Evening News, Dec. 10, 2020

#CivilWar was trending on Twitter this morning. Apparently, Rush Limbaugh was talking about the unfortunate possibility of a civil war, while Tim Pool explained why this was not entirely crazy talk.

Look at it this way. Suppose the Supremes take the case and rule in favor of Trump and the Republicans. You know the mainstream media will, barring some (to me) unforeseen circumstance, color it as an enormous miscarriage of justice. It will go far beyond riots. Last summer the MSM and Democratic politicians merely winked at, and subtly encouraged, the riots. But they refuse to let Trump win. They know that, if he does, he's coming after the Bidens, all the people in bed with China, and more. While they still hold power in about half the states and and half the Congress, as well as the "commanding heights" of Establishment culture, they refuse to let this happen. But they'll be desperate. And they know their rank and file really and truly believe that Trump is the Devil, worse than Hitler, who will just usher in a new fascist state (because, you know, he's already started, or something); they've been told that so often, anyway. So secession happens, and President Trump gets the military out to stop it. War.

Suppose to the contrary that the Supremes don't take the case, or rule in favor of Biden and the Democrats. Well, what do you think will happen then? The Republican leadership and rank and file have seen more than enough evidence that (1) Covid-19 was hyped and started in China, (2) China was allowed to spy on and influence U.S. policy for decades, (3) the Bidens were in bed with China (and Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs, and more), not to mention (4) there is some very heavy unfinished business regarding Anthony Wiener's hard drive and the Clinton Foundation. On top of all that, we have stunning amounts of evidence that (5) the Democrats systematically stole the election. The Republicans cannot allow this group of criminals to ruin the country. One way or another, Trump and his loyalists deny Democrats the right to take over. The Democrats fight back. War.

Not being a political scientist or historian, I have no idea of how plausible all this is. But it sure is worrisome to me. If it happens, I suspect we will all be looking back at now-current events and wondering if the war was not carefully orchestrated—so many previously unlikely (or unknown) events have come together in 2020 to make it possible.

If you want to find products to buy that do not come from China, try ProductFrom.com or ChinaNever.com. If you're looking for computer stuff, NewEgg.com includes "shipping from" information and links to manufacturer sites, so it's easier to find out which brands are Chinese.

Pennsylvania House leaders have filed a brief to support Texas...in its lawsuit against the state of Pennsylvania (among others).

A third Muslim country, Morocco, has agreed to normalize relationship with Israel. Not news you can easily learn from the MSM, I imagine. The notion that Jared Kushner, of all people, might have brought this about must be galling. Good. Of course, if Biden takes power, one can easily imagine his people destroying the agreement immediately, somehow, just for spite.

This morning, Trump tweeted that "a coup is taking place in front of our eyes":

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1337042714924380166

I'm afraid that is how it looks to me, too, considering the shocking breadth and depth of evidence that the election was stolen by dishonest Democrats as well as anti-Trump Establishment Republicans. And that is to say nothing of the profoundly unfair—incredibly undemocratic—way this election was conducted by virtually all involved elements of society. The fact that the American people who are still glued to MSM sources know fairly little about this situation is just incredible and dystopian.

In a dramatic statement that has gotten a lot of play, a Dr. Pierre Kory testified that an established and fairly cheap drug, Invermectin, "basically obliterates transmission of this virus." In other news of inconvenient doctors, Dr. Kary Mullis, the Nobel prize winning inventor of PCR tests, said "Fauci doesn't understand medicine, he's an administrator" and "he has an agenda." Note, Dr. Mullis is now dead. He said this some years ago, long before Covid-19.

Liberal talking heads want you "held accountable" as "the enemy" for voting for Trump. Chris Cuomo wants Trump voters to lose "way more than this election." Court jester Olbermann calls for Trump supporters to go to prison.

https://twitter.com/newsbusters/status/1337102027910836226

But civil war? That's crazy talk.

Well, I am sure there was other news. I have to limit myself. Other things to do!

CORRECTION of this morning's news: Rep. Eric Swalwell has not been removed yet from the House Intelligence Committee. As of the evening of December 10, he and Nancy Pelosi were being strongly pressured by Republicans to exclude him from the committee, however. How he might remain on the committee when the Republicans on the same committee, at least, have no faith whatsoever in his loyalty, and when the Republicans are in the minority, should be interesting to watch.


December 10, 2020

I am thinking of making a news and commentary blog rather than spending any significant time commenting on Twitter. To explore that idea, which I would execute over the holidays rather than take much work time, I thought I would make a brief sample post. So here goes. (Let me know what you think in the comments below.)

Boy, have I ever picked a doozy of a day to report about. I mean, there is a lot of huge news.

Surely one of the biggest stories is that Eric Swalwell was supposedly removed from the House Intel Committee. CORRECTION: He has not been removed yet. As of the evening of December 10, he and Nancy Pelosi were being strongly pressured by Republicans to exclude him from the committee. That is, of course (the story broke big three days ago), because he was "involved in an effort by a reported spy"—the colorfully named, now infamous, Fang Fang—"to gather info for China." So says Kevin McCarthy, anyway. This is significant because the House is Democrat-run, meaning even the current radical and deeply compromised batch of Democrats cannot defend this person, who increasingly looks to be a traitor. And no doubt there are many more, considering that Prof. Di Dongsheng admitted that the Chinese Communists have been influencing American politicians through Wall Street for decades.

