Going Google-less – A Week Without Google

A week ago on my blog, I posted my pledge to go one week without Google.  It was inspired, in part, by the Google/Verizon proposal for the future of high speed and wireless internet that was devised in closed-door meetings, in secret, while the same discussions were being had with the FCC and other major players that Google and Verizon were also a part of.  This sort of self-serving duplicity, as well as serious concerns about the end result for consumers this proposal would have if enacted, put a serious damper on my ongoing Google-love.  How dependent on Google, specifically, was I really, and could I actually live without using a single Google service?  As more and more concern about Google and their agreement with Verizon poured in, I wanted to find out.

I actually started early in my week without Google.  Friday night, after deciding to do this experiment, I set out right away to converting the stuff I use on a day-to-day basis to be without Google.  The first step was Gmail/Google Apps.

I use Google Apps for my primary email address.  While I have a Gmail account, I haven’t used it since getting my own domain name for my blog at jazzsequence.com, and I just forward everything sent to my Gmail address to my jazzsequence address.  (While, technically this could be considered still using Google, I’m not considering forwarded email from an unused email address to be really “using” Google services).  The process of switching my email away from Google Apps was pretty easy, so I had to go one step further to make it more complicated.

I’ve also played with the idea of migrating away from Microsoft Office products in favor of open source projects that support collaboration and open standards.  Switching to OpenOffice is easy (although I am skeptical now that Sun (and, in turn, OpenOffice) was acquired by Oracle).  In fact, last time I had to reformat my computer, I tried to install Thunderbird and use that for email but for some reason I couldn’t get it to play nice with my Google Apps email.  I didn’t have the patience for it and Outlook picked up the right settings right away, so I just gave up reluctantly and have been using Office ever since.  This time I stuck it out, since the Gmail/Google Apps problem wouldn’t be an issue and managed to get Thunderbird to play nice.

The other reason I’ve avoided moving away from Outlook is because I’m hopelessly dependent on the Calendar and Tasks features.  We use these internally at Arcane Palette to send each other projects or tasks for projects to work on and manage our workflow that way.  We’ve tried other project management applications, but using the one built right into Outlook it so much easier than having to log into a third-party application, especially when said application doesn’t necessarily send said emails.  Thankfully, Thunderbird has Lightning, the new Calendar and Task extension by Mozilla.  That’s two down, and that takes care of my email.

Next was switching from Chrome to Firefox.  I’ve been using Chrome since the late beta period, and have grown so accustomed to it that it’s second nature.  The web developer tools have become an invaluable resource when I’m working on a website, and I’ve foregone heaps of integrated functionality in favor of bookmarklets, plastering them all over my bookmark bar.  However, migrating to Firefox was relatively painless as well.  I just needed to export my bookmarks as an .html file and was able to import said .html file directly into Firefox and then move all my bookmarklets to Firefox’s bookmark bar.  I then focused on making Firefox more lightweight by uninstalling some plugins I wasn’t using and installing a couple plugins that would add some of the Chrome functionality I had grown used to, in particular, Taberwocky, which I use primarily to be able to duplicate tabs.  Since I’ve been using Glue, I finally got to install the Glue plugin and experience the web the way Glue wants you to, and I installed Firefox’s personas just for fun (which is Firefox’s version of Chrome’s visual styles).  I use Hootsuite for Twitter, and with Chrome, I was doing this by creating an application window for it, so it runs as its own standalone app.  Mozilla has this, too, in a project called Prism, and I actually like Prism more because it allows you to customize the icon, which Chrome’s application shortcuts don’t do.

I also switched search engines.  This was harder than it sounded.  You don’t realize how used to typing google.com into an address bar you are until you try to do something else.  I also realized I’ve become dependent on Chrome’s auto-fill technique of allowing you to search a site by typing the domain and hitting TAB.  I’ve yet to find something like that in Firefox.  On the other hand, Firefox has Search Engine add-ons for a variety of sites (including Wikipedia, which, along with YouTube and Amazon – both of which have Search Engine Add-Ons – was what I was using most frequently), which made it easy (easier, anyway) to switch over to Bing as my primary search engine.

