Folks, I apologize for being “missing in action” here lately, but I’ve been enjoying a well-deserved vacation.
To be more precise (and annoying), it was a “staycation” because I didn’t go anywhere.
I’m still right here in Tiraspol, where I am happy to report that life is 99% back to normal. Just about everything is normal, and the only sign of the virus is the obligation to wear a face mask when you’re shopping.
The state of emergency (which went into effect March 16 and now seems like a lifetime ago) ended a couple of days ago. The PMR government is more than ready to open the borders again, but Moldova and Ukraine (as well as Romania) are colossally inept as always, and all hell is breaking loose there.
I’ve seen photos of people being forced to wear masks while walking down the streets of Chisinau on a brutally hot summer day (and the president is talking about putting the Army back on the streets to enforce these lunatic rules), and it makes me more grateful than ever to be living in a country where freedom is respected and cherished.
Yah, yah, I know I’m not supposed to say that. MEH.
Anyway, not to get sidetracked too much, during my vacation, I had the serendipitous fortune to meet a couple of Cubans online. Cubans meaning ordinary Cubans in Cuba, using the Cuban internet, and I learned a lot from them.
For one, their internet isn’t censored. Secondly, due to punishing sanctions, their internet is slow and quite expensive.
Combine that with the recent, horrifying video that I saw from John Oliver about the monstrosities being perpetrated by Clearview.ai (YouTube link), I realized that it’s time for me to do something about my little corner of the internet.
There are two major problems with the internet, today.
The first is that, in some places and for some people, it is slow and/or expensive to access.
This may be true because of the country where you live, because you’re traveling to a place without good coverage, the outrageous prices that ISPs charge, or because you’re using an old device.
The second major problem is the fucking gatekeepers. Whether it’s your government or a social media company, someone out there always wants to mess with what content you can access.
Every single one of them believes that they”know what’s best” for you, an attitude that makes me want to puke.
And even when there are no restrictions, those bastards are monitoring, collating, recording, analyzing, tracking, and selling all of your data. They’re profiling you, stalking you, hacking you, and invading your sovereign privacy.
As an individual who isn’t particularly savvy with computers, there’s not much that I can do about either of those problems. I certainly wouldn’t even know where to begin to “fix the internet.”
But there is a tool out there that I can use that will solve both problems, at least in terms of the content that I am producing and you are accessing right now.
If you’re not already using Telegram for your phone or computer, I highly recommend you begin doing so immediately.
I was introduced to it last year by an American guy who lives in Eastern Europe. At first, I thought it was just another “messaging app,” and it does kind of look like Whatsapp when you first start. So what’s the point?
Well, I’ll let their website sell you on all of the amazing features, but what matters most is this:
- It’s encrypted.
- Your data isn’t being collected or sold.
- It offers lightning-fast, low-data access to content and services.
- Its founder, Pavel Durov, is one hell of a guy.
From the founder’s blog:
You already know Telegram has your back when it comes to privacy. Another human right we feel passionately about is the freedom of speech. In some countries Telegram is the only popular platform for independent sources of information. There are thousands of large Telegram channels that are critical of their governments.
Telegram has never yielded to pressure from officials who wanted us to perform political censorship. Freedom of speech is one of the values we’ve been defending for the last 11 years, first in Russia, and then globally.
Long story short – Telegram is one of the last places on the internet where adults can enjoy freedom.
Furthermore, Telegram doesn’t make any money. It never has. Every single feature and aspect of it is entirely free and always will be. Therefore, they have no incentive to “monetize” their users.
And they’ve never once handed over a single byte of data to any government on the planet or shut down a channel at any government’s request.
A New Frontier
Telegram also has a very cool feature called “instant read” in which text articles load (quite literally) instantly for mobile users and do not consume any data. This makes it perfect for people with slow and/or expensive internet connections.
Starting today (and with this article), everything I do on the blog will be available as an “instant read” on Telegram.
If you’ve got Telegram installed, you can access the official King of Romania Telegram channel here.
It’s a little bare at the moment because it just got launched, but over time, it’ll become a richer environment than I can offer here on the blog.
For instance, I’ve already posted the John Oliver video there so you can watch it without being tracked and monitored by the Google borg.
If you don’t want to use Telegram, that’s fine, too. I’ll continue to post here on the blog as normal. And if you’re one of my email subscribers, nothing will change.
The only thing that will change is that starting from this article, I will no longer publish anything on Facebook. As far as I am concerned, Facebook is an evil corporation run by a sociopath, and I don’t want to contribute to it anymore.
I understand that some people need Facebook (some research that I do cannot be done any other way), but I don’t want anything to with those fuckers profiling my readers and collating their data to further their awful schemes.
A New Way to Do Links
Furthermore, in the future, whenever I link to outside sources, those links will go towards “Telegraph” pages.
This is Telegram’s free (and uncensored, unmonitored, untracked, etc) webpage service, and anyone can access it even without a Telegram account. These links will let you browse the original source material without having to deal with ads, cookies, and all that other bullshit.
At the bottom of each Telegraph page, you’ll also see a link to the original website so you can verify the information.
I read a lot of news, even during my vacation, and not all of it has to do with Romania or Moldova or Pridnestrovie.
Three years ago, I started looking into a way to produce a newspaper, online. But unfortunately, I couldn’t find any service or company that offered everything that I wanted.
Essentially, what I wanted was a Harry Potter-esque “magic” newspaper that combined text, photos, and video all in one cool, interactive way. But the only way to combine those was to set up a website.
Websites cost money, need a lot of tinkering and jiggering to work right and be displayed properly on thousands of different devices, and can be attacked and disrupted.
Furthermore, sometimes I just want to add a link to someone else’s article, but that means sending the reader on some long, winding trip to a website that might be buggy, full of ads, or delete or alter the original article.
My wishlist looked like this:
- Loads quickly
- Impervious to denial of service attacks
- Host and stream videos and audio
- Crisp, readable text
- Doesn’t cost me an arm and a leg to run (since I won’t be using ads)
- Looks good on every device and OS
- Links that don’t “bounce” the reader away from the site
- No ads, cookies, or trackers of any kind
- Doesn’t take all day for me to run it
Well, in 2017, I couldn’t find anything to suit that bill. Now, thanks to Telegram, I have.
I call it the FreeFire🔥NewsWire, and it’s my humble attempt to “curate” all the interesting news (in English) out there on the internet.
If you have Telegram, click here.
For those of you who don’t have Telegram, you can still see it in action by clicking here, although you’ll be missing out on some of the cooler features.
If you’re the kind of person who enjoys perusing a daily “round-up” of news, I think you’ll like it.