Alternatives to Big Tech

From the Creative Good blog, here’s Mark Hurst’s list of alternative services to those offered by Big Tech.

Search: Instead of Google, use DuckDuckGo – a search engine that doesn’t track you. I use it as my default search engine and it works great.

Email: Instead of Gmail, use FastMail – a fast, well-designed email service that isn’t owned by Big Tech and doesn’t depend on surveillance for its business model.

To-do list: Instead of using your inbox, or nothing at all, use my own Good Todo – a simple to-do list that doesn’t track you. It also allows you to email your to-dos to the list, helping reduce inbox clutter.

Calendar: Instead of Google Calendar, use BusyCal (on OSX), and sync your calendar with Apple’s iCloud – or the calendar in FastMail.

Browser: Instead of Chrome, use Firefox (or Safari) with the DuckDuckGo privacy extension installed, explained more here. (See also my interview with DuckDuckGo founder Gabriel Weinberg on my Techtonic radio show.)

Music: Instead of Spotify, listen to WFMU. I’m serious. This independent, listener-supported radio station – where I run my Techtonic show – offers an unmatched collection of human-curated, non-algorithm-driven shows and an unbelievable treasure trove in its archive, all available for free. (Actually right now is WFMU’s annual fundraiser, and you can donate here. More info below.)

Social media: Don’t use Facebook. Or at least minimize your usage. As Matt Klinman put it in this outstanding interview, “every time you scroll through content on Facebook, you’re depriving independent media of a way to exist.” To reach your community, just send email. I recommend Campaign Monitor, which I’ve used for many years to send out this newsletter.

I’m hardly the only one advocating for a new approach. Here are more voices on Big Tech:

On Facebook: Columbia Journalism Review’s Mathew Ingram writes that as Facebook increases its control, “they’ll decide which brands they are going to elevate and which they will filter out..Facebook effectively decides which media outlets survive and which don’t.” Read the full article.

On Google: The NYT’s Charles Duhigg wrote The Case Against Google. Nailed it. And Jason Kint writes that Google continues to obfuscate its numbers.

On YouTube (owned, of course, by Google): Zeynep Tufekci writes in NYT about YouTube, the Great Radicalizer.

Pay attention.

A new Help screen for the Good Todo iOS app

We’re just about to launch a new version of the Good Todo iOS app with a much improved Help screen. Here’s a sneak peek:

Good Todo Help

Quick tips for using Good Todo:

To sync your todo list, drag down on the screen (similar to the syncing action in many other apps).

To re-order todos, tap and hold on any todo, then drag todos up or down the list.

To see tomorrow’s list, tap the right-arrow button on today’s list, or swipe right on the screen.

To see the calendar and navigate to any date, tap the orange Good Todo logo in the top-left.

If the todo list in the app doesn’t match the website, try the “Full sync” feature on the Settings screen (tap the wrench icon on the bottom of the screen). Full sync gets a complete download of your todo list, instead of the quicker incremental sync that usually occurs.

Every night around midnight, undone todos roll over to the next day. You never have to worry about undone todos on past days. If you want to send a todo to a future day, just tap the todo to open it, then tap the Redate button.

To make links clickable, tap to open a todo, then tap “View links” on the bottom of the screen. This is helpful if a todo’s title or detail text contains Web addresses or email addresses.

Email a todo to your list: In any email app, forward an email from your login address to and it will show up on today’s list. Then archive or delete the email, and you’re one step closer to an empty inbox! (Also try these: days like, dates like, and numbers of days/weeks/months in the future, like or or

To approve other email addresses to mail into your account, log into the website (on a computer is best) and then click into Preferences -> Approved Addresses. You can also set your time zone there, and you can sign up to get a daily email from Good Todo containing your todos.

For more tips, see the Good Todo blog.

Thanks for using Good Todo!

The followup superpower and how to use it

A superpower is a special ability that only a few people have, and that can be used in all types of missions. Good followup is a superpower. Not many people have it. But all Good Todo users have access to good followup.