The setup took me through the weekend, so by Monday I was ready to start my work week without Google.

YouTube was difficult to avoid.  It’s so ubiquitous for video sharing that you can choose to not watch viral videos, or you can suck it up and watch things on YouTube.  YouTube was acquired in 2006 by Google for $1.65billion from a couple of ecstatic developers who built it, and since then, Google has both added advertising to videos and started doing video ads with their AdSense service.  This was one thing I cheated on my Google-less week for, although that’s more a result of the decision of content creators to use YouTube rather than another service like Vimeo.

On Tuesday, I needed to send an invoice to a client.  I paused and thought hard.  PayPal has a higher processing fee, plus I have a bias against them since they screwed me once.  That said, in a lesser-of-two-evils decision, PayPal, at least, isn’t trying to take over the world (or, if not the world, gain more control over the future of the Internet than the government organizations assigned to regulate it and keep it free from corporate interests).  So I put my boycott on PayPal aside and sent out an invoice with a PayPal-linked button rather than a Google Checkout-linked button.  This was probably the hardest switch to make not because PayPal is inherently more difficult but because both companies, in my opinion, are crooked.

I suppose it should be said that I’m addicted to the web developer tools built into WebKit (and therefore Google Chrome), in particular the Inspect Element context menu.  I use it every day and I knew going into this experiment that this would be something I was missing.  I’ve become so accustomed to using Inspect Element that I’d completely forgotten how to use the much more elaborate Web Developer Tools plugin for Firefox (though I still had that installed).  In the end, for web development, I used Safari so I could get the benefit of the Inspect Element option.  To be honest, there was no specific reason for choosing Firefox over Safari as the browser of choice and by Wednesday I started considering just switching.  Most likely it was simply ubiquity and the fact that Firefox was what I was using before switching to Chrome, though, in retrospect, Safari is just as solid.

On Thursday, I realized that the database backups I schedule to automatically send every week to a specific email address weren’t coming.  After a second, I realized why; I never set up the email address when I was moving my mail over to my webhost.  While it’s just as easy to set up mail through your host as it is to set up Google Apps to handle your mail, it’s worth remembering that if you do decide to switch back (or switch any host or email provider), any email addresses you have set up will need to be recreated on the new host.  It’s a simple enough task, but just as easy to forget, especially if you have forward-only addresses like I do.

Another thing you forget about Gmail is how good the junk mail filter really is.  It’s been years since I really thought very much about junk mail.  I get so little of it, that I don’t even notice the problem.  Only after moving my email away from Gmail did I start to notice the junk come in, many times it was the same piece of junk mail.  Outlook has some built-in controls for that (which, of course, I’d forgone in favor of Thunderbird), and Thunderbird does as well, although, for the most part, it relies on you to mark things as spam to learn what to filter and what not to.  Thankfully, many webhosts have server-side spam filtering (using SpamAssassin or something similar), which I was happy to find on my host when I realized that was what was going on and looked for the possibility of a server-side spam filter (note: it wasn’t turned on by default, as they often are not, so if you find yourself inundated by spam, it’s a good idea to see if your webhost has the option and turn it on, if necessary).

The point of this experiment was not to take my one-man boycott and stick it to The Man.  I knew I relied heavily on Google services, and wanted to see how deep the ties were and how difficult it would be to avoid them.  Most people use Google by default, without thinking.  Are we wrong to do this?  Google has not made a secret of taking our information and using it to supercharge their other apps, like AdSense and search.  Facebook does this too.  But the difference between Facebook and Google is that Google is also asking you to host all your documents with them, to use their phones (bundled with their services) with your mobile service, to take control of your calls with their VOIP service, to own your conversations with their messaging service.  Does this mean that behind every corner, with everything you do online, you have a Google bot reading your messages, your emails, your documents, and assimilating that information into their vast grid for future use?  Are we okay with that?

