Do Not Track

Over the last four years, I have worked hard to make my blog as light, secure and privacy conscious as possible. ‘Https’ is forced across my entire domain; it is hosted on a European server; uses no analytics (Google and/or Jetpack); and the least amount of plugins1 possible.

When visiting my blog you should find that it is fast and, most importantly, not tracking you.

This is true most of the time but there are some exceptions where content has been embedded from external sites. The list of offenders is small (YouTube, Twitter, Instagram) but I am not happy that their presence allows them to intrude on my readers’ privacy none the less. It also meant, arguably, that I was not fully GDPR compliant.

Doing some research into this issue, I came across a post by Dries Buytaert discussing the ‘cookies’ that are installed from embedded YouTube videos. He discovered that YouTube provides a privacy-enhanced way to embed videos on your blog without leaving a cookie. Instead of using youtube.com you can use youtube-nocookie.com instead.

I finally got round to putting this into practice and spent a couple of hours this morning editing all of the YouTube videos embedded on my blog to use the following code:

<iframe src="https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/video-id" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe>

Testing a post in Safari, it is clear that it has worked correctly. The YouTube video is embedded and plays as expected but no trackers were contacted.

No Trackers

While doing this, I also found a number of broken links and some embedded audio files that were no longer working. I fixed those along the way, making for a very productive morning. Winning! 😃

The next step is to see if I can achieve the same with the handful of tweets and Instagram posts that I have embedded on my blog.


  1. Currently seven; four of which are helping to keep different aspects of my blog secure.  ↩

Playlists and Podcasts

I’m joining the heard (spiritually not physically) and sharing some playlists and podcasts to help you survive these strange and challenging times.

My playlists…

Currents is a regularly updated mix of music that has grabbed my attention, alongside a few tracks that seem to stick around for good.

Running, Clanging and Banging is my original running and workout mix. Over 200 tracks of uptempo rock, heavy metal, rap, dance and pop. Use it to work out at home or if you live near lots of open space and can get outside (responsibly), let this mix propel you.

For long morning runs, I started to lean more towards chilled out sounds. Running at First Light evolved out of this having tried running to the Marconi Union album: ‘Weightless’. The way the ambient sounds drifted into the background allowing me to focus more on my form and breathing had a massive impact on my running. The playlist is also great for yoga and meditation, as well as a good candidate for those of you who require calm, quiet focus, to get work done from home.

Electric Miles is my favourite playlist; exploring, arguably Miles Davis’ greatest and most experimental period. Starting with the epic 33 minute ‘Circle in the Round’; the playlist traverses five prolific years from 1968 to 1972, taking in such archetypal examples of Jazz Fusion as ‘In a Silent Way’ and ‘Bitches Brew’. Make some coffee, turn the lights down low, and lose yourself with Miles.

Sticking with Jazz, In a Silent Way is a contemplative mix of late night jazz to be enjoyed over dinner or with a glass of wine on a spring evening.

Finally, (A) Spoonful of Disney is perfect for the young at heart; sing along with and lighten the mood in these dark, sobering times.

You can find all of my playlists on Spotify.

Other people’s playlists…

One of the features of Spotify that I have enjoyed the most since I signed up is the rich network of music fans and artists who create and share playlists. Here are some playlists made by others that hit the spot.

I’ve been a fan of Merlin Mann for some time. Most people know him as the Inbox Zero guy. That seems like such a long time ago! He is, now, better known for his many podcasts, one of which I have listed below. He is a prolific music fan and the playlist: Merlin’s World of Music covers an extensive range of musical genres from the 60s through to the 00s. While there are a number of well known tracks, a significant portion of the playlist is made up of deep cuts and lesser known tunes.

I’m also a huge fan of electronic music; particularly that of Kraftwerk and Aphex Twin. This playlist by Pitchfork founder Ryan Schreiber highlights Richard David James’ piano playing. This is another good pick if you need to find focus when working from home. Also, if you love the 80s, Schreiber’s Poolside ’86 mix is ab-fab!

