Pietro Rea

Open source your old projects

April 22, 2023

Every time a business or project shuts down, all the source code it produced, typically private and proprietary, never sees the light of day again. This is a real shame, especially for organizations that poured millions into R&D to produce it.

I’ve always believed that we should release as much source code to the public domain as possible. Complete reference implementations help new developers learn and troubleshoot. At the very least, we can point to something and say to ourselves “I worked on this!”.

To this end, a few weeks ago I released the source code for the marketing website for sweetstackhq.com. I don’t own this domain anymore, but here’s a live version hosted on Netlify. Sweetstack is a restaurant-tech project that I worked on full-time from late 2021 through the first half of 2022.

The idea behind Sweetstack is now a thing of the past, but I wanted to release the source code to illustrate a no build, low-cost, high-control approach to building a marketing site.

If you have engineers on your payroll, this approach won’t make sense for you (just use Webflow!). But if you’re technical and you’re bootstraping the first few years of your business, read on.

  • No build: Even after not touching the codebase for over a year, the site came instantly back to life when I threw the static folder onto Netlify. That’s because I wrote the HTML, CSS and JS directly. There’s no building, transpiling, or bundling of any kind. Hand-written HTML/CSS/JS has a long shelf-life, and if you want to minimize your yak-shaving costs in the long-run, this “ancient” technique will help.
  • Low-cost: I paid for a $5 AWS Lightsail VPS to serve the static assets (no CDN!) and ran a tiny Express server that sent emails whenever someone filled out the contact form. To lower your costs down to zero, skip the form and use a mailto link. Then just host your static assets on Netlify or GitHub pages.
  • High-control: This was originally why I went with the Lightsail VPS and Express server. I wanted SSH access to the box that was serving my site and sending my emails. In retrospect, for a landing page you don’t really need this degree of control. If I could go back in time, I would not use a VPS.

The README includes an overview of the repo if you’re interested in reading more about how I set things up.

Pietro Rea
Written by Pietro Rea, a software engineer, engineering manager and author from northern Virginia.