In news closer to home, the Chinese fangs were sunk deep into the mayor of an unnamed "obscure city"—in Ohio. Boy, this girl gets around.

Wait, so...ol' Fang Fang was actually drawing salary and travel expenses from the Democratic Party?

What have we here?

Apparently, it's news that some guy named Larry Sanger announced a boycott of YouTube. (Direct link to the Revolver front page, which is surprisingly difficult to find if you don't know it's called "Revolver News".)

A deeply disturbing sign of the times is that family doctor Jereth Kok was investigated and suspended from medical practice for sharing Christian beliefs. Yes, really. What sort of beliefs? Just "about abortion, about sexuality and so-called 'LGBT' issues, and that whole issue of doctors performing so-called 'gender transitions'." Got that? In Australia—hence, in many places in the West—you may not speak publicly about such issues if you have the wrong views. Much more, highly interesting background in an interview. I wish Dr. Kok all the best and I strongly suspect that the Lord will reward him. We should all seek to emulate Dr. Kok and not self-censor at all. Continue to speak out, if anything, more loudly and persistently, because they will definitely win if we allow ourselves to be silenced by the New Censors.

If you can believe this, the FBI has finally changed its story about Seth Rich. The FBI now admits that it has thousands of pages of documents of Seth Rich, and it also has custody of his laptop. Gee, OK. It's "just another story" today.

It seems Pres. Trump has tapped Sen. Ted Cruz to argue the Texas lawsuit before the Supreme Court. Not sure the president is in a position to hire people for that particular job, but maybe.

Eighteen states that have joined Texas in its lawsuit against the four swing states that ran their elections unconstitutionally. "On Tuesday evening, the Supreme Court ordered the defendant states to reply by 3 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 10." Cautiously optimistic that, with this amount of support and considering both the importance and the strength of the case against the violators, the Supremes will actually take up the case.

It was announced, through the "Biden Harris Transition" team, that Hunter Biden's taxes are being investigated by the U.S. Attorney's office in Delaware.

Have I missed any big stories du jour that I should have included above? Please share them below.


The Era of Centralized Social Media Is Over

For too long, we have made what has amounted to a Faustian bargain. If you post your comments, your pictures, your videos, your essays, your reviews—your content—on Big Tech's enormous centralized platforms, then Big Tech will give you free hosting, an audience if you compete well, and some content development tools. It seemed fair. At least, that is how they encourage you to think about this bargain.

But we have now awakened—only half-awakened, most of us—to the real costs of the arrangement. They are higher than we thought.

We donate much more than temporary use of our content. Since content hosting has grown more complex and your audience is built into their product, and especially since it is difficult if not impossible to move most of our content and audience to other platforms easily, we have also effectively donated control, if not ownership, over our content and our audience.

But we also donate ourselves. We donate our valuable attention. We donate our freedom and autonomy, when the corporations decide what we may or may not upload or view, and whether others may or may not view our contributions. We donate our good name, our public support, for the very medium we use. We rent out our very minds when we open ourselves to manipulation by the controllers of these platforms. By our participation, we endorse this treatment as legitimate, no matter what indefensible things these corporations do.

There is also another thing we receive—another important part of the Faustian bargain—that is worth dwelling on. We receive a shot at popularity. We get a chance at an audience, at "friends" and "followers," who "like" what we produce, who amplify our voices. Who doesn't want friends and followers liking and amplifying us? And so we are hooked.

Is this exchange really worth it? Really?

We have been assuming that it is. I say it is objectively speaking a terrible arrangement that benefits them and mostly harms us, or most of us. Why do we agree to it, in that case? Because "they" have control over our social lives. We will be lost without the audience, the attention! And because the threat of that loss is so terrifying that most people will put up with increasingly obnoxious treatment as "the price you gotta pay." It seems like a good example of the Stockholm syndrome.

I think the exchange is not worth it. I will not speak for you. But I can say confidently that it is not true of me. Since, last year, I declared that what I really wanted was decentralized social media, I have felt rather dirty as I used Twitter and YouTube. I admit it—I made excuses myself. "This is the only way I can get my voice out there effectively," I told myself. Of course, I knew it was not true. I could write for publication. I could use my blog. "I'd be abandoning my peeps!" But nah. Nobody needs me there very much, and if they love me that much they can always come to the blog. "I would be giving up the fight (on Twitter) for freedom and justice!" I'm not Superman, and if my voice is really needed, I can probably fight more effectively on my blog and for publication.

All of those things strike me as being excuses because I liked the attention. The real bargain, and what makes the bargain demonic (so to speak), is that it involves receiving the attention of others, which merely feeds our ego, in exchange for something much more valuable: control over us by people we despise. When you get down to it, most of us are slaves to their system in exchange for the main thing we are after: evanescent, ultimately unimportant narcissistic pleasure. Is that what you really want and need?

It took this latest outrage by YouTube, threatening to delete any video that talks about the 2020 election fraud, to make me rethink my attitude toward contributing in any way to the Silicon Valley monsters.