Here are two ways to use the followup superpower - in receiving tasks, and in creating them.

  • When someone says, “How about checking in with me in 2 weeks on that,” you need good followup. Just email - in the Subject line, type “follow up with” and the name of the person - and in the body, write any notes or details about the followup. In two weeks, you’ll see it appear on today’s list!

  • When you email someone else a task you want them to complete, you can BCC a date in the future when you want to follow up with your colleague to make sure they’ve completed the task. For example, when you email your colleague, BCC and in three days, you’ll see the email as a task in today’s list.

Email addresses are flexible! In addition to “d” for days and “w” for weeks, and you can also use “m”… for example, email to email items a month in the future.

We hope you enjoy your followup superpower, using Good Todo!

How to check a todo done

While observing new users of Good Todo, we occasionally see someone hesitate when they’re ready to mark an action item “done.”

How to mark a todo done in Good Todo: two ways.

  1. Click or tap the box to the left of the todo title: an orange check-mark will appear (it’s actually a mini-version of the Good Todo logo), and the todo will pop down to the lower section of the screen, where “done” or completed todos for that day are stored. This works exactly the same across the Good Todo website, iPhone/iPad app, and Android app.

  2. On the website only, you can delete a todo. Go to the todo’s detail view (by clicking its title), then click the red button marked “Delete entirely” in the lower right. This is a permanent deletion with no undo, so we intentionally make it more difficult than clicking the todo done.

Generally, we recommend clicking todos done rather than deleting them. By tomorrow, they no longer show up on today’s list - since completed todos stay in the day on which they were marked done. So getting things done looks good on today’s list (you build up a nice list of checkmarks on the bottom of the screen), and by tomorrow, only the undone todos have rolled over to that day.

Any questions? Feel free to contact us at

Watching an Ongoing Issue

Here’s how to use Good Todo to track ongoing issues:

  • Create a todo on today’s list with the name of the issue. For example, call it “Ongoing TPS”.

  • Type in the detail field of a todo. You might start with today’s date: perhaps it would be “2-10-17 TPS is fine”.

  • Don’t check the todo done. Instead, let the todo roll over day-to-day, so it’s always on today’s list.

  • Whenever there’s an update to the todo, type it in the detail field with the new date. For example, a few days later it might look like this:
    2-10-17 TPS is fine
    2-13-17 needs attention

For more on log files and canvas files, and how they can be helpful for ongoing items, please see Mark Hurst’s book Bit Literacy.

Thanks to user T.S. for pointing out this usage of Good Todo!

Techie Todo Lists vs. Good Todo

A recent Hacker News thread discussed organizing all the information in your life, asking for good todo list recommendations, among tools.

Recommendations included what I’d call “techie todo lists”:

Org-mode, a productivity suite based on Emacs, the longtime Unix-based text editor

Taskwarrior, explicitly described as a command-line todo list

Todo.html, an extension of an earlier system called Todo.txt

Some people are going to find these to be excellent tools: each is a good todo list for users who are comfortable with command lines (as opposed to a standard browser interface with links, buttons, and icons).

However, even for users with exceptional tech skills, there’s an advantage to Good Todo in the todo list: Good Todo can accept emails. As described in the previous post, you can forward an email - with all of its details, attachments, and timestamp data - to the todo list, where it gets stored.

Many todos arrive via email, full of details. Who wants to copy and paste all of those details into a techie todo list, let alone retype it all? For techies and for the rest of us, use Good Todo.

How to Forward an Email to Today's To-Do List

Forward emails from your inbox to Good Todo. Then you can manage your tasks there.

For example:

• find an email in your inbox that contains a to-do or action item

• forward that email to

• log in to (or log in to the iOS or Android Good Todo mobile app)

There: you should see the action item sitting on today’s to-do list! (To send an action item to tomorrow, forward the email to

Questions? Contact us.