In hist most recent newsletter, Austin Kleon shared a fantastic series of “epic yearly survey playlists” by Fluxblog. We started with 1979 (the year I was born) on Friday. We are now part way through 1980. They are beautifully curated, seamlessly transitioning between moods and genres.

And some podcasts…

When I discovered the podcast Strong Songs, I was blown away. Kirk Hamilton’s analysis of the ‘strong songs’ he breaks down is deep and intricate. As a musician himself, he directs each track, exploring the nuances of melody, timing, key changes, musicianship and lyricism. To get started, I recommend the following episodes:

There is also a Spotify playlist of the songs from season one of the podcast.

The next two podcasts feature the Labour politician Ed Miliband and radio presenter Geoff Lloyd. The first, Reasons to be Cheerful is a ‘podcast about ideas’. Started in September 2017, the podcast explores a diverse range of ideas that could help us tackle the biggest problems facing the world today. Their guests include experts, campaigners, academics and politicians from across the globe. It is thought provoking and a fantastic way to stay informed.

In addition to this, Ed and Geoff recently launched a spin-off show: Cheerful Book Club. Each week they interview an author about their writing and their lives.

Finally, Back to Work with Dan Benjamin and the aforementioned Merlin Mann is the original productivity podcast. I have listened to every single episode since the show launched in January 2011. Their chemistry is fantastic, and the podcast has remained fresh, covering topics as broad as project management, smart-home devices and parenting. You can jump right in or if you want to dip into the back catalogue, I recommend episodes #1, #5, #7 and #9 which introduce some of the long running themes and bits that have become an integral part of the show.

I hope that you find something in here that helps you navigate the coming weeks as we continue to face up to the Covid-19 pandemic. Stay strong!

Reclaiming My Domain (since August 2016)

This is a post that I started writing back in 2017. I thought I should finish it off and post it for posterity. Some of these details have also been added to my about page.

rh make some noise gif

Reclaim Hosting

Back in August 2016, I moved my domain from Bluehost to Reclaim Hosting, which was co-founded by Jim Groom and Tim Owens. It grew out of the Domain of One’s Own project at The University of Mary Washington; providing space for students and educators to take control of their web presence. The migration was efficient and hassle free. A couple of issues arose as these things do and the support Reclaim provided was unparalleled.

Jim and Tim are legends and I am very happy to support their work. The ethics and aesthetics of the company chime with my own; not least due to a youth spent listening to punk and new wave. Two years on, I remain more than satisfied. Auto-updates; easy back-up and detailed documentation have allowed me to keep my various sites running with ease.

German Server

When I first signed up to Reclaim Hosting all of their servers were based in the US. As someone one who cares about privacy, I was ecstatic when I read Jim’s post: ‘Reclaiming Europe’. Jim and Tim’s success meant that they had to keep adding server space and this included the addition of their first European server in March 2017. I immediately made contact and took them up on the offer to move my domain to a Euorpean server. The server is called Kraftwerk and has been reliably serving my domain ever since.

Kraftwerk

On making this move, I realised that it had been quite some time since I had listened to everyone’s favourite German synth pioneers. I put all of their records on rotation and even made a playlist of their best material. This quickly began to punctuate my Saturday morning runs and the walk home from work.

Long Live RSS

Finally, like many of my web peers, I value open web standards; particularly RSS. In May 2017 Manton Reece and Brent Simmons released a feed format similar to RSS and Atom called JSON Feed. Based on the “developer’s choice for APIs” it “is much simpler to read and write” than XML, “and it’s less prone to bugs”.

This has been added to my blog using the WordPress Plugin giving readers an additional way to subscribe alongside the built in XML feed that comes as standard in WordPress. If you want to know more about why they created it, Manton and Brent discussed it on The Talk Show with John Gruber.

“We’re functioning automatic / And we are dancing mechanic / We are the robots”

~ Hütter, Ralf, The Robots (1978)

Make Some Noise Gif CC: Bryan Mathers (2017)