So I am going to stop using my Twitter and YouTube accounts. I am not entirely sure what I will do with them. As to Twitter, I might keep it operational but just use it as a way to promote this blog and nothing more. I might completely shut down my YouTube channel. I am fairly sure I will be moving all my YouTube videos to my Bitchute channel (the move has already started), but whether it will be their final destination, I am not sure. I really want to support fully decentralized networks, so that I can have total control, right here in my own web space, of everything I want to put out there. Wouldn't that be nice? Is it really too much to ask?

In any event, I am highly motivated right now to leave the Big Tech monsters behind. I am exiting their Faustian bargain. I am 100% committed to owning and controlling my own content and audience in the future. I have talked a lot about this, but it is finally time to make the last, necessary, hard changes to make it real.


Geeks: Give the Gift of Computer Security!

Christmas is coming, and that means you could be giving your non-geeky loved ones the gift of...computer security and privacy. And just think, you might be the only person grandma knows who can fix her up. What a special present! "But, give the gift of computer security?" you ask. "How?" Read on.

It has been almost two years since I started seriously locking down my cyber-life. Now, if you have geek privilege, you have rare and valuable skills that enable you to keep your data safe and private and to get your voice out there without fear of censorship. But most of us doubt our ability to do this. Most of us feel trapped. If I tell them, "get your own domain and host your own email," they say to themselves, "Yeah right, that'll happen. I have no idea where to begin!" And this is not at all an irrational reaction. Some of them are probably right: they do not know where to begin. Depending on the job, they might make a bunch of bad choices or just mess everything up.

If you are a geek, you might be inclined to say, "Not my problem. It's good to be a geek!" But wait. You know the technically clueless people are talking about here? Your nontechnical parent, grandparent, sibling, or friend. On the one hand, you say you care about privacy; you do OK in that quarter. On the other hand, here are people with appalling digital hygiene habits. If you really care about privacy, then should you not care about their privacy? Why not help them out?

Example: Helping my Mom Set Up a Password Manager

My elderly mother had a significant birthday recently. For a gift, I did something I really should have done for her, and maybe others in my family, a long time ago: I installed a password manager for her.

If you are a geek, you must know about password managers. In fact, you must hand in your geek card if you do not use one on the regular. But whatever. The point is that you know the way grandma handles her passwords is completely messed up. She probably uses the same password for everything, or she took the advice of the Best Buy sales jerk who told her to write in L33tspeak, or something. Seriously, my mom was doing that.

My mom had her passwords spread across many scraps of paper as well as a badly-used iCloud/Safari/Apple Keychain system, a half-done, lame security system that Apple gives to everyone that stays within their ecosystem. She did not understand how to use the Apple system properly. Its method for generating secure passwords is not obvious, all her passwords were easily accessible via her computer password, and they were stored in iCloud—and besides, frankly, I just do not trust Apple.

So here is what I did for her birthday present:

  1. I installed Enpass (and paid for a lifetime subscription, ~$50) on her computer. I did the same on her phone and tablet.
  2. I tried transferring her passwords automatically using Apple's export function. Just as you might expect from one of these evil Silicon Valley corporations, Apple totally screwed the feature up; as far as I could tell, it just does not work. (I couldn't get the "export" function to get ungreyed-out. I'm sure it was all for my mom's security and safety...) It turned out not to matter, though, because literally most of her passwords were wrong.
  3. So I transferred her passwords by hand, one by one, trying each one out. She only had about 40, so that was rather time consuming, but nothing like what mine would have been: I have 614 accounts according to my password manager software. Mine are nicely organized and stored, though, so no worries. For Mom, generally, I did this: I would go to a website, try logging in with the credentials stored in Mom's Apple Keychain, and discover half the time that they did not work. Then I would use her email address to do a password reset, then generate a new, secure password with Enpass, and fill it in. (Actually, good password managers at least partially automate this process, as Enpass does.) This is gruntwork that Mom would not do. She lacks the patience or the know-how. So it's your job, geek. Do it.
  4. Then, of course, I needed to give Mom access to the passwords on her phone and tablet. For that, I could have used some sort of password vault cloud storage service (like Dashlane, just for example, has). But that strikes me as insecure. So I flexed my geek muscles and created a new WebDAV folder repository for Mom, in her own folder on my NAS (this is an always-on, personal server, explained here). Of course, she has to trust me, but fortunately, she does. This functionality—the ability to save passwords to my own server via a secure protocol, rather than to some corporation's supposedly encrypted database—is one of the main reasons I went with Enpass and did not insist on the big open source password manager, Bitwarden. Last I saw, Bitwarden did not support WebDAV. I think KeePass supports WebDAV but last I checked, KeePass just did not have very good autofill functionality, which is essential. Anyway, I made sure that all her devices were properly connected to the NAS. Now she can update the password repo from whatever device she likes, and they're all updated at the same time and kept in sync (via the NAS).
  5. I also of course gave her several lessons on how to use the new tech, and promised her prompt tech support if she had any trouble with it going forward.

My trusty NAS. Isn't she pretty?

Of course, my mom could not have done anything like this on her own. You know that, I know that, and she knows that. Not only is there no shame in helping her, I got to thinking: Isn't it my responsibility to help out my old ma with this? Of course it is. Who else would do it? It's your job, geek!

Probably, you, too, have family members who need help locking down their passwords. They won't do it themselves. So whose job is it? Yours.

Other Ways to Help the Folks

Of course, there are many other things you could do, for unique birthday or holiday gifts or just because you're kind. Like what?

