breaking bad habits like Doodle and Facebook with plugins?

Paul Boddie paul at
Thu Jan 18 16:18:43 UTC 2018

On Wednesday 17. January 2018 11.56.21 Daniel Pocock wrote:
> One thing that comes to mind: are there browser plugins and Thunderbird
> email plugins that can help people avoid visiting or linking to things
> like Facebook, Meetup, Twitter and Doodle?  I'm not talking about giving
> electric shocks through the keyboard, maybe just a popup alert would be
> enough.  This could be a far more effective way of helping members of
> the community improve their habits and it can step in just at the moment
> when they really need it.  The reality is, many people don't
> deliberately do these things and they would change with just a little
> bit of help.

It seems like a niche problem, really, targeting people who know that using 
Facebook and friends can be problematic, but who make other people use these 
services for the usual reasons of "convenience", "popularity", and so on. (The 
distinction between going along with someone's Doodle invitation and actively 
sending one out to others is important here.)

If people are reaching for proprietary services instead of using something 
that is free and open, and if they know that they should be using the latter 
instead of the former, particularly because they advocate things like Free 
Software to others, then is it not just a case of self-discipline and having 
some ability to reflect on one's own image and integrity? If habits are so 
deeply ingrained, then might they also need to reflect on why this is?

Perhaps the free alternatives need improvement, for example. Or perhaps people 
feel that they cannot readily convince others to break their own habits. 
Perhaps they feel bad making a point that might be considered "ideological" 
(even though it is sound).

I participate in some forums where newcomers can occasionally be seen linking 
out to Facebook. I could understand that asking people not to do that might be 
seen as unkind, given that for some people Facebook is their gateway to the 
Internet (sadly and disturbingly enough) and I would be perceived as lecturing 
them. They might not have given their use of Facebook a second thought 
because, amongst other things, "surely everyone is on it".

But then again, the whole point of such forums is to have a place that people 
fully commit to in their collaboration, and if people choose to post stuff 
elsewhere and then expect others to go there to get a complete picture of a 
discussion or collaboration, then they undermine those forums. That can upset 
the people who set such forums up, partly because it starts to look like 
people are just using them to get what they want and not give anything back.

(There are also interesting observations to be made about eBay, and how that 
can be a harmful influence within the scene in question and on those forums, 
too. When it seems like people are using a resource as an advertising medium 
to make more money, that can really focus the mind around ethics, rules, and 
what is considered acceptable behaviour.)

So, why is it that Free Software advocates want to use proprietary services? 
Are they dissatisfied with free and open solutions for a good reason? Do they 
need to set such things up and so see them as a distraction? Do they have a 
disagreement with the developers of such solutions at some level? Or are they 
just unaware that solutions exist for their needs?

This last issue is perhaps the only thing I can think of where a plugin as 
described might be genuinely helpful, but it seems to me that addressing these 
issues is a lot more constructive than administering a slap on the wrist, even 
if that is what some people might want.


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