Even putting Google and Verizon’s recent bid to determine the future of broadband and wireless internet aside for a minute, it can’t go without noting that Google is a huge corporation.  They may have started out as two guys in a garage, but those days are long gone.  Have we forgotten that Apple and Microsoft had similar beginnings?  Google isn’t the underdog anymore, they are the behemoth, and they want your data.  Internet pioneer, Richard Stallman, has some choice words on the sorts of cloud computing technology Google has led us toward with Gmail and Apps.

The real meaning of ‘cloud computing’ is to suggest a devil-may-care approach towards your computing. It says, ‘Don’t ask questions, just trust every business without hesitation. Don’t worry about who controls your computing or who holds your data. Don’t check for a hook hidden inside our service before you swallow it.’ In other words, ‘Think like a sucker.’

We can choose to not be a sucker.  We can look for a hook.  There was a time when people distrusted large businesses simply because they were large.  In this economy, where many of the little and smaller companies have crumbled, we should be even more wary of those left standing, not less.  When a company starts making rules for the government, that’s when I start tuning out.

The answer to the main question of the experiment, can you survive without Google, is: yes, of course you can.  Gmail is great, but by no means is it the be-all end-all email solution, and by no means is Gmail’s junk filtering the only answer, either.  Other cloud computing apps should make you wary at the very least – if the world ended tomorrow and those servers went down, would you be okay with loosing that data?  Neil Gaiman mentioned that some documents from 2007 stored in Google Docs were missing and that he may have lost a story.  I find this, for a writer – a bestselling one, at that – to be absolutely unacceptable, and proof that your data is not guaranteed.  And the only way to truly secure your data is to don your tinfoil hat and start keeping hard copies.

We’re so reliant on the web we don’t even think about it.  I don’t retain a printed copy of my tax return unless I absolutely need it.  Why should I?  Printer companies gouge consumers on ink refills for cheap printers enough that I no longer own a printer.  I have a pdf copy and I file electronically.  Personally, I retain all important data on a home server that maintains weekly backups on an external NAS server, but most people don’t.  The point is, we’ve become so used to going paperless that the idea of going back makes us sound like some relic from the 1950s (no offense to relics from the 50s).  Likewise, distrusting cloud computing, Google, Facebook, any company that hordes our data, makes us sound paranoid.

The answer to the followup question to the experiment, will I continue to live without Google services is: probably.  I was dissatisfied with using Firefox for all my browsing, and enjoyed using the Glue extension for Firefox that I was never able to use in Chrome, but as an experiment, I went to Glue in Safari and found an extension there as well.  Which implies there may be other extensions available for Safari that I didn’t know about (although, really, there weren’t many I use daily in Chrome, and one of them is a Google Voice extension).  Moving forward, I plan on switching over to Safari for my browsing as a replacement for Chrome rather than Firefox.

My email is already switched and I have no intention of switching back.  I’m now using free software (free as in freedom as well as free as in beer) to manage my email via Thunderbird, and I’m quite happy with it.  I was already growing apart from Google after my new mobile carrier (Sprint/Nextel, via CREDOMobile) doesn’t support Google Voice entirely, and text messages sent to my Google Voice number forward to my phone even when the setting is disabled to forward texts (as a way to save on individual text messaging charges).  Bing is not as good for search as Google, but it’s passable, and in many cases where I was looking for something specific, a site search gave me the result I wanted.