  1. Help them register a domain name.
  2. Help them set up a blog on the domain name.
  3. Help them set up email hosting, and transfer their old email, under their own domain name (or, if not that, then at least some more secure service than Gmail).
  4. Install Linux for them and teach them the basics. This will take longer and is riskier, perhaps. You can always start with dual-booting. Of course, you should back up stuff, and know what you're doing, before you take risks with your family's important stuff.
  5. Teach them how and when to use a VPN (cafes, airports, and hotels, mainly), and help them pick one out and install it (the last bit is really easy).
  6. Show them how to use Brave and DuckDuckGo...or your other preferred alternatives to Chrome and Google Search.
  7. Install a NAS for them, and move all their stuff off of Dropbox or external hard drives or whatever they are using. Again, this is quite a time commitment (I haven't done this for my family...but I've invited them to use my NAS if they want).

Any one of these would make a great Christmas present. They're especially good for young geeks who can't afford to buy nice presents. This skilled labor is worth more than many nice presents!

Heck, you could even show them how to buy crypto. I did that a couple years ago. Not sure I would recommend that, but...you could.

There are other things you could help others with...and yourself, for that matter...as regards locking down your cyber-life. Be a good geek! Do it!


In Memoriam: Charles Boone, Philanthropist Responsible for Reading Bear and WatchKnowLearn

This day before Thanksgiving, I sit to write about a man I am thankful for. I celebrate the contributions to online knowledge of Memphis-area philanthropist Charles Boone. Now that he has passed away—August 28, 2020, at the age of 85—I feel privileged to be able to share something he asked me to keep private, until after he died.

In particular, Charles was the mysterious benefactor behind WatchKnowLearn and Reading Bear. When I was working for him, he lived alone with his dogs on a nice estate in a big house, two ponds (one stocked), and lots of woods in Lakeland, a distant suburb of Memphis, Tennessee. When I first met him, he was around 71 and already bragging about how he had outlived everyone in his family. Charles was a remarkably open and nice guy, although he could sometimes be a tightwad, as I have found many rich folks are. The first time I met him, he said he'd take me to lunch. I thought we were going to some restaurant, maybe a nice one. He took me to the local Costco and we ate a bunch of free samples. Maybe it was a test. I think I passed, if so. He was very unpretentious that way. He was very easy to like. I remember driving hither and yon, including out to the state capital once to lobby someone, and discussing the projects and much else, besides. I don't think he really had a mean bone in his body.

Our association began in 2007, when I was still working hard on Citizendium. He said he wanted someone to organize an "American Idol for teachers." He said he wanted to hire the guy who started Wikipedia. I told him I didn't have time for another project, but I asked him to help support Citizendium. He agreed to, but asked me to consult a bit for his project. Over the next year, he asked me to do more and more, which is one of the main reasons I was doing less and less on Citizendium throughout 2008. By late 2008 I was working more or less full time developing a new project. He invited me to come live in the Memphis area, but it wasn't necessary, and my wife and I had already settled in the Columbus area. I ended up worked for him at a distance for something like five years.

The new project wasn't an American Idol for teachers. I persuaded Charles to let me organize a directory of the best educational videos online, reasoning that there was already plenty of great stuff online, it just needed to be made more findable. It was called WatchKnow—later, under new management and after I started working on Reading Bear, renamed WatchKnowLearn. It launched in 2009 and remained in active development until 2011 or so. It quickly gained tens of thousands of videos in a large directory of videos, in a format that teachers say they found very useful. It was (and is) 100% free of charge to everyone, and ad-free. That's because Charles paid for it.

In 2010, I showed Charles a video I had made of my toddler son reading. He was amazed and said he wanted me to make a digital version of the program I had used to teach my son to read. So he hired a new CEO for WatchKnowLearn and I switched to start developing Reading Bear, which I did for two years. I began by doing background research, among other things writing this free book. Then I dove into the project, which was hard work, designing the software and working closely with the developers, making the word lists, collecting the pictures and videos (after arranging to get them donated by an early exec of Shutterstock), and then actually producing 50 presentations. Every separate sound of all 1,200 words and corresponding sentences had to be matched, by hand, so that the right part of the words were being highlighted while the audio was heard. Truly it was a labor of love. But I hear that many kids as well as ESL students used it to learn to read. My second son was one of the first beta-testers; he was using it as I was still making it, when he was a baby. Like his big brother, he was reading picture books by age two and chapter books by age three. Anyway, Reading Bear got many good reviews and helped a lot of people learn to read English. Charles paid for that and he rightly took pride in it.

By late 2012, Charles had gotten married, again, he was passing ownership to a third party (who, sadly, haven't done much with them since; they're 100% out of my hands). So Charles' interests took him elsewhere for half a dozen years. Both projects were finished, and Charles wasn't ready to develop them any further. I moved on to other projects.

Interestingly, it was just last summer, 2020, when we got back in touch for the first time in a while. He said he wanted to get back into developing a new project. Would I be interested in developing that old "American Idol for teachers idea" for him—for real this time? I was consulting at the time, so it was easy for me to say yes (although I have since moved on to full time starting the Knowledge Standards Foundation). We even said, sometime in early August, that we would negotiate a salary and get started very soon. But then I stopped hearing from him. A few weeks passed, I got worried, and I contacted a mutual acquaintance, who told me the bad news. Apparently, Charles had passed away just a couple days after our last call. It warms my heart to know that he was wanting to develop more free educational content projects until the very end.

