Things I Support
For too much of my life, it was a point of pride that I didn’t pay for music, movies, software, and other things from the internet. This started in childhood: we had internet access from age 9. I spent my $5/week allowance on candy and the swear jar, and I learned how to find digital things for free. Later, I realized that buying creative work from corporations mostly enriches the people who own the companies, not necessarily the people who do the creating. (I also found a couple of Larry Lessig books at my high school library, and those did not help.)
Later I realized that if everyone behaved as I did, there would be a lot fewer wonderful things in the world. I also started building this FOSS project in my spare time. After a few years, it turned into my livelihood because others found the work valuable enough to pay me to keep doing it. Shoe, meet other foot!
Now, when I discover someone creating things that bring me joy or make the world better, sometimes I give them money. I should be doing a lot more of this, and I recommend that you do it too! If you can afford Netflix or take-out, you can afford a few bucks for whoever makes the wild shit that you don’t want to admit you’re into. If everyone does this, the world would be a much richer place.
I use these heuristics, more of which being true makes me more likely to give:
- They are doing creative work that is difficult to fund without selling out to the Man.
- They don’t have a lot of paid supporters already. This means my few bucks a month provides them greater marginal freedom to allocate time/effort, and also provides a greater morale boost.
- They offer a low-ish overhead way for me to pay them money (e.g. Bandcamp, Liberapay, Substack, Patreon).
- They don’t exhibit obvious signs of financial irresponsibility or poor time management.
I think recurring patronage is much more effective than one-time payments. $10 for an album buys someone lunch, while $10/month starts to pay their bills. (That said, transaction fees tend to make yearly donations more efficient than monthly ones.)
So, here are the things I support.
Neil Cicierega, who makes music as Lemon Demon. He also created the amazing Mouth tetralogy of mash-up albums which he doesn’t charge money for, so if you enjoy those you should buy Spirit Phone and Nature Tapes. Maybe proceed carefully if you’re prone to hypomania.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, recently discovered from a friend. They make proggy, melodic, catchy music. They created 5 albums in one year. Some of it is in 24TET, which will be a whole new tuning system for most people who read this. Imagine you had only ever seen blue and green, and someone shows you teal for the first time. Maybe ease into it with Butterfly 3000.
Matrix: Decentralized communication protocol!
GrapheneOS: If you want a smartphone that protects your privacy from megacorps (specifically Google and Apple), I believe GrapheneOS is the best way to do it. After using LineageOS for a decade, GrapheneOS feels like the most user-friendly and least sketchy AOSP-derivative ever. They built a great browser-driven installation experience for Pixel phones. We need to bring surveillance-resistant smartphones to the masses and GrapheneOS has potential to do it with their on usable security/privacy. This project needs 1000x more support.
Joplin, a note-taking application by Laurent Cozic. Joplin is my brain extension, my short- and long-term memory, my journal, and my todo list. Joplin may be for you if you want something better than the notes app that came with your phone, or if you’re using something like Evernote or OneNote and don’t want the corporation behind it looking at your notes. If you like to write Markdown then Joplin is especially for you. Joplin has a client for all the desktop and mobile operating systems. It has multi-device sync with pluggable back-ends and encryption done right (end-to-end / trust-no-one). Like all software, it’s not perfect, but it’s on the way.
k9mail. Fast native email (POP/IMAP) client for Android. Really helpful if you want to de-Google both your phone and your email.
Strava. “But cmart, Strava is hella VC-funded”. Yes, but they provide a great fitness tracking experience with the social aspects done right, IMO. They let me upload GPX and FIT files via my browser instead of using their proprietary app. It motivates me to ride more bike, and I’d rather be the customer than the product here. I just wish they would bring back the ability to browse other people’s Routes that they mark as “public”.
Internet Archive, our collective digital memory. Critical infrastructure for an information-based society. Ambitious and underappreciated mission.
savagegeese. This is a YouTube channel of vehicle reviews and automotive technology, but underlying all of it is Mr. Goose and Jack Singapore speaking truth to power in the automotive industry. Their video on Cars, Trucks, and Debt was prophetic considering that the long-term rise in vehicle costs has gone hockey stick since the pandemic started. Yes, they review exotic and unafforable cars, but they also review every new Hyundai and Ford. Before they test drive it, they’ll put it on a lift to show you how it was built, what the manufacturer did well, and what corners they cut. They care a lot about vehicle longevity and repairability. Somehow they have sponsors without appearing to drink the sponsorship koolaid. They also happen to have amazing production quality and a bizarre sense of humor.
AvE, a very Canadian enginerd and Renaissance man. I have learned more about metallurgy, machining, and welding from AvE than from the rest of the internet combined. Ditto for how power tools and appliances are designed and manufactured. Ditto for analysis of industrial accidents that come up in the news. I’m certain some people reading this will reject AvE for his sense of humor and/or politics, then judge me for giving him a spot on this list. The signal-to-noise ratio varies a lot, but at his best, AvE is a paragon of curiosity with a spirit of exploration.
No Longer Donate
JAWWS, Journal of Accessible and Well-Written Science. Scientific journal articles tend to be unnecessarily difficult to read, especially for readers who are less familiar with the authors’ field of research. This limits public understanding of new science and its potential to benefit the world. Étienne Fortier-Dubois is (was?) trying to fix that with JAWWS, to the extent that it can be fixed given competing and even countervailing incentives. The project seems mostly abandoned, so I stopped donating.