When I started this experiment, Nico, from Ten Times One, commented on my blog, saying, “Google is good for business.”  As a small business owner, sure, Google helps, but the only Google service I was using as a business was Checkout.  We experimented with AdWords only to find that it was a lot of money for no real result.  I haven’t used up the rest of my $100 credit, and we currently advertise via BuySellAds.  Google will always color how we think about search engine optimization, but Google is trying to enter an enterprise market with Apps where Microsoft has dominated for more than a decade and those types of markets aren’t often subject to radical change.  It will be a steep hill for them to climb to try to sell their wares to corporate businesses.  Even for business, Google is not the only answer, nor, in many cases, the best answer.  And increasingly, their dominance over the advertising market will decrease as Apple, Yahoo, and Facebook become more relevant players.

The first step in changing the world is to change yourself.  I’m not trying to change the world, but it’s also terrifying to me that we let ourselves be subjugated by corporate interests without being aware of it.  So, I encourage you to think about the online services you use, whether they’re Google, Facebook or other, and think about the data you’re giving them.  Could you live without that data?  Could you live without that service?  Could that data be used against you?  Do you trust a multi-billion dollar multi-national corporation with that data, whether it’s a search query or sensitive medical documents?  Does it make any sense at all for a multi-national, multi-billion dollar corporation to truly have your interests at heart?

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Chris Reynolds is one half of the design team at Arcane Palette Creative Design. He writes in his personal blog, jazzsequence, on subjects like music, technology and social media and shares links, videos, and posts various personal music and writing projects. You can also follow him on Twitter.

Google America

If you were to take a poll today of approval ratings for Barack Obama, I can guarantee that the number of supporters in this country of our President is far surpassed by the number of people who use Google services on a daily basis.

How did this happen?  How did we become so complacent?  How is it that more people trust a huge corporate conglomerate more than their President?

Google and Verizon’s legislative proposal, if adopted, would give them more regulatory control over access and the future of the Internet than the FCC, the government organization tasked to protect corporations from having too much control over communications technology (i.e. precisely what Google/Verizon propose to do).  Besides dictating to the FCC what the FCC can and cannot do with regards to internet access, the proposal allows access providers to prioritize traffic however they see fit, without that pesky FCC being able to get in the way and defend users’ rights.  But it’s not just about users.  It’s about Google maintaining its dominance of the market.  By creating a tiered structure with some prioritized traffic and other, slow-lane traffic, Google/Verizon are making it so new, upstart, garage companies and providers will never be able to compete with the big guys without significant financial investment.  Which is just how they’d like it.  And if there were any little guys who had something of interest?  You can bet Google will swallow them up like they’ve done in the past, all under the guise of providing users with a more complete and useful experience on the web.

The thing is, Google didn’t hide their growth.  We all watched and applauded as the little search engine that could rumbled up the mountain, “I think I can”‘ing their way past Apple and Microsoft not just in search but in technology in general.  The whole time, they released these little test projects that we gobbled up — they were so useful!  It seems foreboding now, more than liberating, that there was once a bid for their CEO to be Obama’s Chief Technology Officer.  Rather than being a reflection of new ideas, it’s easy to see it, instead, as being just one more way the corporation has tried to bind themselves with the American government.

Possibly what irks me the most is that I feel like I, personally, should have seen this coming.  Google played out a particular trick that I’ve seen once before in internet con artists.

Step 1: Establish your credibility

Google was able to earn points by building a technically superior search engine.  While it can be argued (and is currently being argued by “social search” engines like Glue and Hunch) that an algorithm isn’t as good at knowing what a human wants as much as a human (and therefore a more human approach to search results based on preferences rather than rankings), the more humanistic engines to date include Amazon, Netflix, and the aforementioned Glue and Hunch can often still be wrong.  And the other alternatives that try to out-algorithm the algorithm — I’m thinking of Wolfram|Alpha and search engines that use Wolfram|Alpha to enhance their results — leave much to be desired in terms of understanding what you’re asking.  The fact is that Google has become so ubiquitous over the last 10 years that the word is synonymous for “search” and no matter how catchy the next upstart search engine’s name is (Bing!), there’s very little hope of anything overtaking it.  Ever.  (At least in this country.)

