Dark patterns collection

I'm regularly battling to maintain Inbox Zero for my work and personal mailboxes and I have to say it's not a fun game. Especially when some crappy tactics at are play like below.

Let's start a collection, and update this post regularly with findings.


First example is Elastic (elastic.co), with a work email I never asked for, inviting me to a local event. The email is long and I don't care about the Pizza party at all which is the first thing they mention in their agenda. I want to stop receiving such emails.

Looking at the bottom of their email, I notice a first unsubscribe button.

It redirects to a subscription page... (see below). Clever... !

When looking more closely, there is a second unsubscribe button, very hard to see due to the lack of contrast.

Who has then time to fill their unsubscribe form ? Not every weirdo. But that's it seems the effort which is due just for allowing me to regain a little more quiet in my mailbox. So now you know.


After months with Contabo (VPS), I decided it was time to close my domain and hosting subscriptions managed at OVH. I disabled the automated renewal a few weeks ago, and managed to setup redirects on my old websites. My subscriptions should be cancelled automatically but I can't wait and I want to get that out of my mind, so I want to force a manual cancellation.

To my surprise, it took me a lot of emails and exchanges with support. I understand the security measures and no one would like its accounts and services revoked by accident.

The problem is mostly the poor UX and customer support for getting this done. Let dig deeper.

When trying to cancel any service, I just get error without explanation nor resolution steps.

Later did I find emails from OVH asking me to confirm my revocation, so I could at least complete some of the steps, but it required me to leave my workflow and switch from my admin panel to emails, then manage those emails, then double check my admin panels for updates of services statuses...

In the end I opened a ticket to OVH support asking them to delete my account and the related services. They closed the ticket asking me to close my account only after services are revoked, which let me again with an unresolved solution.

I had to reopen the ticket and provide them the evidence above so they know I can't close some of my services. Closing a customer complaint on user's behalf without asking feedback is probably a tactic for improving their KPIs, but it ultimately tell they consider their customers to be nothing more than complainers with no real problem to be solved. This also tell the culture of OVH has diverged from customer first. No wonder I'm leaving you, OVH, as I'm expecting more from a service provider.

Nerds Against Clutter: My Digital Downsizing Diary

Declutter and letting go.

  • Dropping Discord, Diaspora, Daily.dev, maybe Pixelfed and Mastodon next (done, by March 2024). Too buggy, too noisy.
  • Kissed Google Keep goodbye and embraced Obsidian even more, thanks to the Importer plugin.
  • Trying to escape the WhatsApp surveillance state. I'm axing useless groups left and right.
  • Scrubbing my old web presence. It's like digital housekeeping.
  • Using Syncthing now. Real-time sync across devices without cloud middlemen. Dropbox, you're on notice.
  • Deploying FDUPES for disk decluttering ā€“ it's a duplicate file slaughterhouse. Throwing inotifywait into the mix for smart folder monitoring, because who likes manual mess management?
  • Cut down on RSS. Using Wallabag, Miniflux. and Shaarli more. Bookmarking tools still suck somehow and I can't see a better alternative (yet) for my needs... yuck. Looking at the market for knowledge and bookmarks management tools, there is room for improvement in how we manage and consume information. Most of the hard work is on you for years with tools that connect to information.
  • Harnessing RSS-Bridge and Miniflux for streamlined info feeds. Using Changedetection for the unRSS-able stuff, i.e to monitor some indexes, lists, legal terms, release pages.
  • My tab hoarding was legendary, now capped at 18 with Tab Limiter. Browser zen achieved.
  • I have been known by my colleagues and partner to keep too many tabs open. My nerves cracked at reading other folks suffering same issue. So I decided to close a number of them, and limit each Window to 18 tabs with Tab Limiter.

Exploring and creating.

  • Blogging's up, but it's a discipline game. Need to turn Obsidian hoarding into public wisdom. Notebooks over phones, knowledge over scrolling.
  • Taming my Brave extension zoo with Context. It's like a digital bouncer for my browser. Funny, now I've more UX/Privacy oriented extensions than tabs.
  • Eyeing Geeqie to outsmart duplicate photos. Even my pixels need to be minimal.
  • n8n (Zapier/IFTTT alternative) is my new digital butler, still a bit rough around the edges. Coding my own automation magic because their recipes are just appetizers for my needs. For the record I'm now using it to automate RSS feeds triage and automate the web archiving of some bookmarks as I feel archiving beats bookmarking.
  • Diving back into Rust. Cooking up something for productivity and knowledge management. Stay tuned.
  • And of course, some snowballs and video gaming to keep things balanced and fun.

To be continued.

Charting my journey away from Big Tech: Embracing Privacy and Self Hosting Solutions

In my quest to get rid of GAFAM and decrease as much the tracking I'm subject to, I'm only at the start.

