Cutting The Cord

I no longer want to be tied up in various accounts for platforms and services, to be tied to black-box style technology with which if you have any issues it just doesn’t work and you’re left to shrug and wait for things to get better. Of course I know that it would be ridiculous to have full and total control over every piece of technology, since that would involve constant maintenance and other investments for which the vast majority of people have no room in their already full lives. However, not every possible app and service is necessary – no, this is not an advert for Marie Kondo – and whenever I think about just how much control of my life I am handing over to corporations there is an inexorable sinking feeling, bordering on despair.

That’s kinda shit. So I’m not doing it anymore. Let’s look at what I’ve got:

  • iCloud
  • Google
  • Amazon
  • Microsoft
  • Twitter
  • Facebook

Those are the largest arbiters of my digital life, and I would imagine relatively common for the people who are most likely to read this, but that doesn’t mean they are the only ones in my sights; I’ll come back to the smaller platforms at a later date.

iCloud is not going anywhere; not only is Apple the only company talking about, and acting on privacy with any sort of semblance of truth but I am also working towards a goal of trying all-in with them, for which iCloud is essential.

Google is tough. To begin with it’s not going anywhere since I have a Pixel 2 and after trying a different Launcher (Microsoft’s no less) found performance and stability suffered massively when compared to the default set up; apparently Google are quickly taking Apple’s approach with regard to “controlling the experience”. It is highly unlikely that I’ll be able to change my phone for another year, so that’s Android set in place.

On top of this is YouTube, which is not as bad as it once was since I have massively cut the amount of regular series I watch but is still a gradual process; fortunately some of my favourite channels offer alternative methods for watching their videos, so I will work on moving over to those.

Beyond that I have moved my search over to a combination of DuckDuckGo and web-based resources such as directories and blogs, whilst I am happy with Fastmail for email. The only other catch is Maps, for which Apple and Bing are the best alternatives but they’re nowhere near as easy to access as Google on my phone and that is where I am likely to need a map the majority of the time.

Amazon is likely to stay. Between an ever reliable back-up for delivered shopping and Prime it is currently in a strong position. Although, the move to Apple might negate Prime whilst attaining one of our current big domestic goals, getting a car, would put a dent in Amazon’s power as a retailer. I would love to extract myself from their ecosystem entirely.

Microsoft is the current backend for my task management, such as it is, but that can change easily enough over time. Other than that is Windows 10 which is in a strange position; either it’s entirely fragile because of how much better Mac OS is or I’m not all that convinced by Mac OS and Windows becomes the unquestionable default for my desktop and laptop needs. Even if the operating system stays, there will still be options for third party software, such as they are on Windows.

Twitter has gone from the unquestionable social network for me to an entirely disposable, infected waste of space. My remaining account is used to convince people to join Micro.blog, a cost I am currently willing to pay since it is so entirely locked down and focused away from the maddening flood that is the inner-most thoughts of millions of people. Also: fuck Jack Dorsey.

Facebook stopped being my hub for anything years ago; I went from deleting my years-old account, to reactivating and maintaining it in “private mode” (LOL), to inevitably trashing it altogether. Since then Instagram, and to a lesser degree WhatsApp remained a hook into the ecosystem but they are both gone now. Much like the rest of these huge platforms, there are better alternatives for which my mental health is eternally thankful. Also: fuck Mark Zuckerberg.

I am now actively seeking out either non-account or non-services software for the bare essentials I need. We are in the era of Noise when it comes to software evolution for the masses and I no longer want to be weighed down by the mammoth task of moving the whole world to be plugged into one space.

Whilst I still believe it is true that these monopoly-abusing companies host the platforms upon which “everybody lives” to some extent, I simply no longer wish to bear the cost of it; I refuse to live my life by the compromised standards of other people.

• • •

I’ll be posting a follow-up to this, looking more into the future in a similar manner as I have written before now. I agree with Jack Baty with regard to where we ought to be putting our energy; great, I got rid of the thing that is bad, so what is next? Let’s all try to talk about that.

A number of other people have recently created work with which they reflect similar thoughts and approaches mentioned herein. To those people I am grateful for their contributions to these issues:

As soon as Flickr launches their independent login I’m getting an account.

littleletterBIGLETTER is not the most egregious decision made by Apple in recent times but it’s still pretty bad.

My favourite news this week involved the words “Michelle”, “Yeoh”, “Star”, and “Trek”.

TIL Returns

Today I Learned is back for 2019, including:

  • A new page; The Phrasebook.
  • A new tip.
  • A variety of Page updates.
  • Twitter account fully active again.
  • More to come this week!

For those who aren’t familiar, @til is an unofficial resource for help with Micro.blog. It includes hints, tips, links, and much more to come over the next few weeks.

You can follow via the @-mention above on Micro.blog or using feeds:

Now is a good time to follow TIL, whilst this is also a great time for all of us to get Back To Blogging.

