Tech companies I once admired

     The dream is over,
     what can I say?
     The dream is over,
     yesterday.

     John Lennon, 1970
Figure 1: "Past their sell-by date.” by George Jones is licensed under CC BY 2.0, includes work by Nature Vectors by Vecteezy

Figure 1: "Past their sell-by date.” by George Jones is licensed under CC BY 2.0, includes work by Nature Vectors by Vecteezy

     Don't believe in Digital Equipment Corporation,
     Don't believe in Sun Microsystems,
     Don't believe in CompuServe,
     Don't believe in Perl,
     Don't believe in USENIX,
     Don't believe in SourceForge,
     Don't believe in GitHub,
     Don't believe in Facebook,
     Don't believe in Linked-in,
     Don't believe in Google,
     Don't believe in The SANS Institute,
     Don't believe in The Center for Internet Security,
     Don't believe in Google Plus,
     Don't believe in Twitter,
     Don't believe in Spotify,
     Don't believe in Wikipedia,
     ...
     I just believe in me,
     human beings and me.

     Me, 2021

This is a list of tech companies I once admired.

1 A tale of two tech companies

I’ll start with two examples. Writing at Christmas-time 2021, I’ll categorize the two examples as “naughty and nice”.

The examples will provide “soft” examples of what attracts me to tech companies and what drives me away. Following that, I’ll break it down more systematically (when, why…)

1.1 Wikipedia - naughty

The catalyst for thinking about all this was the revelation that Wikipedia, an organization that is built on the backs of volunteers can’t stop fund-raising (and lying in the process) even when flush with cash: https://www.theregister.com/2016/12/19/jimmy_wales_breaks_promise_more_chugging/ and is making plans to further monetize it’s volunteers work. I’m looking for ways to stop using Wikipedia. How does it get to this point?

1.2 Wordpress - nice

Wordpress came off the “naughty” list as I was writing this post when I came across this toot https://fosstodon.org/@markosaric/107495024812888717 which referenced a good article on Matt Mullenweg the CEO of Automattic, the company that runs WordPress.com:

“The cycle plays out the same in tech”, he said. Take the internet: built as an open platform, eventually colonized by a handful of dictatorial players…

“…But it also contains the seeds of its own demise.” Users inevitably begin to feel hemmed in and controlled by the closed platforms, and yearn for open pastures. Then they go build something better. Something open. “People’s natural desire for freedom starts to get more and more of the best and brightest in the world working on open, distributed, decentralized systems.”

2 How you know the end is near for a company

3 Why do things go bad?

4 So what? Where to go from here?

4.1 A day in the life (musically inspired metaphors)

4.2 My current responses

Self hosting
I’m self hosting on a raspberry pi. Blog. Git. New domain name (galthub.com). Re-considering increased use of my 2001-era hand-edited HTML website: http://www.port111.com/george/. I took a year off blogging and stopped pushing any code, HOWTOs, etc to git.
Moving back to paid services
I started my work life at Compu$erve. You paid for what you got. Then the web happened. The advertising business model migrated from print and broadcast to where the eyeballs had moved. And you stopped paying. But you became the product. Your privacy became a commodity or a joke. I’m increasingly reverting to seeing paid services as an “honest” alternative. I’m using paid email (fastmail, protonmail), VPN (proton), shared hosting (hurricane electric), domain names (namecheap) and may move to others, say, high quality professional journalism. It seems there really are no truly free (as in speech or beer) lunch or online services.
Paper
For about 30 years I used the phrase “If it requires paper, it’s the wrong interface”. I’m backtracking on that. There are no marketing people, project managers, MBAs, data aggregators, or advertisers involved in my journal, and the threat models and data loss and protection paradigms are well understood.
Reconsideration
In light of recent discoveries, and my exploration of the principals of why I move to/away from online services in this post, I’m reconsidering Wordpress. I may reconsider others.
Pobody’s Nerfect
We live in a messed up world. The Latin Poet Ovid said “In medio tutissimus ibis” (roughly, “you will go most safely in the middle."). While it may be possible to use only free software (and grow your own food), most people can’t live there entirely.

4.3 If you’ve got the energy and the vision…

The world is driven by individuals with vision. All hail Saint IGNUcius. There would likely be no free software movement without him. Individuals change tech: Alan Turing, Ken Thompson, Donald Knuth, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Linus Torvalds, Jeff Bezos, etc.

If you’ve got the energy, the vision and the talent, go change the world. Or just go tinker around, scratch your own itch and share the results. That’s often how the world is changed.


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