Dealgorithmizing my life - 2

10 Feb 2021

As society comes ever closer to a dystopia, one must ask oneself the important questions, the questions that determine the priority of certain things in one’s life. These are the questions whose answers are the saving grace for some and the blow of death for the others. These are the questions whose answers decide what shall be left behind in the dirt, and what shall rise like a phoenix from the flame, enduring all that was thrown at it in the process of the world being mangled by the iron jaws of tyranny. “Philosophizing vs. Engineering”, “Idealism vs. Pragmatism”, “Minecraft vs. Fortnite”; questions like these determine the direction humanity will head in, and whether it will liberate itself from those iron jaws. When it comes to “YouTube vs. Newpipe”, I have chosen my side. Though the dystopia is inevitable, one can seek to delay it, which is why I side with Newpipe. It is the new coming of the light and shall push back against the evil that is YouTube for a long time to come, so long as we support it and are there to help it walk the path of light, to pull it back when it strays off the beaten path. Come, my friend, join us.

Newpipe is an amazing solution to YouTube’s recommendation system and its privacy issues. It does not recommend stuff to you (even if it does, please don’t tell me) and works by scraping the videos off of YouTube, so no Google libraries are needed! I’ve been using Newpipe thanks to this blog post by @joeligj12@fosstodon.org. It’s amazing and is literally everything I needed (although I’m still going to limit myself to 5 videos per day).

Why dealgorithmize on Spotify?

Although Spotify’s algorithms aren’t as bad as YouTube’s, they still are algorithms that are made (at least in part) with the intention of holding the user’s attention for as long as possible. Even though, in my experience, Spotify hasn’t been as guilty as YouTube when it comes to manipulating a user’s attention, I have recently found it very hard to do things without listening to music or a podcast (mostly manual labor and exercise). It’s that sort of dependency on these platforms that I would like to get away from, and the reason I’d like to ‘dealgorithmize’ is because this dependency on a platform’s content is usually because of the influence of its algorithms.

Delving into the specifics

“When one wants a solution to a zoomer problem, one must think like a boomer.”

                                        - Sun Tzu, popular twitch streamer

One of the most obvious solutions to this problem is to just buy and download the music the boomer way, and this solution is most probably the way I’m going to go. The extra step of buying the music helps in reducing the flow of fuel that is fed to that over-saturated feedback loop that makes us want to keep scrolling in search of new stuff to listen to.

“But how will you discover new music now?”, I hear you ask. Never fear my little child, for recommender systems are not the only way a human learns about new things, although it may seem that way sometimes. I’m going to buy a few random songs each time I buy some songs that I want. It’s a fun little way to experiment with different music genres to find songs that I like. I like to think that I’m pretty open-minded, and don’t base my criteria for liking music on whether it’s of a particular genre or not (i.e. being genre-ist), but on whether it sounds good to me. When it comes to this sort of stuff, I have a very simple philosophy - I like what I like.

When it comes to podcasts, I’m going to start listening to them on Newpipe (thanks again @joeligj12@fosstodon.org). I have a long list of podcasts provided to me by @sotolf@fosstodon.org, plus I’m also going to actively be searching for stuff that I like/want to listen to, either by DuckDuckGoing it, or by asking online communities about it (only when I want to of course, because one of the keywords in my long ramblings about this stuff has to be ‘choice’) so I’m pretty much covered in the ‘discovery’ department.

Two problems

Does the problem really lie in having the music/podcasts at your fingertips? If you remember, I said my problem with Spotify is that I have become dependent on it to perform daily tasks or to exercise. I simply have to have a podcast on or some music on while I’m doing these things. Is this a problem with having these things be easily available? And if so, how am I solving the problem? Because one can argue that by downloading the music, I have the same ease of access to it as I do with Spotify. Is it a problem with the music/podcasts themselves being addictive? In short, could my assumption of “algorithms are causing us to be dependent on these services” be wrong?

I don’t think the problem is with the easy access to content. I also don’t think the problem is in how addictive a piece of content is. I think the problem is in platforms like Spotify not giving us the choice to control what we’re able to see. When I deal with downloaded music/podcasts, I have the choice to delete them when I feel I’m getting too dependent on them. I have the choice to bring the factor of difficulty (redownloading music/podcasts) into the equation. But when it comes to Spotify, I have no choice to stop recommendations. I have no say in controlling what I want to see. The only option I have is to stop using the app. All I’m doing is simply switching to another platform which gives me the option to control what I’m able to see.

Goodbye Spotify, I’m going Spotifree now.

(worst joke ever told)