Finally settled on a music set-up for my computer:

  • iTunes for playing music I own, minus Apple Music.
  • Spotify for streaming, minus music I own.

iTunes is the best local player, whilst Spotify on the web is a good thing and their player for streaming is also good.

Them: Get rid of your books to truly embrace joy! (ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ*:・゚✧

Me: You will pry my books out of my cold, dead hands. (ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ*:・゚✧

Don’t use swear words on your blog.

I’ve seen this floating around. Again.

Listen, say the fuck whatever you want on your blog. We have enough self-censoring, sanitised bullshit on the web without independent voices adding to that mediocre pile of shit.

For The Weekend: Fourteen

A few things for you:

Enjoy your weekend!

The Mainstream Conundrum

… I have always thought of Facebook as a necessary evil.

Luis Gabriel Santiago Alvarado, I don’t know anymore!

A familiar feeling with which I empathise. The behemoths of the social web (silo platforms) have been constructed to have this exact effect on as many people as possible.

Joyce Garcia agrees:

It’s very heartening to know that I’m not the only one struggling through decisions on the social media morass.

Weighing up the value of where the crowd is, or at least appears to be, against the reality of contributing to a bad thing – often definitely very bad things – is difficult.

People might say “oh but what do you think you’re really contributing by leaving” but the fact remains that as more people leave, even more people feel comfortable doing so; after a few consecutive years of steady decline in activity and visible membership, these silos have no real backup plan on which to rely. They are not web-friendly at all and with that comes the lack of local copies, which means everything just disappears, and people will inevitably see the patently destructive core of these systems.

Even the people who remain in the silos will likely change their approach to them; for example, Twitter as a simple means of producing a microblog feed as well as RSS. Over time enough people are only likely to get smarter about these platforms, in the aggregate, that their move away from the centre of our culture, our very societies is inevitable.

These platforms do not need to disappear; we simply need to put them in their place.

Reminder that taking a break from mainstream social media is not that different from taking a break from work; it’s good for your health in a lot of different ways. Consider that when the urge to rage-quit your account rises up at a particularly stressful point in your day.

My Micro.blog Non-Wishlist List

Last month I posted my wishlist for Micro.blog, outlining a number of items should they be implemented I feel would make significant contributions to the effort of making substantial improvements across the platform.

I built this list over time and that included removing items either implemented in that time or those that, upon reflection became less fitting for my list. Below is a list of some of these items, along with some quick thoughts:

  • Android

    • Perhaps the most forcefully requested feature for Micro.blog at all, at least publicly. More than a few people have disregarded the platform altogether when it becomes obvious just how Apple-centric it is as far as apps are concerned.
    • Whilst I do think the platform will grow for the better with official Android support, I continue to believe it is unlikely to such an extent to be irrelevant, at least for now; if a significant portion of my list is implemented the lack of Android will soon become something of a highly visible flaw, especially for a platform founded on the principles of the open, inclusive web.
  • Windows

    • Similar to the above issue with Android, although to a much lesser extent; aside from anything else, the web app is likely to be easier to access in a desktop-class browser. However, an app through which you are given a smooth and clean interface, even with just basic functionality, would be rather impressive on Windows; I say this as a lifetime user of Windows who has rarely seen third-party software worth talking about.
    • I wonder if a browser extension – at least for Firefox and Chrome, as well as Safari – would help a decent number of people for whom a Windows app would be appealing, at least in the short term.
  • Replies on hosted blog posts.

    • This has been requested on more than a few occasions, especially from those for who the stated goals of Micro.blog are particularly attractive – for people to blog more/get back to blogging, something of a return to the old pre-social behemoth web, etc. Whilst I agree this would be a great feature, I do not believe it is important at a fundamental level for enough people to justify its theoretical status as a priority.
  • Metrics.

    • This includes direct access to your Following list in a way with which most people are familiar thanks to the increasingly homogenic design of mainstream social media, the very presence of public Likes and/or Reactions, and through to the likes of built-in stats for posts. Not only do I think this would muddle the main message through which Micro.blog is promoted, I have yet to be convinced that the presence of such features ever contribute to the net positive of platforms through which people seek to discuss ideas and matters at hand.
  • Search.

    • Global search built right into Micro.blog. This will immediately solve “Discovery” or so it would seem when people react with shock at the lack of conventional search. Not only does the hosted search feature provide a practical option for those who are aligned with the philosophy behind Micro.blog (i.e. bloggers, including those who are more concerned with writing and posting than they are fiddling with technical toys) but the search available via Discover provides search within a focused context. For the moment that is more than enough.
  • ‘Show More’ everywhere (replies especially).

    • I totally forgot about this. It is an example of feature parity, or lack thereof and whilst I would dearly love to see it (hi from Windows and Android 👋🏻) it’s definitely not a deal-breaker nor a thing I believe would turn many people away, at least not in the short term.

I am confident there are plenty of other items I could have put here, however those are the ones I have noticed when it comes to looking at both the platform and community as a whole. It’ll be interesting to see if any of these make progress ahead of my actual wishlist.