Open Thinkering


Tag: Internet

Introducing, my new side project

E-reader showing in web browser

I’m someone who uses the web browser on my e-reader. I always have done, from the earliest Amazon Kindle I had, through to the bq Cervantes 4 I use these days. To scratch my own itch, I’ve created a new site:

As you’d expect, web browsers on e-readers aren’t very capable. As websites get ever more bloated and complex, they render ever more poorly on these kinds of devices.

Simple, text-based websites work well, though. So I thought I’d begin to collect these and make them available for anyone to use. I’m not doing anything complicated: just using GitHub Pages to serve up a basic website that’s styled Simple.css.

Right now, I’ve added one or more links in the following categories:

  • Search
  • Ebooks
  • News
  • Weather
  • Social
  • Technical

It’s pretty awesome that I can download EPUB-formatted books directly from my e-reader’s web browser directly to the device!

In case you’re interested, I did do some very basic research with people who self-reported as users of e-readers. The following polls on Mastodon and Twitter together received 101 votes:

Results from Mastodon:

0% Yes, regularly
13% Occasionally
32% I know it's there
55% No / show me the results
Results from Twitter:

6.3% Yes, regularly
9.4% Occasionally
40.6% I know it's there
43.8% No / show me the results

Some may see the above as discouraging, but I disagree: that’s 10-15% of e-reader uses in my sample who are already using an e-reader web browser, and 30-40% who know how to access it.

If this were a ‘product’ rather than a side project, I’d say that there’s a definite niche there to be served. For example, we know that looking at backlit smartphone and tablet screens can cause insomnia. E-ink screens are much better in that regard, plus the simplicity of the websites that work on e-readers are potentially more calming.

For the foreseeable, though, this is just something that’s useful for me and hopefully some other people. The good news is that it works well on every type of web browser. I’m planning to implement a dark mode toggle soon, as well as add a bunch more websites — feel free to suggest some!

This post is Day 88 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at

Learning through frustration

There’s an interview with Derek Sivers somewhere in which he’s asked about the best way to get started with minimalism. His interviewer finds his response unexpected: go out and buy loads of stuff, he suggests, and feel the need to declutter. That’s the heart of minimalism.

I feel the same about learning. Somehow, I managed to spend 28 years of my life in formal education, from entering school as a four year-old, to graduating from an Ed.D. at the age of 32. I learned a lot, but I wouldn’t say that most of it suited the way I learn best.

No, I’m not talking about vacuous ‘learning styles’, I’m talking about the assumption that everything can be broken down into a sequence that should be learned by people in the same order. I just think, for me at least, learning doesn’t work like that.

Instead, I seem to learn best through frustration. So long as I’m motivated enough to care, when I find something annoying or confusing, something kicks in to make me want to figure it out. Thank goodness for the internet!

Sometimes there’s a perfect YouTube video to watch or article to read, but more often than not it’s a random post on a forum somewhere, or a Reddit comment, or social media post in the middle of a thread.

Is this ‘optimal’? Does it ‘scale’? Probably not. But, for me, people who package things up in ways that are too step-by-step are being a bit disingenuous. After all, I bet they didn’t learn this stuff that way themselves.

This post is Day 50 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at Posted in 100DaysToOffload

Three internets?

Back in October 2018 The New York Times published an editorial on the ‘balkanisation’ of the internet.

There’s a world of difference between the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, known commonly as G.D.P.R., and China’s technologically enforced censorship regime, often dubbed “the Great Firewall.” But all three spheres — Europe, America and China — are generating sets of rules, regulations and norms that are beginning to rub up against one another. What’s more, the actual physical location of data has increasingly become separated by region, with data confined to data centers inside the borders of countries with data localization laws.

The New York Times

Interestingly, what we’re seeing now with the mooted banning/acquisition of TikTok shows that social networks are now important for state-level actors from a surveillance point of view.

Telegram, the chat app, is run by two brothers. One of them, Pavel Durov, is an intelligent and informed commentator on these events. Yesterday, he stated the following:

[T]he US move against TikTok is setting a dangerous precedent that may eventually kill the internet as a truly global network (or what is left of it). Before the US-TikTok saga, only autocratic countries like Iran, China or Russia were known for bullying tech companies into selling parts of their businesses to investors with close ties to their governments. It’s not surprising, for example, that Uber had to sell both their Russian and Chinese branches to local players.

Pavel Durov

What we’re witnessing is the slow eclipse of the USA by China as the dominant world power. Under the radar, China invests huge amounts of money in infrastructure projects in Africa and other developing areas. But it’s not a democratic nation, meaning that western companies face state interference in their attempts to penetrate the Chinese market.

It looks like the USA is trying to play China at their own game. I can’t see them being successful.

Authoritarian leaders all over the world are already using the TikTok case as justification in their attempts to carve out a piece of the global internet for themselves. Soon, every big country is likely to use “national security” as a pretext to fracture international tech companies. And ironically, it’s the US companies like Facebook or Google that are likely to lose the most from the fallout.

Pavel Durov

I couldn’t care about the fortunes of huge Silicon Valley companies. What I am interested in, though, is the future of the open web. Sadly, I just can’t see how, now that pretty much everyone is online, the current political situation will allow for unfettered global competition. Data, after all, is the new oil.

Back to The New York Times editorial, and their best (pre-pandemic) outlook from 2018 didn’t exactly look rosy:

Yet even the best possible version of the disaggregated web has serious — though still uncertain — implications for a global future: What sorts of ideas and speech will become bounded by borders? What will an increasingly disconnected world do to the spread of innovation and to scientific progress? What will consumer protections around privacy and security look like as the internets diverge? And would the partitioning of the internet precipitate a slowing, or even a reversal, of globalization?

The New York Times

Imagine that. We may have already lived through the golden age of the internet.

This post is Day 24 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at