Social Media Alternatives

By the end of 2021, fed up with infinite news feeds, I've removed my Facebook, Twitter and SensCritique accounts with almost no alternatives. I needed to declutter and focus on my family, so I also reduced the influx of information by stopping RSS feeds, Newsletter subscriptions, by pausing notifications of most apps like WhatsApp, and of course I've stopped watching TV Shows & Movies, news... Those initiatives were also motivated by family augmentation as I became father in 2021 šŸ™‚

Anyway I had to pursue efforts !

Recently I've also removed Pinterest and I've set up Pixelfed (self hosted) to replace IG (Instagram). I've also joined a Mastodon instance as a replacement for Twitter. The good thing with Mastodon and federated networks is you can be on any instance and follow users from other instances. From my Pixelfed (IG-like) I'm subscribed to my Mastodon page (Twitter Like) and I'm also followed by my WordPress page thanks to the ActivityPub plugin I've setup on this blog. I've migrated my secrets from Bitwarden to Vaultwarden (self-hosted), my code from Github to Gitea (self-hosted), my WordPress and Shaarli from OVH to Cloudron running on Contabo VPS. I've also started using Nextcloud and Collabora as replacements for my "Office" suite (Google Docs, Google Sheets, ...) but I'm not yet sold to the UI.

Self-Hosting Tools

The goal is to try to use as much self-hosted tools as I can. It's not easy to find good alternatives especially if you care about usability, data portability, privacy, and connect with other users ...

I'm struggling to get rid of YT (Youtube) and YT Kids. There are plenty of alternatives to YT, but not so much with both a kid-friendly UX and possibilities to filter content.

Challenges in Replacing YouTube

The problem is not to find a privacy respecting alternative tool to YT : It's easy to find and host content on Peertube but not so much to find a good instance with interesting content.

The problem is most of the popular and interesting content is on YT. There are alternatives frontends like Invidious, SkyTube (Android), Clipious (an Android client for Invidious instances). But Invidious does not yet support filtering of videos, which make it an unsafe place for kids. At least SkyTube allows for filtering channels and that's what I'm gonna try with my kid, but the UX is lacking behind YT and that makes it quite difficult for my little one to navigate alone in the app and pick a video.

Future Goals and Challenges

Important next steps for me are to get rid fully of any Google software, that includes Gmail (this will be a though one), Youtube, Contacts, Calendar, Google Drive, Google Keep, Google Maps, etc. and to stop using software that depends on tech giants or trackers. Not easy. Just try surfing the web using Big Tech Detective extension. Even search engines or browsers that claim to respect your privacy are tracking you or rely on GAFAM infrastructure or trackers.

For instance, when trying to use DuckDuck Go search engine with the Big Tech Detective extension on :

Exodus on Android shows that most of the "privacy" friendly browsers on Android are full of trackers : DuckDuck Go, Ghostery, Firefox, Opera, Tor Browser... Only Brave on mobile didn't contain tracker, according to Exodus. The spyware watchdog catalog will provide additional data about some of the mentioned browsers while also claiming Brave is to be considered as spyware.

Fortunately there exist search engines alternatives, such as Mojeek (which uses its own index) and SearX.

While looking at my expenses and optimizing my budget, I've removed my Medium subscription, Pluralsight, and OpenAI subscription, and started to cancel hosting plans as I'll host most of what I need on my VPS. Next challenges would be to get rid of Netflix, WhatsApp, Amazon (Prime, Kindle...), Apple, Spotify, Dropbox (to Nextcloud?), ChatGPT (I've yet to find a comparable alternative) by looking for alternatives or privacy friendly frontends for what cannot be easily replaced. But they do not make it easy. By trying to get rid of Netflix, I've noticed that as the "main" profile of our family shared account, it's impossible to delete my data. I can only create a new Netflix account and transfer the family profiles to that one. At the end, I'd like also to replace my OnePlus One with a dumb phone or a fair phone. I had a look at privacy friendly OSes we can setup on Android but the compatibility with OnePlus 10 Pro is still work in progress. Anyway if you are interested, take some inspiration here. I also want to fix this blog by taking inspiration from Small Web and Slow Web philosophies. , works for future browsers or at least relies on libre JavaScript (see also LibreJS) or no JavaScript at all.

And also to convince my loved one to try free and open source software on her devices (Apple šŸ™‚ ). Lot of friends and family are using Whatsapp while I'm sold to Signal or alternatives. This one will be difficult to bypass. I aim at least to automatically backup all WhatsApp files to my Nextcloud.

Every small improvement towards more privacy, data portability, open-source, data ownership, freedom, will be worth it and I'll share my findings with you šŸ™‚

Web (browser) extensions I recommend

  • LibRedirect a web extension that redirects YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, and other websites to their alternative privacy friendly frontends. You can find my settings here.
  • Privacy Redirect a simple web extension that redirects Twitter, YouTube, Instagram & Google Maps requests to privacy friendly alternatives.
  • DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials includes tracker blocking, cookie protection, DuckDuckGo private search, email protection, HTTPS upgrading, and much more. I use it to generate temporary email addresses when my email is requested.
  • Ultrablock blocks ads, trackers and third party cookies.
  • Privacy Badger blocks invisible trackers.
  • Terms of Service; Didn't read get instant information about the terms and privacy policies of websites you browse!
  • Undistracted - Remove distractions and simplify the web interfaces of popular platforms and social media like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Netflix, Instagram, Reddit, LinkedIn.

