773 words

I assert and defend my freedom of attention

Quote of James Williams, from a talk "Is our attention for sale?"

For me this means:

a careful choice of which books I read, podcasts I listen to
having my phone on silent most of the time
turning off almost all notifications
keeping the visible information in my room to a minimum
not viewing advertisements
practicing meditation
walking and running with just my thoughts
minimizing my exposure to recommendation algorithms (seeking info. manually)
very low habitual news-consumption
having time alone
rarely listening to music (especially with vocals) whilst working on anything complex
often turning off email and chat applications whilst at work
frequently shunning the open-plan office (pre-Corona)

Sometimes it is delightful to allow trusted others to claim my attention freely:

time with family and friends
the radio (carefully chosen stations!)
algorithmically generated music recommendations (why are these better than the video/news ones? Perhaps there's less of an agenda with these. They provide quality, but not quantity. Music is also more passive than video/news)
high quality journalistic sources, ideally at their own websites
specific video content creators on YouTube etc.
Wikipedia: feeling lucky!

Reclaiming sovereignty over personal hardware, software and data.

I am not a product

Recently I set some personal life goals. One was to reclaim sovereignty over my personal hardware, software and data. The infamous tech companies have been steadily eroding that sovereignty for years, taking advantage of a vast information asymmetry and my inclination for convenience. So in the last month, I:

  1. bought a barebones mini-pc
    Cost: ~350E all-in (already had monitor, peripherals, sit-stand desk)
    attached it to the back of my monitor so it's invisible (if it wasn't for the cables!)

  2. installed Ubuntu Linux
    free, open-source
    because I want to have a secure and private operating system, with more control over the way I use this tool
    this replaces my Microsoft Windows laptop (hopefully permanently this time...)

  3. started using ProtonMail
    a privacy-focused encrypted email provider
    freemium, open-source, I subscribed for 2 years
    replacing gmail
    because email contains so much personal information, and I don't like the way Google use this
    I use their browser web-app, and Android app
    I use account aliases for different website, with the intention of monitoring which of the aliases are compromised at haveibeenpwned.com
    I moved many account registrations across to my new addresses and aliases. This is boring and time-consuming :( I wonder if there is a business idea here to help people do this? Would not be easy to build though.

  4. started using ProtonCalendar
    included in ProtonMail subscription, closed-source
    replacing Google Calendar
    this was delightfully simple to achieve! Just exported all the events from Google, imported them into Proton, and that was it!
    So far, I use the ProtonCalendar browser web-app, and Android app. I was very fortunate with timing, the Android Beta was just released (and seems stable so far)

  5. started using Brave Browser for all web browsing
    Free and open source
    Soon I will start tipping content creators with their Basic Attention Token. This is my preferred way to contribute to the people that make the web great, without compromising on my strong preference to minimise advertising exposure
    In the past I mostly used Firefox + privacy extensions. Brave seems more solid
    I mostly put my web-traffic through a VPN
    some browsing also goes through Tor Browser (I've yet to experiment with Brave's option to use Tor)

  6. started using StandardNotes
    secure encrypted note-taking service
    freemium, open-source, I subscribed for 5 years
    this replaces a custom txt-document based note-taking solution, which was not great
    in the past, I was an Evernote user. Until discovering they had no respect for the privacy of user content.
    I use the Linux app and Android app
    I use an s3 bucket as a backend for the encrypted file storage. (10 mins to configure)

  7. started using listed.to as a blogging platform
    free with StandardNotes subscription
    beautifully simple and integrated (this blog was published from my note-taking app, in 2 clicks)

Still to go

Import, filter and organize all old notes
Import important old emails (lots of filtering to do here)
Finish configuring private domain for custom email addresses
Start using Linux also for work (instead of Windows)
Investigate Solid as a social network replacement
Investigate Kodi as a Chromecast replacement
Start tipping appreciated online content creators with BATs, through Brave Browser
Delete all data from Evernote (after importing & filtering old notes to StandardNotes)


Investigate modern Android alternatives (or de-googling Android to the greatest extent possible)
Delete all data from Facebook (after reaching out to relevant old and valued connections with replacement contact details)
Delete all data from Google (maybe not maps...)