Step 2: Build Trust

If I asked you to give me your name, picture, address, credit card number, date of birth, a list of all your friends with their email addresses and phone numbers, and another list of every topic you’ve ever been interested in, ever, you wouldn’t just think I was a crazy stalker; you would know it.  Yet, this is precisely the same information we give to Google by using their services.  Even if we haven’t directly given Google all of that information, Google (as well as other online services) is able to pull that information together based on your public profiles on social networking sites.  We hand over an astounding amount of information to Google and other corporations all in the name of “making our lives easier.”  Has your life gotten easier since using Google?

Google builds trust by speaking publicly about open standards (although they’re not always in favor of open software — it’s been rumored for a few years that internally they’re using a modified version of Linux that they are not privy to sharing with the rest of the world) and by giving stuff away for free (although not always under open source licenses).  But like a skilled magician (or a skilled con artist), while we’re all staring at the shiny free goodies, their other hand is reaching around for our wallet.

Google deals in information.  They deal in wants and desires.  Specifically, they deal with terabytes of information every day about what we want, what we think, what we’re looking for, what we need.  Their ad system is based on selling shares in concepts against a hypothesized value for said idea.  They take a keyword, say “licorice”, and determine a price based on how much they think people are going to be wanting licorice on any given day.  And these prices aren’t static — they’re constantly in flux.  In Wired interviews past, they’ve told journalists that things like seasons, weather, economic and social conditions color what we search for.  With that level of insight into the American psyche, it’s unsurprising that they could be able to anticipate just what we needed to hear to trust them with all our personal information.

Step Three: Go for the kill

Once a person or organization has gotten this far, gotten you to trust them, you will follow them to the end of the world and back without much thought.  After all, they’ve established themselves in the past, they’ve proven their worth, why doubt now?  You may trust them even while you notice, out of the corner of your eye, the hand reaching for your wallet — it couldn’t possibly be what you think it is, you must be imagining it.  This is the crucial point we are at as Americans, as citizens of the autonomous sovereignty of the Internet, in our relationship with Google.  We trust them.  We believe they have our best interests at heart and we are willing to give up our own individual voices and allow them to speak for us.

Isn’t this what governments were for?  Isn’t this what politicians were for?  And aren’t governments and politicians supposed to protect us from businesses that grow so large as to threaten their own regulating authority?

The con I’ve seen using the same tactics (and possibly these steps are common to all forms of advertising or marketing) was a cheap ploy to sell copies of an overpriced ebook that over-promised (make hundreds of dollars a day, gain thousands of followers a week, a huge network pushing floods of traffic to your site) and under-delivered.  I wasn’t alone when I found myself  not being able to match the phenomenal success I should have had and wondering what I was doing wrong.  I didn’t buy into the scam because I believed the hype (I didn’t), rather, because the author had made good on steps one and two; he established credibility by keeping a popular, high ranking blog about making money blogging that, while never revealing any actual useful advice on how to make money blogging, always carried with it the promise that the secret was just around the corner; and he built trust by exposing several scams related to his own ebook (in fact, it could be argued that his ebook was a rewrite of the scams he had exposed).  Surely his method was different than the ones he exposed as obvious scams.  What this particular con has in common with Google is good copy: both are very good at weaving their way around the truth, telling a believable lie — one laced with truth — and taking full advantage of the successes won from established credibility and trust.  Once you’ve scored on those two counts, you can do almost anything.

Don’t be Google: A battle-cry for Net Neutrality

By now you should have heard about the closed-door talks that Google isn’t having with Verizon that absolutely wouldn’t destroy Net Neutrality as we’ve known it (and Google has argued for it) for the last several years.

Here’s the rundown:

The New York Times published an article that Google and Verizon were nearing an agreement in talks that would create a tiered structure for content providers such that certain types of content providers would get faster speeds than others.  In the current model of the internet, everyone works with what we’ve got, and any speed issues are solely on how much you as a consumer are willing or able to pay.  As everyone hooks up to broadband and Google is fighting for nationwide fiber-optic, speed differences will be dependent upon the servers of the content providers for the first time, rather than how slow or fast your modem is (remember 28.8k?).