The "American Idol for teachers" idea, by the way, is a very good one. It would not just be another Khan Academy. We would do a search, probably in the form of an actual competition with cash prizes and an employment contract, for the very best K-12 teachers. Then we would work with the teachers and professional videographers and produce professional videos covering the entire K-12 curriculum, complete with supplementary material like lesson plans and worksheets, and make it all available online for free. The result would be something like TheGreatCoursesPlus.com, but for kids, and absolutely free.

Someone ought to do that project. It always amazes me that so many philanthropic dollars are spent on education, and so few are spent on actual content that students can learn from. What a waste. Listen, education philanthropists—what the world needs are boatloads of high-quality free educational material. That really is of great benefit to the world. There still isn't enough really good free educational stuff. Yes, even still. Not enough people understand this. Charles understood it, though.

Charles had other philanthropic activities as well. He used to talk about how he bought expensive smart boards (interactive displays for education) for classrooms in poor areas that couldn't afford them. He had other projects, too. I'm sure he didn't tell me about all of them.

Charles wasn't perfect, as he himself admitted early and often. He was a Christian man who cared deeply about improving the lives of poor kids, especially around the very poor Mississippi Delta region. He was unassuming and, for religious and other reasons, asked me not to publicize his name until after he was dead. Since he has passed away, I feel happy to be able to share about his work. RIP, Charles.


How to Solve Email

Universal problem, circa 2000: you move around from school to school, job to job, Internet provider to Internet provider. They all give you email addresses, which of course constantly change. What a headache. If you're over 30 or so, you remember having to tell people regularly about how your email address has changed. Annoying.

The 2010 solution was oh-so-clever: use some giant, professional email service like Yahoo!, but soon it was Gmail. For a number of years, Gmail dominated email services because, as everybody seemed to say, it just had the best design. But then, around 2011, stories started appearing that Google was spying on your email. That is still happening; they let other companies read your mail, too. Are you happy about that? Of course not.

So in 2020, we have a new set of problems—and a new (but old) solution. Yes, we expect the same email to be the available on different devices, as we did in 2000. Yes, we expect a more-or-less permanent email address and email clients that are super-easy to use, as we did in 2010. But today we also expect to be in control. We expect not to have to compromise on privacy or (shudder) on basic freedom of speech in our own private communications. It is absolutely frightening that we must now actually consider the possibility that even that basic freedom might be under threat.

In response to these worries, naturally, a lot of people have left Gmail and other Big Tech mail services. I did, and I never looked back.

The 2020 solution: buy your own domain, and pay for hosting. Owning your own, permanent domain is not as hard as you might think. You just have to pay a small annual fee for your own domain ($10-15/year) and mail hosting (could be $12/year, more typically $30/year, and up). And since your correspondents' mail to you can be read by Big Tech if you are on Gmail (and a few others), you really owe it to them to leave.

By the way, you might say, "But I love Gmail. No other app is as good!" That might have been true in 2010. It is no longer true today. There are loads of great email apps with fast search and loads of great features.

"But...host my own email? How?" Glad you asked.

(By the way, I have no financial connection to anyone doing business on this stuff. This is my 100% uninfluenced, honest, and considered opinion.)

STEP ONE: Buy your own domain name for email. Mine is sanger.io. This can be the domain not just for you personally, but for your whole family, even your extended family.

If YourLastName.com is unavailable (try searching on something like NameCheap.com), try something other than ".com" (that is a "top level domain" or TLD). People in nonprofits might like ".org". Geeks (maybe especially crypto geeks) might like ".io" or ".net". There are a zillion TLDs (.xyz, .me, .news, etc.) available today. I rather like my family's domain, sanger.io, which registered almost two years ago now. My email address is my first name @sanger.io. Pretty cool and easy for people to remember.

Another option is to add "mail", "net", "post" to your name. Like, I could buy sangermail.com if I wanted; it is available.

Buying a domain name is easy. You can do it through many, many different services. I would avoid GoDaddy. I use NameCheap, but there are many others that I am sure are excellent. Shop around.

STEP TWO: Choose a mail hosting provider. In other words, if you own MyLastName.com now, you need to pay a company to receive and store your email (at your new domain!) and make it available to you. I have already written about this. There is quite a bit of cheap email hosting out there to be had, and that would help you (a) have a personalized, permanent email address, and (b) escape Big Tech. But if you also want to (c) guarantee your privacy, then you need your email encrypted, and for that you will have to pay a premium, it looks like (the price is €6.25/mo/user on Protonmail, $5.99/mo/user on Hushmail, but you might find cheaper ones). I expect the cost of encrypted email hosting will come down further; prices have certainly come down since I was last shopping for this a couple years ago.

STEP THREE: Set up your new hosting, and actually make the move. You do not have to be a geek to set it up. Your hosting provider should be able to do most if not all of the set-up for you, if you have trouble. I mean, they are making money from hosting you, so they make it pretty easy. Just remember to follow instructions carefully and you will be fine. If it gets very complex and technical, just have the hosting company do it for you. If they will not, other hosts will; you can check in advance. This is how I set up my hosting and made the switch, but your experience may be different. Hosts do have different instructions, so pay attention to what they say, or you might have trouble with mail delivery. Make sure that your mail will not go into your friend's spam folder; your mail hosting company should be experts at setting this up for you, with all the SPF, DKIM, and DMARC records and whatnot. You should not have to set it up for yourself; that piece of the puzzle really is complicated, so they will do it for you.

