s a matter of building.
Any advice for newcomers wanting to start open source software projects?
Open source projects are mainly projects for tech people whereas very often, the end users are not comfortable using open source tools. Make sure you incorporate the ‘normal’ user in your open source project. They can contribute very well, but most of the time have no role now.
As a company, we make it easy for people to use open source technology by taking feedback from our users to help make open source software better. So, spend time and effort making open source tools better for non-tech users.
Image: Erwin Blom, founder Stek.io, by Guido van Nispen