In Focus

Time it takes to fully load The Atlantic’s In Focus with Adblock: 5 s. Without Adblock: got tired of waiting at around 2 minutes. Looks like In Focus will be the first of my RSS subscriptions to get the axe due to this.

Daily Twitter log-in’s a by-gone

And just like that, I’ve now ditched daily Twitter logins too. Turns out that Twitter’s lists feature, which I had never used prior to this, is completely analogous to Reddit’s multireddits feature. I set up two lists: one for international people and one for domestic, and again the shortlinks via my own system.

One aspect of these non-logged-in followings that I haven’t touched upon is the obvious lessening of interaction: it now takes some effort to give someone an upvote, a retweet or a favorite. To be honest, I’m very close to not caring at all. I think I’ve been interactive mostly because the effort involved was so small, and now that the effort is more significant, I just won’t bother.

I do still get the reflexive urge to interact, but not being able to immediately do so does not leave me yearning. I’m not opposed to interaction per se, but for the most part I also do not value it enough to bother to log in to be able to interact.

The one remaining login

Liberating myself from being continuously logged in to Reddit turned out to be easy: multireddits work perfectly fine as a substitute for subscriptions. Obviously I still need my account to manage the subreddits, but luckily I already used to do that rarely prior to this: I’m pretty conservative in my new subscriptions, and I usually throw out old unwanted ones en masse once or twice a year.

The only extraneous feature I used was my own link-shortening system, to give the new multireddit a nice little mnemonic.

This has left me pondering more and more about the practicalities of getting off Google, which now remains as the most pressing obstacle. Since leaving Ubuntu One, I’ve used Owncloud for file syncing, so that’s already covered. But I still find myself using Google Docs for some reason; I’ve never tried replacing it with Owncloud’s documents add-on.

I have experimented with Owncloud’s calendar add-on though, and IIRC it worked just fine. But I stopped using it because I wasn’t trying to replace Google at the time.

And I haven’t even touched on email, probably the biggest part of the hypothetical goodbye-Google for me.

But there’s also a bigger logistical obstacle than the nitty-gritty practical details: I have an Android phone, and the wins of giving up Google on the desktop would be rendered null if, simultaneously, I’d still stick to OEM Android on the phone.

I have already been contemplating rooting the phone for a custom ROM due to unrelated reasons (the manufacturer will not be providing updates beyond L), so there’s a theoretical possibility of trying to go Google-free on the phone too. For reasons, I imagine it a much more crippling experience than on the desktop. The alternative would be to remain with Google on the phone, which, for honesty’s sake, should mean giving up (i.e. keeping Google) on the desktop too. Also, if I were to ditch Google on the phone, it might ultimately be better achieved by switching to a Lumia.

If I had to keep one login as daily procedure, Google would have to be it. It yields the biggest gains by far. And truth be told, one login isn’t so bad, not even with two-factor verification. If logins were the only reason, I’d definitely not bother with this. But there are bigger, better reasons for trying to go Google-free. Reasons that go beyond the overarching theme of this blog, which is just “how to simplify my day-to-day web browsing”.

To log in or not to log in

I’m contemplating giving up logging in to websites altogether.

Well, not altogether altogether, but as a consistent practice anyway. I’d have to go offline entirely if I wanted to do stuff like banking without logging in.

But with my new work-flow in place, most log-ins have become the biggest stone in my shoe by far. So I find myself weighing the benefits: are they really worth all the trouble that credentials pose?

Off the top of my head, I have 3 sites I log into daily now: Google, Reddit and my blogs obviously. Twitter and Slack would also be among them, but I’ve switched to desktop apps for those. (That’s a cop-out, I know. But I tell myself I did it to ease the transition to disposability and I do believe it has made a big difference. Now I need a concrete plan to move out of the apps too. I have yet to make one.)

Of the three mentioned, Google is of course the big one. I’m still as much on their leash as I was at the beginning and I’m not satisfied with that. But I always anticipated getting off the big G would be the biggest step, so I’m also just sincerely pushing it off into the future; it’ll most likely be the last one to take on once I’ve conquered the other, smaller obstacles on my way to perfect disposability.

I’d flush my Reddit karma down the drain in a heartbeat, were it the only loss from not logging in (not that I’m anywhere near celebrity figures there, but it’s also not completely insignificant). The bigger loss would my collection of subreddit subscriptions. Without custom subscriptions the site is useless, and I’d rather get off the Internet entirely than be exposed to Reddit’s front page.

I should explore multireddits. I have a vague feeling they might be used to replace login-bound subscriptions. There’d still be the (usually more or less horrific) custom CSS of different subreddits to deal with, but I could employ the screening technique I already do with websites in general now: if they’ve crapped it up too badly, I’ll just do without them no matter how good their content.

My own blogs (and other sites I admin) are the easy one: I already remember most of the credentials (so I don’t need a password manager next to my browser), and these sites are by nature the ones I have the most control over, so adjusting policies would be easy when needed. Perhaps if, after I’ve done away with Google, and I really feel like naatiskella, I could try implementing some crazy-ass “anonymous posting by anybody” system, maybe authenticating mine using PKA. (You can probably tell that dealing with this one first appeals to me, but I should resist the temptation because the ROI here is so small.)

In addition to the three big ones, I still occasionally log in to Flickr just to favorite some photos. But that one I could stop doing right now, should I decide so. And I think that’s what I’ll do right now, for a start.

I have already stopped logging in to YouTube (which, as I’m sure you’re well aware, is just another tentacle of Google) just to give thumbs-ups. Back when I used ad-blocking, I felt somewhat indebted to good content creators, and I used thumbs-up as one of the ways to alleviate that feeling. No need for that anymore, as they get their ad monies from my views now.