Exporting email from Gmail (and other email hosts) to your new service is a common sort of task, and it is not that hard. You can do it. Many hosts will help with this too, and might even have automated tools for doing it. You do not have to import your mail at all, by the way. You can just leave it all there, on Gmail, and tell people to use your new address.

Of course, you will have to go to all your accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Amazon, etc., etc.) and give them your new address. This might sound like a pain, but when I did it, I found it to be remarkably pleasurable. "Another company that will not be sending me mail at my hated old Gmail address! Instead I am telling them to use my new, permanent, personalized address!" It really gives you a feeling of being in control of your destiny.

You still have the freedom to do this. Use it!

This is another installment in my series on how I’m locking down my cyber-life.


My new book is launched in paperback: Here are some quotes

I am announcing that my book is now available on Amazon in paperback. Please show your appreciation for this blog (and my other attempts to enlighten the world) by buying it!

Here: Essays on Free Knowledge: The Origins of Wikipedia and the New Politics of Knowledge, Sanger Press (my own imprint), ISBN 978-1-7357954-1-6. 12 essays. 270 pages. $18.75 for the paperback. The ebook version is best purchased on Gumroad ($9.95), but it is now available on Amazon as well (same price). I will make an audiobook version if there is much demand. So far about four people have requested an audiobook version. If the number of requests goes over ten, I guess I will make an audiobook.

Wikipedia celebrates its 20th anniversary in January, but as I explain in this collection of essays, it began by organizing a decentralized, global community to catalog their knowledge neutrally, with minimal rules. The results were amazing, sparking debates about whether amateurs really could declare "what we all know" and whether all this free knowledge could replace memorization. A decade later, as control of knowledge has become more centralized and closed, I ask: should we decentralize knowledge once again, and if so, how?

What do you get? In addition to front and end matter (including a full index), these twelve essays, which I include with some perhaps representative quotes:

The Early History of Nupedia and Wikipedia: A Memoir

The focus on the encyclopedia provided the task and the open content license provided a natural motivation: people work hard if they believe they are teaching the world stuff. Openness and ease of editing made it easy for new people to join in and get to work. Collaboration helped move work forward quickly and efficiently, and posting unedited drafts made collaboration possible. The fact that we started with a core of good people from Nupedia meant that the project could develop a functional, cooperative community. Neutrality made it easy for people to work together with relatively little conflict. Finally, the Google effect provided a steady supply of “fresh blood”—who in turn supplied increasing amounts of content.

Two Early Articles about Wikipedia

Wikipedia’s content is useful, and so people are starting to link to it. Google and other search engines have already discovered Wikipedia and the daily traffic they send to the project produces a steady stream of new readers and participants. The greater the number of Wikipedia articles, the greater the number of links to them, and therefore the higher the rankings and numbers of listings on Google. As they say, “the rich get richer.” So it is far from inconceivable that the rate of article-production will actually increase over the coming years—in fact, this seems rather likely.

But why all this activity and interest? Surely that is puzzling. Wiki software must be the most promiscuous form of publishing there is—Wikipedia will take anything from anybody. So how is it possible that so many otherwise upstanding intellectuals love Wikipedia (some, secretly) and spend so much time on it? Why are we not writing for academic journals, or something?

Wikipedia's Original Neutrality Policy

Wikipedia has an important policy: roughly stated, you should write articles without bias, representing all views fairly. This is easily misunderstood. The policy does not assume that it is possible to write an article from just one point of view, which would be the one neutral (unbiased, “objective”) point of view. The Wikipedia policy is that we should fairly represent all sides of a dispute, and not make an article state, imply, or insinuate that any one side is correct.

Why Neutrality?

To ... put it metaphorically, neutrality does not give us a free ride. It throws us into the issues and requires us to swim through them under our own power. This can be difficult and frightening (thus Kant’s injunction, sapere aude) but it also makes us feel empowered to decide for ourselves. Neutrality supports us both intellectually and emotionally in the act of exercising autonomous judgment by presenting us with all the options and providing us the tools to judge among them for ourselves. ...

When you write with bias, you are treating your readers as your pawns, as mere means to your ends. You are not treating them as autonomous agents, capable of making up their own minds rationally. You are not respecting their dignity.

Why Wikipedia Must Jettison Its Anti-Elitism

There is a deeper problem—I, at least, think so—which explains both of the above-elaborated problems. Namely, as a community, Wikipedia lacks the habit or tradition of respect for expertise. As a community, far from being elitist (which would, in this context, mean excluding the unwashed masses), it is anti-elitist (which, in this context, means that expertise is not accorded any special respect, and snubs and disrespect of expertise are tolerated).