Basically, this would give some content providers (i.e. anyone who’s worked out a special deal with Google, or content providers that Google already owns, like YouTube) fast-lane speeds whereas everyone else (say, a video startup in someone’s garage to compete with YouTube, Vimeo, Hulu, etc) would be stuck behind grandma.

Essentially, this means that if you are friends with Google (or Verizon), you get to be in the cool kids club.  If not, you can eat the cool kids’ dust.

Huffington Post published a great editorial yesterday that highlighted some of Google’s flip-flops in publicly-expressed attitudes toward Net Neutrality.  In particular this:

Traffic prioritization allows the broadband provider to become an unwanted gatekeeper in the middle of the Internet. Because of the market power they currently employ, broadband providers have the technical ability and economic incentives to determine which packets of Internet traffic get delivered to which consumers under what conditions. The end result is that the Internet becomes shaped in ways that serve the interests of the broadband providers, and not consumers or innovative Web entrepreneurs.

has turned into this:

People get confused about Net neutrality. I want to make sure that everybody understands what we mean about it. What we mean is that if you have one data type, like video, you don’t discriminate against one person’s video in favor of another. It’s OK to discriminate across different types…There is general agreement with Verizon and Google on this issue.

Seriously, Google?  That’s pretty much the exact opposite of what you’ve been saying and arguing for.

Net Neutrality, it seems, is only worth fighting for when it’s profitable.  As soon as the time comes when Net Neutrality (or, you know, anything at all) no longer becomes profitable, Google seems to think it’s perfectly okay to switch gears with a complete reversal.  Google is no longer the scrappy underdog we all rooted for in the dotcom boom, when Microsoft was evil (and made no claims otherwise).  Google has grown to a mammoth internet behemouth able to wield huge swaths of internet real estate and tear down empires with their mighty power.  While we weren’t looking, they’ve hidden behind their “don’t be evil” slogan and made us okay with taking all our information (it’s okay because it makes search results more accurate and personalized), giving up our privacy (we don’t mind as long as we can find where we’re going), and handing over all our data to someone else (it’s so much more convenient to store our data online and access it from anywhere).  Now, they’re crowning themselves Kings of the Internet, able to rule over all that they see (which is everything), and determine what content providers or what types of content deserve special treatment and what doesn’t.  Not only that, but they’ve got us in a vice grip; like junkies, we’re addicted to their services because they work so damn well.  And Google can’t be all bad when all their applications are free (despite the millions of dollars they make shoving ads in your face).  I’d say I’m switching to Bing but even Bing can’t deliver search results that are as accurate to what I’m looking for as Google.

There’s a new meme in town.  No longer shall we say “don’t be evil”; henceforth the battle cry will be “Don’t be Google.”

Take action for change…with your mobile carrier

This is guest post by Chris Reynolds, one half of the design team at Arcane Palette Creative Design. If you’d like to guest post on 10 Times One, click here.

https://pastatech.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/death-star-att.jpg
About a week ago, I got an interesting piece of snail mail.  It came from
CREDO Mobile — a name that didn’t ring any bells at the time — but it didn’t start off like your average “switch to us” cell phone pitch.  Instead it began by talking about all the positive change that has been accomplished in the past year: initiatives to help combat global warming, improved health care, marriage equality in Iowa, Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire, the Lily Ledbetter Act — which ensures that victims of pay discrimination can go to court for justice…

What is this?  Is this a political campaign or a mobile provider?  What’s their angle?

Here’s the bit of important information I was missing: CREDO.  CREDO Action is an activist organization much like Organizing for America (what the Obama Presidential campaign evolved into after the election), Change.org and MoveOn.org — which is to say, they have a bunch of causes and you can help out by signing a petition or donating money.  It was through my involvement in one (or all) of these organizations that I became a member (by signing a petition) of CREDO Action, mostly to my unawares.