Web (browser) extensions I'm Trying

  • JShelter An anti-malware Web browser extension to mitigate potential threats from JavaScript, including fingerprinting, tracking, and data collection! But it causes some crappy websites to malfunction šŸ˜‰
  • Big Tech Detective helps you track tech giants. If fully activated, you won't be able to browse certain websites and even some supposed privacy friendly tools, such as Duck Duck Go Search engine which behind the scene rely on Microsoft infrastructure and hard partnerships with Microsoft.

Android apps I recommend

  • Exodus an app that audits Android apps for trackers.
  • F-Droid a installable catalog of FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) applications for the Android platform.
  • Aegis Authenticator : a free, secure and open source app to manage your 2-step verification tokens for your online services.
  • Dsub (download and install manually) as Navidrome client so I can get rid of Spotify.

WordPress plugins I recommend

  • ActivityPub With this installed your WordPress blog itself functions as a federated profile, allowing to reach a wider audience.

Tools I recommend

  • Kill the Newsletter Convert email newsletters to RSS feeds.
  • Bitwarden which is a password manager. I'm hosting Vaultwarden which implements the same API. Bitwarden client is available on any popular platform.
  • Invidious to be used as frontend alternative to YouTube. Same content as YouTube. No ads, no trackers.

Some reading I recommend

Self hosting providers

  • I recommend Contabo (no sponsor here), that I've hand picked among many alternatives, while choosing a good VPS offering at good prices. Only downside is their administration panel UX, but other than that, it was cheap. And they buy green energy to run their servers. The alternatives I had compared Contabo with were OVH (way too expensive) and Hetzner (cheap but unfortunately their VPS hardware lacks AVX support thus is not compatible with Cloudron requirements). Contabo in the end beats VPS offerings of Hetzner and OVH at that price, with more storage and CPU for me !

Self hosted apps

  • If you own a dedicated server / VPS, try Cloudron, it's such an easy way to self host your apps and take control of your data ! I'm currently using it with Nextcloud, WordPress, and all apps mentioned below below :
  • Wallabag as read-it later app but their search engine is archaic and cannot find anything. I better find a way to query their DB directly or drop the tool for something else.
  • Calibre as web e-book reader and e-book collection organizer so I can progressively get rid of my Kindle.
  • Navidrome as a replacement for Spotify as a streaming/music player and scrobbler.
  • Miniflux minimalist and opinionated feed reader. It's a pleasure to use.
  • Vaultwarden unofficial Bitwarden compatible server.
  • Changedetection.io free open source website change detection, website watcher.
  • PrivateBin minimalist, open source online pastebin where the server has zero knowledge of pasted data.
  • Invoice Ninja Invoices, Expenses and Tasks built with Laravel, Flutter and React.
  • Gitea a self-hosted Git hosting service that offers code hosting, code review, team collaboration, package management and CI/CD features. It is compatible with GitHub Actions, Docker, various databases and tools, and supports multiple languages and architectures.
  • Pixelfed a replacement for Instagram as it used to be (without all the ads, and crap).
  • Shaarli personal, minimalist, super-fast, database free, bookmarking service. Useful for sharing links or keep them safe and private.

Concluding Thoughts

I hope these insights and recommendations help you in your journey towards a more private and self-reliant digital life. As always, Iā€™m eager to hear your experiences and suggestions. Let's make our digital space a bit more ours!

Personal insights on finance and digital privacy

A couple of weeks back, I was getting my ass kicked at chess. It was a blast, even as I blundered into defeat.

Here's the thing: in some games, like life, the right focus at the right time can flip the board. It's about spotting chances and seizing them. Remark : If interested in the "perfect timing" topic, do read about the power of when.

Being focused on specific goals can help make the difference in the long term. Also being aware of the opportunities and reality.

Last year? A financial nightmare. But I hustled, optimizing my budget. Running my own company, I could shuffle some expenses around ā€“ a neat trick.

I axed unnecessary subscriptions ā€“ online courses, publishing platforms, various IT tools. Sometimes, the best alternative isn't a new provider; it's you. Betting on my skills, I cut costs and upped my privacy game. That's a win in my book.

Now, this blog and my digital life sit on a fresh, cost-effective infrastructure. More privacy, less cash bleed.

My new obsession? Privacy and open source. Ditching GAFAM and seeing where that road takes me. It's about discipline and the right tools.

Next year's mission: maintain this focus and help others grab back control of their budgets and privacy.

Catch you in 2024.