How the Internet Is Changing What (We Think) We Know

[T]he superabundance of information makes knowledge more difficult. ... [F]or all the terabytes upon terabytes of information on the Internet, society does not employ many more (and possibly fewer) editors than it had before the advent of the Internet. When you go to post something on a blog or a web forum, there is no one called an editor who decides to “publish” your comment. The Internet is less a publishing operation than a giant conversation. But most of us still take in most of what we read fairly passively. Now, there is no doubt that what has been called the “read-write web” encourages active engagement with others online, and helps us overcome our passivity. This is one of the decidedly positive things about the Internet, I think: it gets people to understand that they can actively engage with what they read. We understand now more than ever that we can and should read critically. The problem, however, is that, without the services of editors, we need our critical faculties to be engaged and very fine-tuned. While the Internet conversation has made it necessary for us to read critically, still, without the services of editors, there is far more garbage out there than our critical faculties can handle. We end up absorbing a lot of nonsense passively: we cannot help it.

Who Says We Know: On the New Politics of Knowledge

[T]he public deserves a seat at the table it did not have throughout most of history. Wikipedia’s tremendous usefulness shows the wisdom of that policy. Still, it is no exaggeration to say that epistemic egalitarianism, as illustrated especially by Wikipedia, places Truth in the service of Equality. Ultimately, at the bottom of the debate, the deep modern commitment to specialization is in an epic struggle with an equally deep modern commitment to egalitarianism. It is Truth versus Equality, and as much as I love Equality, if it comes down to choosing, I am on the side of Truth.

Individual Knowledge in the Internet Age

The educational proposals and predictions of the Internet boosters described above point to a profoundly illiberal future. I fear that if we take their advice, in the place of a creative society with a reasonably deep well of liberally educated critical thinkers, we will have a society of drones, enculturated by hive minds, who are able to work together online but who are largely innocent of the texts and habits of study that encourage deep and independent thought. We will be bound by the prejudices of our “digital tribe,” ripe for manipulation by whoever has the firmest grip on our dialogue. I see all too much evidence that we are moving headlong in that direction. Indeed, I fear this is already happening. I honestly hope that I prove to be an alarmist, but I am a realist reporting on my observations. I wish the news were better.

Is There a New Geek Anti-Intellectualism?

The more that people have these various [anti-intellectual] attitudes, the more bad stuff is going to result, I think. The more that a person really takes seriously that there is no point in reading the classics, the less likely he will actually take a class in Greek history or early modern philosophy. Repeat that on a mass scale, and the world becomes—no doubt already has become—a significantly poorer place, as a result of the widespread lack of analytical tools and conceptual understanding. We can imagine a world in which the humanities are studied by only a small handful of people, because we already live in that world; just imagine the number of people all but vanishing.

But is this not just a problem for geekdom? Does it really matter that much if geeks are anti-intellectuals? The question is whether the trend will move on to the population at large. One does not speak of “geek chic” these days for nothing. The digital world is the vanguard, and attitudes and behaviors that were once found mostly among the geeks of yesteryear are now mainstream. Geek anti-intellectualism is another example.

Introducing the Encyclosphere

A few thousand people work regularly on Wikipedia. But what if millions more—orders of magnitude more—wrote encyclopedia articles and rated them, as part of a completely decentralized knowledge network, with no individual, group, corporation, or government in charge of the whole? That is surely possible. There are surely that many people who, if given the freedom to do so, would be highly motivated to volunteer their time to add to the world’s largest collection of knowledge.

We could create a knowledge commons, defined by neutral, open, technical standards and protocols: a network that decentralizes encyclopedias, exactly as the Blogosphere has done for blogs.

Declaration of Digital Independence

We declare that we have unalienable digital rights, rights that define how information that we individually own may or may not be treated by others, and that among these rights are free speech, privacy, and security. Since the proprietary, centralized architecture of the Internet at present has induced most of us to abandon these rights, however reluctantly or cynically, we ought to demand a new system that respects them properly.

The Future of the Free Internet

Even more fundamentally, what the decline of Wikipedia and social media have in common is the concentration—the centralization—of authority on the Internet. This centralization of Internet authority has many and terrible consequences. It turns out that placing so much power in the hands of Internet executives undermines us, our relationships, our minds, even our sanity, and ultimately our politics. Who knew this would happen, even ten years ago? Some open source software stalwarts foresaw some of it. But as to the general public, they had little notion, perhaps beyond a vague inkling. It is all too plain now.

Buy it!


How to Fix Social Media in Three Easy Steps

The social media bullies—YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and more—constantly violate our digital rights. That is the problem. The solution is to wean us off these social media giants, somehow. You own your own data and decide what you see (or not) for yourself. You subscribe to people, period, not to people's accounts on this-or-that service. That is the dream of "decentralizing social media."

This sounds nice, but it turns out to be too vague and complicated to be helpful. So I have been thinking about this. I have been asking, "What do I want?" Here is my answer, and if it works for me, it should work for everyone.

(1) I want a plugin to let me post on social media from this WordPress blog. I want to be able to go to a sparkly new, easy-to-use page that allows me to post from here—from my completely self-owned web space—to my Twitter and Facebook feeds and also (this is actually the important part) to a new reusable feed, like this blog feed. I do not want to have to go to Twitter to get my message out. Why should I have to? I should be able to post from here. Nobody can censor me or throttle me here. And you can have this same plugin yourself. Maybe you are a nasty troll, and you get kicked off everywhere, but I happen to like you, and I want the unadulterated you. I can come look at your feed, or better yet, I can get a feed reader that does not censor you, unless I decide I want you removed from my feed (see the next point). Come on, how hard should that be?

