Why not Google

After the Snowden revelations back in 2013, I started to re-evaluate my relationship with companies like Google. The amount of info they collect makes me nervous. Like Obama often said, I’m more worried about the incentives behind using customer data for advertising than I am government snooping.

But the amount of stuff revealed by Snowden made me re-assess my relationship with those companies, beyond just the prospect of government surveillance. Examine their motivations. (Rushkoff contributed to this as well.)

And if you can live without having a big part of your digital life in the hands of one company, why not?

Enter Marco Ament, whose post, Why not Google? sums up a lot of my feelings toward this. Specifically this part:

…The reason I choose to minimize Google’s access to me is that my balance of utility versus ethical comfort is different. Both companies do have flaws, but they’re different flaws, and I tolerate them differently:

—Apple is always arrogant, controlling, and inflexible, and sometimes stingy.
—Google is always creepy, entitled, and overreaching, and sometimes oblivious.
How you feel about these companies depends on how much utility you get out of their respective products and how much you care about their flaws.

Simply put, Apple’s benefits are usually worth their flaws to me, and Google’s usually aren’t.

I still use Google for some things (their biking directions are a really good resource when embarking on a new route).

But the web services I use are from different organizations. I’m spreading out my data, making it more difficult for a single company to get that detailed of a profile of me.

For search I use DuckDuckGo and I have my own email provider through my hosting domain. It’s not as convenient as Gmail, but I think the tradeoff is worth it. I do use a lot of Apple products, but I trust their “we honestly don’t care what’s in your iMessages” stance.

Maybe this is just an illusion of control. But it makes me feel better… so that’s all that matters?

New music {Son Lux}

Son Lux

Love this new album {spotify}. From a review by NPR’s Mike Katzif:

For years, Ryan Lott, the innovative beat-making composer and sonic mastermind of Son Lux, has sat at the intersection of pop and classical, creating imaginative and complex music for every medium. The classically trained musician has scored for modern dance, TV ads and film — including last year’s The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby and the upcoming Paper Towns. Lott is also no stranger to collaboration: He’s worked with a wide array of artists, from Beyoncé producer Boots to composers like Nico Muhly, Caroline Shaw and Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry. As part of the supergroup Sisyphus, he’s even created electronic hip-hop alongside Sufjan Stevens and rapper Serengeti.

Son Lux — “Flights” {mp3}


Image courtesy Olivier Bourgi; used under Creative Commons.

Dude watch this movie now.

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 10.46.30 PM

Super-interesting documentary that was released in 2010. It got a lot of attention over the past couple weeks thanks to some viral Facebook thing.

I know all this because I subscribe to the Sundance Now Doc Club email list.

Here’s how they described the film:

What is Marwencol? After a brutal beating stole his memory, artist Mark Hogencamp created a fictional town he named ‘Marwencol’ as a storytelling haven to help him recover from the traumatic attack. The doc follows Mark as his Marwencol photos gain national attention and bring his intensely personal, private work into the real world’s spotlight.

It’s a beautiful, poignant film, and one that serves as a powerful reminder of why we love documentaries in the first place – their ability to give us so intimate and honest a look at other people, other lives, and other perspectives we may never encounter otherwise.

And the trailer:

Doesn’t look like it’s on Netflix streaming (but yes DVD) and you can rent it on iTunes. (I borrowed a copy from my local library, thanks for asking.)

I don’t like streaming music, a position that’s quickly becoming a minority opinion.

I still use an iTunes library, synced to my phone via iTunes Match. I have a ton of old (and new) playlists. I do use the streaming music service Spotify, but just to test-drive new albums and follow new releases from the bands I like. iTunes is still my “home” base, where I can feel good that I “own” everything in there and it’s all backed up to the cloud.

My two main sticking points with streaming services are:

  1. The recurring expense model.
  2. You don’t know what you’re missing.

To the first point: Yes, iTunes Match is a recurring expense, but it’s only $25/yr, and if Apple discontinues this service, I can download all my songs and figure something else out. It’s still all my music.

To the second point: a lot of bands aren’t on Spotify. But you wouldn’t know that unless you heard about the band somewhere else then looked them up. If you’re using Spotify as a music discovery service, there are probably some really good bands you’re just not discovering.

I spend a lot of time maintaining my music collection (an effort which, yes, most people are happily giving up in favor of streaming services). I like knowing that what I have in my music library is always going to be there, no matter how many licensing agreements change over the years. I don’t trust Spotify to be there in the future. If they close down, then where will I go? Are the playlists I create in Spotify exportable? It’s all too much uncertainty.

Then there’s the vanity card.

From Looking for a Connection in an Infinite Jukebox {npr}:

For decades, owning music used to be the shortcut indication to how much someone cared about an artist [...]

Because when you’ve suddenly got millions of songs at your fingertips, it ultimately becomes harder to identify your own songs. And as more and more people trade personalized collections for access to an effectively infinite set of options, the idea of the music library as a signifier of personal investment in taste may be fading, but not disappearing altogether.

Check out the whole series, it’s really interesting: Streaming at the Tipping Point {npr}.