Okay, so what does that have to do with cell phones, then?

Well, did you know that AT&T made campaign contributions to someone who called global warming the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people” and Verizon contributed to the Republican Senator of Louisiana who urged President Obama to expand offshore drilling after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico?

Did you know that AT&T gave the maximum allowable contribution to GW in both the 2000 and the 2004 elections?  And AT&T has also been a repeat contributor to the Oklahoma Senator who opposes abortion even in cases of rape and advocates the death penalty to doctors who perform abortions.  Did you know Verizon has been a steady contributor to the group of centrist Democrats who helped derail the public option in the final healthcare bill?

As a member of all the above petition-signing groups and being an AT&T customer, out of contract for over a year, and just hanging on for lack of anything better to switch to, it’s hard to read where AT&T’s values lie and not be tempted to jump ship rtfn.  I’m sure they’ve made other contributions to other politicians with not so spotty records, but, in the end, is it worth it?  But woah there, space cowboy — how much do the plans cost?

My current plan with AT&T is a basic, 2-line family plan, 550 anytime minutes, free nights and weekends and in-network mobile-to-mobile.  We don’t even touch those minutes, though, because we actually talk on the phone so little outside of those times that our rollover minutes effectively amount to infinity (although rollover is something we got in the last year or two, the 550 shared minutes was never a problem for us even before we had rollover since the majority of calls we were making were to each other).  Our monthly bill averages out to about $120/month — $50 per line plus taxes.  Compare that to the 550 shared plan from CREDO: all of that (minus rollover) for $59.99. I must be reading that wrong, I thought.  It can’t possibly be $59.99 for both lines.  Even if it was though, that would end up being just about as much as what we’re paying for AT&T anyway with better values.

So I contacted CREDO Mobile and asked about the $59.99 family plan.  I looked all over the site and, try as I might to find some kind of loophole or fine print that said $59.99 was per line, I failed.  So I asked them.  Two days later I received a personalized email (not an email from a robot or a script monkey in India) that specifically addressed all my questions and concerns.  Effing brilliant! I couldn’t sign up fast enough.

So now I’m waiting for two phones, an LG Rumor 2 and a Sanyo 3810.

How does this action group become a mobile provider?  Obviously they’re targeting people just like me: educated, active in news and politics, concerned about strong issues, they’ve got a huge network of people (with names, addresses and email addresses) from everyone who’s ever signed a petition (a rather clever way of culling a contact list).  Now they’ve got a list, they’ve got an idea to fight against the big mobile conglomerates with right wing leanings, but they need to jump into an already-crowded market with no cell phone towers of their own.  They solve the problem by using Sprint/Nextel’s network.  I looked up Sprint/Nextel for coverage in my area: I got a combination of “Nextel is the best provider in this area” and “Sprint is the worst provider in this area”  (Nextel was purchased by Sprint in 2005), so this puts them right about the middle with everyone else if you average it out.  As far as tech goes, Sprint/Nextel is the first nationwide 4G network, and CREDO Mobile offers Blackberrys and Android smartphones (The HTC Hero 2 is coming soon).  Their plans are all pretty cheap — at least if you go by minutes.  It gets pricier for  unlimited plans, but even if we added almost 1,000 more minutes to our family plan, we’d still be paying less than we are now with AT&T.  Their individual plans are similar — dirt cheap if you go for the least amount of minutes, more as you add more minutes, data or texting.  But the point is, they’re competitive, and, if you’re an activist for any of the causes that CREDO Action supports, why would you get a cell phone plan with anyone else?

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Chris Reynolds is one half of the design team at Arcane Palette Creative Design. He writes in his personal blog, jazzsequence, on subjects like music, technology and social media and shares links, videos, and posts various personal music and writing projects. You can also follow him on Twitter.