(2) I want to be able to view other people's posts from here, too. In other words, I want this plugin to go about and fetch posts wherever they are (well, maybe it will be more complicated than that; see (3)), bring them back here, and show them all in a feed that I can rearrange however I like. I can make posts public or private. I can arrange posts by social media service, or combine them all together. I can combine Twitter, Facebook, Parler, Mastodon, and pretty much everything. Why should I not be able to? And here is the really great part. I can subscribe to other people's feeds of the sort described under (1) above. It should be an open network, not a bunch of separate silos. I can arrange posts chronologically or according to fancy algorithms, including ones I build myself. Of course, I should also be able to reply to people from here. Again, this is an obviously useful thing. Why does it not already exist? Come on, developers, make it already. I want to start using it!

(3) Tools facilitating this need to be built. There are two main tools that will make this system feasible. The first tool is some social media content standard, like ActivityPub, but for individual posters like you and me, not whole social media servers like Mastodon.social or Gab.com, let alone giant silos Twitter. The second tool is an aggregator. Developers will need a massive, constantly growing database that slurps up all the social media content, coupled with an amazing API that and acts as a back end that serves the posts. This way my little blog does not have to go and separately fetch all the feeds individually. At scale, that would be super-slow; it would not work. If I follow 1,000 people my little server is not going to individually ping 1,000 feeds. It needs someone to constantly be doing that on behalf of all the blogs and other apps built on top of this decentralized social media network. And then of course if one aggregator censors certain people, fine; I should be able to use a different, more open aggregator.

And that, boys and girls, is how to decentralize social media!

So, developers, can I have that as a Christmas present this year? OK? Thanks.

If you like this idea, share it far and wide, and maybe some developer will see it and actually make it for all of us. Wouldn't that be great?


The Future of the Free Internet


I AM—I flatter myself—a truth-seeker. That is part of the reason I have spent so much of my life studying the standards of truth. So, when given the opportunity to start a free encyclopedia, I began to philosophize about free encyclopedias; I developed a vision. The task is fascinating since an encyclopedia is, after all, a compendium of truths.

You might well think my vision came to fruition. After all, Wikipedia now stands triumphant, seemingly, as the largest, most popular, most global encyclopedia in history. But, like a reflection in a funhouse mirror, my vision appears to me in a twisted, monstrous form, which I disown. Wikipedia is of no great help to truth-seekers. I would prefer to be known as the project’s ex-founder.

Wikipedia now defends Establishment views, and the Establishment loves it for that reason. But it began as an idealistic, democratic project, one that would bring the world together to represent all of human knowledge, in all its messy, fascinating glory, on a neutral playing field. No more. It has been transformed into a thuggish defender of the epistemic prerogatives of the powerful. It began as an outgrowth of the open source software movement and its deeply decentralizing and democratic tendencies. In time, its operations became a black box, an enigma thriving on anonymity and the dark arts of dishonest social games and back-room deals. It is a mockery of an “encyclopedia anybody can edit.”

Wikipedia’s moral decline—for its decline is as much moral as epistemological—reflects that of the larger Internet. The short text and visual nature of social media is a poor replacement for the relatively long-form intellectual discussions we used to have on blogs, Usenet, and mailing lists. This is not necessarily what all users wanted, but it is what Big Tech corporate executives pushed on us with their careful experiments in gamification and user experience. It is a machine, of which so many of us are cogs, brilliantly and dangerously addictive and attention-hogging, dumbing us down, radicalizing us,1 and amplifying voices in our ideologically separate silos. This state of affairs is similar to that of Wikipedia, which promotes a single silo, that of the Establishment. It absolutely refuses to consult the opinions and needs of readers, and in so doing, radicalizes its true believers and would simplify our grasp of complex many-sided truths, if we let it.2

Even more fundamentally, what the decline of Wikipedia and social media have in common is the concentration—the centralization—of authority on the Internet. This centralization of Internet authority has many and terrible consequences. It turns out that placing so much power in the hands of Internet executives undermines us, our relationships, our minds, even our sanity, and ultimately our politics. Who knew this would happen, even ten years ago? Some open source software stalwarts foresaw some of it. But as to the general public, they had little notion, perhaps beyond a vague inkling. It is all too plain now. [more]

Excerpt From
Larry Sanger, Essays On Free Knowledge, Ch. 12, “The Future of the Free Internet”
Purchase here


Essays on Free Knowledge (book)

New book: Essays on Free Knowledge

I published my first book this morning. The current cost is $9.95. It is a 270-page ebook, first published on Gumroad, where I'll get a higher percentage. A paperback should arrive in about a month on Amazon if I don't get distracted by other things.

Buy via the embedded ad below, and after that, I'll have a few notes for my regular blog readers.




I first had the idea of making a collection like this over ten years ago. I decided to do it now because I was thinking of combining fundraising for the Encyclosphere with a course. But to get publicity for a course, I thought it would be good first to remind folks of my writings (and qualifications) to teach something like this. A book would help publicize both the Encyclosphere and the course. I also thought if I were going to keep plugging away at my (time-consuming) consulting business, a book would help spread the word for that as well (although I have had more business than I have had time for). Finally, the fact that Wikipedia is going to have its 20th anniversary this coming January means the book should have a better audience than it would otherwise.

I hope you will get your hands on it (or rather, get it on your handheld) soon, but I will have a paperback available hopefully in about a month, if that is more your style.