Alternatives to Big Tech, and a t-shirt
Mar 12, 2018

As the news continues to pour in about the risks posed by Big Tech, I'm often asked about alternatives: what should we use, if we don't want to feed the monopolists?

Here's my short list of alternative services that I recommend:

• Search: Instead of Google, use DuckDuckGo - a search engine that doesn't track you. I use it as my default search engine and it works great.

• Email: Instead of Gmail, use FastMail - a fast, well-designed email service that isn't owned by Big Tech and doesn't depend on surveillance for its business model.

• To-do list: Instead of using your inbox, or nothing at all, use my own Good Todo - a simple to-do list that doesn't track you. It also allows you to email your to-dos to the list, helping reduce inbox clutter.

• Calendar: Instead of Google Calendar, use BusyCal (on OSX), and sync your calendar with Apple's iCloud - or the calendar in FastMail.

• Browser: Instead of Chrome, use Firefox (or Safari) with the DuckDuckGo privacy extension installed, explained more here. (See also my interview with DuckDuckGo founder Gabriel Weinberg on my Techtonic radio show.)

• Music: Instead of Spotify, listen to WFMU. I'm serious. This independent, listener-supported radio station - where I run my Techtonic show - offers an unmatched collection of human-curated, non-algorithm-driven shows and an unbelievable treasure trove in its archive, all available for free. (Actually right now is WFMU's annual fundraiser, and you can donate here. More info below.)

• Social media: Don't use Facebook. Or at least minimize your usage. As Matt Klinman put it in this outstanding interview, "every time you scroll through content on Facebook, you re depriving independent media of a way to exist." To reach your community, just send email. I recommend Campaign Monitor, which I've used for many years to send out this newsletter.

I'm hardly the only one advocating for a new approach. Here are more voices on Big Tech:

• On Facebook: Columbia Journalism Review's Mathew Ingram writes that as Facebook increases its control, they ll decide which brands they are going to elevate and which they will filter out..Facebook effectively decides which media outlets survive and which don t. Read the full article.

• On Google: The NYT's Charles Duhigg wrote The Case Against Google. Nailed it. And Jason Kint writes that Google continues to obfuscate its numbers.

• On YouTube (owned, of course, by Google): Zeynep Tufekci writes in NYT about YouTube, the Great Radicalizer.

Pay attention.

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P.S. If you'd like to support my own (volunteer) project to raise awareness about tech issues, and get a t-shirt, please support my Techtonic radio show on WFMU (all past episodes here in the podcast).

How to get the Techtonic t-shirt:

1. Go to the WFMU pledge page and type 10 (or more) in the $_____ line, with "Per Month, Swag For Life" selected. (Or you can choose "One Time" and put in $75 or more.)

2. In the Choose Your Swag section, click all the boxes on the top row (make sure to click "1 DJ Premium") - you'll notice you also get the "Sputnik 60" t-shirt, and a glow-in-the-dark magnet featuring the WFMU mascot, Moondog the goat, and (at $10/month) the WFMU "Moon Freaker" t-shirt. Pretty good deal! Now click NEXT STEP.

3. On the next page, "2018 DJ Premiums," under the "Monday" heading, MAKE SURE TO CLICK the checkbox marked "Mark Hurst - Techtonic - The Techtonic T-Shirt." Then click NEXT STEP and check out.

....and here's the T-shirt!

Here's the pledge page.