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Practice what you preach

I spend a lot of time looking at screens and interacting with other people in a mediated way through digital technologies. That’s why it’s important to continually review the means by which I communicate with others, either synchronously (e.g. through a chat app or video conference software) or asynchronously (e.g. via email or this blog).

When I started following a bunch of people who are using the #100DaysToOffload hashtag, some of them followed me back:



@dajbelshaw you have a really beautiful site that doesn't open for me. First it's not compatible with LibreJs and then uMatrix block Cloudflare's ajax and you'll not get further than loading screen.

I know that some people are quite hardcore about not loading JavaScript for privacy reasons, but I didn’t know what ‘LibreJs’ was. Although uMatrix rang a bell, I thought it would be a good opportunity to find out more.


It turns out LibreJS is a browser extension maintained by the GNU project:

GNU LibreJS aims to address the JavaScript problem described in Richard Stallman’s article The JavaScript Trap. LibreJS is a free add-on for GNU IceCat and other Mozilla-based browsers. It blocks nonfree nontrivial JavaScript while allowing JavaScript that is free and/or trivial.

Meanwhile uMatrix seems to be another browser extension that adds a kind of ‘firewall’ to page loading:

Point & click to forbid/allow any class of requests made by your browser. Use it to block scripts, iframes, ads, facebook, etc.

Meanwhile, the extensions that I use when browsing the web to maintain some semblance of privacy, and to block annoying advertising, are:


So just running the tools I use on my own site leads to the following:

Privacy Badger found 18 potential trackers on dougbelshaw.com:

web.archive.org
ajax.cloudflare.com
assets.digitalclimatestrike.net
www.google-analytics.com
docs.google.com
play.google.com
lh3.googleusercontent.com
lh4.googleusercontent.com
lh5.googleusercontent.com
lh6.googleusercontent.com
licensebuttons.net
www.loom.com
public-api.wordpress.com
pixel.wp.com
s0.wp.com
s1.wp.com
stats.wp.com
widgets.wp.com

Disconnect produced a graph which shows the scale of the problem:

Graph produced by Disconnect showing trackers for dougbelshwa.com

This was the output from uBlock Origin:

Output from uBlock Origin for dougbelshaw.com

It’s entirely possible to make a blog that involves no JavaScript or trackers. It’s just that, to also make it look nice, you have to do some additional work.

I’m going to start the process of removing as many of these trackers as I can from my blog. It’s really is insidious how additional functionality and ease-of-use for blog owners adds to the tracking burden for those reading their output.

Recently, I embedded a Google Slides deck in a weeknote I wrote. I’m genuinely shocked at how many trackers just including that embed added to my blog: 84! Suffice to say that I’ve replaced it with an archive.org embed.

I was surprised to see the Privacy Badger was reporting tracking by Facebook and Pinterest. I’m particularly hostile to Facebook services, and don’t use any of them (including WhatsApp and Instagram). Upon further investigation, it turns out that even if you have ‘share to X’ buttons turned off, Jetpack still allows social networks to phone home. So that’s gone, too.


There’s still work to be done here, including a new theme that doesn’t include Google Fonts. I’m also a bit baffled by what’s using Google Analytics, and I’ll need to stop using Cloudflare as a CDN.

But, as ever, it’s a work in progress and, as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry famously said, “Perfection is achieved when there is nothing left to take away.”


This post is day two of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at 100daystooffload.com


Header image by Gordon Johnson

Recording of my #etmooc session on Digital Literacies now available.

Last night I led (what seemed to be) a well-received session for #etmooc on digital literacies. While you can catch the whole thing again through the Blackboard Collaborate recording, you’ll need Java to do so. That’s why I’ve used the free Publish! tool to create digital artefacts from the session and uploaded them to the Internet Archive.

[archiveorg ETMOOCT3S1DigitalLiteraciesWithDr.DougBelshawChat width=640 height=480]

You should see a video above. If not, click here or try the YouTube version!

Many thanks to all those who took part in the session – and for the kind words in the chat and on Twitter afterwards. I really enjoyed the experience!

Direct links to digital artefacts

Why not (legally) download the whole archive using your favourite bittorrent client? Try uTorrent, for example. 🙂

The real story behind the #londonriots?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zmo8DG1gno4?rel=0&w=640&h=390]
Can’t see the video? Click here

I’ve been taken aback by the irrational and heavy-handed response of people I (used to) respect in relation to the recent outbreak of rioting across English cities. Over at Doug’s FAQ I wrote a couple of posts to follow-up what I’d mentioned on Twitter and Google+. The first, What do you mean by structural inequality? is my attempt to quickly outline the fact things should not be taken at face value. In the second, So you don’t condemn the rioters? I try to show how people are a product of their environment and call for a more just society.

In a lengthy thread on Google+ I exchanged points of view with various people. Thankfully, Paul Lewis weighed-in with the above video which, I thought, contained such eloquence that I’ve uploaded it to the Internet Archive in case anything happens to the YouTube version (it was available under a Creative Commons license)

Further reading:

There’s no way (currently) to integrate comments from Google+ with the comments below. Here’s the thread featuring some excellent insights stemming from my initial link to this post.

Thinking of changing this blog…

BloggeurI’ll keep this short. I’m thinking about changing this blog for two reasons.

  1. WordPress (which powers this blog) is database-driven. That means it’s not archived over at archive.org. That means if I died tomorrow, my work would be pretty much lost forever. This is the main reason.
  2. I get bored of the same blog theme after a while. While the one I’ve got at the moment (Digital Statement) allows me contain lots of ‘stuff’, I’m thinking crisp and clean – like the Flickr blog, for example. There’s also some nice onces over at plaintxt.org.

So… suggestions for blogging engines that produce static HTML pages? (or do you know of WordPress plugins that allow the same?) 🙂

Oh, and before you say archive.org renders WordPress blogs just fine, have a look at the mess it made of the previous iteration of this one! (pic)

Image cc-by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

Update: Upon further investigation after this helpful tweet by @ctdesign, it would appear it could be something as simple as the link to the CSS file in my header. Cool.

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