About the latest articles of "Signal v Noise"

First of all, it is really great that Basecamp/Signal v Noise (SvN) are putting their money where their mouth is (or rather: putting their content where their servers are) and moved away from Medium, towards are self-hosted WordPress installation (read: "Signal v Noise exits Medium").

This is good for at least two reasons:

  • SvN stopped putting content into a walled garden, and at least did their part against the centralization of the internet. As with the accessibility of their main product, I hope the decisions of Basecamp have still have exemplary function for other services and business
  • I have criticized the lack of inclusiveness of Medium.com several times loudly. It is really striking to me that a platform that is predominantly about publication on the web is not willing to adhere to web accessibility basics. Still, in 2019, a Medium author can neither add alt-text to images nor create a semantically correct headline structure. The move to a self-hosted software where you can fix all the issues (or prevent them from happening in the first place) thus improves the accessibility and therefore reach of Signal v Noise.

Another current article is "Every little bit helps", and it is to be understood in the same vein - making ethical decisions as digital customers and entrepreneurs. David Heinemeier-Hanson presents the two possible extremes of dealing with the prevalence of "big tech" - apathy or revolt. He doesn't recommend any of them, but a middle ground:

We don’t all need to quit Facebook outright, foreswear Uber entirely, and never shop at Amazon again to have an impact. All of these
companies are already walking a precarious tightrope of towering
expectations. They don’t need to miss a quarter by more than a few
percent before it’s a calamity that’ll get everyone’s attention.

So here’s what you can do: A little bit. It helps. Really.

I totally agree with this pragmatic approach. But what I found very striking was the absence of the elephant in the room: Google. He mentions Facebook, Instagram, Uber, Amazon, even Twitter, but not the multinational conglomerate from Mountain View, California.

It is at the discretion of each reader to form their own theories on this decision, and if it was an unwittingly one. But - either way - this leads to a lack of practical tips on "a little less Google". Here is my take:

  • Use an alternative search engine, for example DuckDuckGo. If the duck doesn't yield any results, for example on really in-depth web development topics, I tend to use their "bang" feature (in this case !g) and search with Google.
  • Please use Firefox. I know, it is not as independent from Google as it claims to be, but after Microsoft's decision on Edgium it is more or less the last resort when it comes to rendering engine diversity
  • Avoid Google Mail, Google Contacts and Google Calendar, if you can. Use services like posteo, ProtonMail, FastMail or use a self-hosted Exchange installation.

There is much good content on the web on becoming google-free. My advice would be - pick and choose the measures you can take on, in the sense of DHH's pragmatic advice:

Every little bit helps