Category Archives: Strong Opinions

Why I don’t use Gmail

Don’t use Gmail.

Take the free stuff!

I found an article about migrating away from Gmail this week. I was struck by how painful it is to move away. Login and contact details all over the place.

I’ve never used Gmail. I run my own mail server(s). Always have. I still have all my email archived from 1996 days. Recently I’ve been tinkering with a few mail server configs and I realised, this stuff has become pretty complex.

I’d really like more people to use distributed, self hosted email systems, but we have some problems:

  • Things like Gmail are very easy, convenient and free
  • People are trapped in free email services – it’s very hard to migrate away
  • Self hosted email can be complex, and not free (costs maybe 5 USD/m in virtual server hosting)

Why I don’t use Gmail:

  • I can avoid it. I find it fun to maintain my own email services.
  • I hate web based email services. Give me IMAP mail clients and mutt.
  • The advertising business model behind free email can only have bad incentives – I don’t like the idea of surveillance capitalism
  • I really don’t like the idea of some big evil empire having easy access to a large part of the communications in my life
  • I would find it scary to not be in control of my logins details around the web
  • The potential effort involved in migrating scares me – and the more you use it, the more you dig a hole for yourself
  • Email is a network, if one person in the network hosts their email in a compromised place, it impacts the rest of the network – I don’t want to be that guy.

Don’t use Gmail.

You might also like:

ps. if you find this topic interesting, let me know and I’ll write a post about how to host your own email services.

Start Here

A quick list of my favourite philosopher entrepreneurs. Things I’ve read or listened to a few times, which had an impact. Explore some of these ideas. Should be a fun adventure.

More of these: Chris Sacca, David Heinemeier Hansson, Scott Adams, Tim Urban, Matt Mullenweg

More Strong Opinions.

“Speak softly and carry a big idea”

23 Problems for the Next Decades

A few problems to work on. Take some time and make your own list.

From Seth’s Blog: Hilbert’s list – 23 problems we need to think about.

Here is a list I think is interesting:

  1. Highly efficient clean food growing, aquaponics probably
  2. Clean energy and greatly improved energy storage
  3. Carbon sequestration at scale
  4. Clean up the oceans
  5. Replace the University, vocational training with status
  6. Scalable basic education, particularly literacy
  7. Cost efficient housing at scale
  8. Constant realtime health monitoring and telemetry
  9. Effective treatments for cancer, diabetes, heart disease
  10. Figure out the human microbiome
  11. Alternatives to paid labour for humans – getting around the need to be needed
  12. Distributed living, ways to live outside big cities, smart towns
  13. Fibre internet to every home and business on the planet
  14. Re-decentralisation of the internet, and tech independence
  15. IPv6 everywhere and interplanetary internet
  16. Optical routing – silicon photonics
  17. Very high quality telepresence – no need to commute
  18. Some new way to stimulate startup innovation and generate more founder run small businesses, possibly fully automated, without employees
  19. Very low cost desalination and clean water
  20. Safe autonomous and inexpensive transport
  21. Air travel with much less impact on the environment
  22. An AI that does boring admin for you
  23. Take commies for helicopter rides

Basically: a world of abundance through technology.

Give this a watch: Reinventing Societal Infrastructure With Technology

Have a fun and meaningful 2019!

Things I Wish I Knew Before Turning 30

Somebody asked me to write this in 2017. It’s a bit late.

Here we go… a somewhat random collection of wisdom, in no real order:

  1. Start building companies in your 20s.
  2. Real wealth is not money, it’s what you can learn to build, with a team of cool people.
  3. “Learn to sell. Learn to build. If you can do both, you will be unstoppable.” — Naval
  4. Live on the border between chaos and order. Maximum learning.
  5. Stay an engineer. Don’t become a manager. Stay close to technology.
  6. Build recurring services businesses, things that make money while you sleep. They are easy to start and fairly easy to scale.
  7. What is the most important thing? – Adventure. We are wired for adventures and risk.
  8. Go to AfrikaBurn / Burning Man a few times. It will teach you about adventure. Have a few friends who enjoy these adventures.
  9. Fail spectacularly, once. It will take you a year or two to recover, but it will put things in perspective.
  10. Find great co-founders, it’s hard to overstate the value of this.
  11. First rule of startups: no assholes.
  12. Work on things that are fun. Life is too short for lame projects.
  13. How businesses are built: sleep, have ideas, make notes, discuss ideas, create two or three crappy things a day (not perfect just functional), remember that it’s your own little (Sivers) universe, learn, sleep.
  14. Creating something from nothing is very rewarding. Zero to one.
  15. Build your own dreams. Don’t be a sucker building other people’s dreams. Own a part of what you build.
  16. “To get things done, you must love the doing.” — Ayn Rand
  17. Wealth is a side effect of passion. Love the doing.
  18. Ideally you want to have 6 unrelated investments.
  19. Support the underdog, progress and change. Get involved in a few non-profit projects. Open Source etc.
  20. Getting there, is all the fun. “The road to the top is better than the top, don’t be in such a hurry that you don’t enjoy the ride.” — Dan Bilzerian
  21. Things that are annoying often make good opportunities.
  22. Learn how to code and how unix operating systems and networks work. Use Debian. Run your own email server, don’t use Gmail. Try to avoid “the cloud” as much as you can.
  23. Make regular off-site backups. Leave backup drives at friends’ houses.
  24. Pick a username, get a personal domain name. Have a personal website.
  25. Always be on the the right side of technological change.
  26. Find growth markets and waves to ride. Timing is the 4th dimension in the 4D chess of entrepreneurship. Lean to park some ideas, keep a text file with notes for project ideas.
  27. Keep a text file with all the projects and startups you have worked on over time. I’m on about 20 now. Aim for at least one per year. Don’t worry if half of them never make it past prototyping.
  28. Have strong opinions. Share them.
  29. Develop good writing skills and publish what you write. Blog, weekly. Writers get to live twice. Write drunk, edit sober.
  30. Stay healthy. Sleep. Eat clean. Fast. Mobility. Diet. Squats. Deadlifts. Low rows. Meditate.
  31. Never get more than 10 kg overweight. It’s hard to make your way back from there.
  32. Spend time in nature. Go for long hikes or beach walks. Try to live close to the sea.
  33. Keep in touch with friends. Often have dinner with close friends.
  34. Avoid sugar. You don’t need three meals a day. After a few fasts your relationship with food will change. Don’t smoke.
  35. Focus on health span. The idea is to feel young past 65.
  36. Figure out a morning mobility routine. Stretch. Get a foam roller.
  37. Get an electric toothbrush.
  38. Figure out a routine for taking supplements. Take some basics daily. Do a bigger batch weekly.
  39. When you are tired. Go sleep. Rest.
  40. Be kind to your joints. Don’t run.
  41. Go to gym early in the morning – much better than in the afternoons. Lift weights every 2nd day.
  42. Fast for one week every three months.
  43. Have at least one child, when you have the opportunity.
  44. Take a year off when your kid(s) are 3 or 4 yo.
  45. Never do anything for your child which they can do for themselves. Have dinner conversations which them to challenge them to think for themselves.
  46. Try not to rebel against all conventions.
  47. When people hurt you, they are probably just acting in their own best interest.
  48. Make notes. Develop a system for processing and filing notes.
  49. Get a great chair.
  50. Type Dvorak. Qwerty is lame.
  51. Learn to use some graphic design tools, at least the basics.
  52. Use 24 hour time when you write something. 09:00 or 21:00, not 9.
  53. Listen to podcasts. Found time.
  54. Calm is a superpower.
  55. Hang out with curious people.
  56. People you want around you: calm, technical, relentlessly resourceful, relentlessly optimistic, energetic, self motivated, infinite learners.
  57. “Work ethic, taste, integrity, curiosity – the rest you can learn.” — Matt Mullenweg
  58. Get a dog. I’m still working on this one.
  59. Give people a break. Sometimes they still have to learn.
  60. Search for meaning. Work on projects with meaning and a good story.
  61. Never go cycling in the desert at night after a breakup.
  62. Learn the multiplying skills: speaking, writing, psychology, design, conversation, 2nd language, persuasion, programming, meditation/focus.
  63. Life is a comedy adventure story, don’t be too serious, you probably don’t control as much of it as you may think.
  64. Have favourite song and a favourite album.
  65. Don’t be too busy. Make time to learn.
  66. Hell yes, or no. If you say no to lots of things, you have time to dive into interesting things.
  67. Make good art. Learn, create, repeat.
  68. Do meaningful work. Be useful.
  69. Write to get over things. Write to shape your future.
  70. “Edit your life frequently and ruthlessly.”
  71. Take photos. Have a system to keep them organised. Browse old photos from time to time, it’s a great way to travel.
  72. Desire one thing at a time. Focus.
  73. Live in the future. It’s a good way to find ideas for projects. Pay attention to what nerds do on evenings and weekends.
  74. Read a few marketing books early on. Something like The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding by Al Ries.
  75. Have side projects and hobbies.
  76. Watch lots of classic movies in your teens and 20s. Especially sci-fi movies.
  77. Read a lot in your 20s. Classics. Philip k Dick, Bret Easton Ellis, etc.
  78. Go to live music concerts.
  79. Fall in love with music, spend time exploring, make playlists. Make mix tapes for people you are in love with. You probably will not have this kind of time later in life. Listen to Disintegration by The Cure.
  80. Be a tourist in your own city for a few years, live in many different neighbourhoods.
  81. Travel.
  82. Figure out which wines and whiskys you like. Go for lots of wine tours.
  83. Stoicism: focus on what you can control. Don’t worry about the things you can’t.
  84. Get comfortable with discomfort.
  85. Take note of your instincts. Trust them.
  86. If you don’t know what to do, sleep on it. Take note of the three ideas you wake up with every day.
  87. Develop healthy routines. Especially a morning routine.
  88. Date nerds, smart and interesting people.
  89. Get comfortable being single. Dating is a huge waste of time and energy. If you find somebody really cool (smart and interesting), jump in and love them like crazy. Do this a few times.
  90. Optimal stopping theory: If you are destined to date ten people in your lifetime, the optimal thing to do is to reject the first four (37%), then stop as soon as you find somebody that’s better than the previous experiences.
  91. There’s no point to life. Life is the point.
  92. Meaning does not come from stuff.
  93. Practice mindful eating. Taste every bite.
  94. It’s totally fine to go eat at a restaurant on your own.
  95. Notice interesting things around you. Be hyper aware of small details. Take different routes through your day. Wonder the woods.
  96. Ask better questions. Ask why? three times.
  97. The best way to judge your days and weeks is simply to ask yourself it that was time well spent.
  98. Don’t add things that can cause unhappiness. The more things you have the more things can break. Don’t focus on getting more things, focus on removing things which annoy you.
  99. Use broad spectrum reflective sunblock, vit-c and vit-a face cream, and eat lots of collagen.
  100. In summary: learn, create, swim, sleep, take long walks, write, listen to podcasts, have adventures with smart and interesting people.

This is a work in progress. Obviously not all these ideas are mine. The original project brief was things before 30, but it’s probably relevant before 40 also.

I ended up making it a 100 item list. I’ll probably update this post from time to time and replace the weaker items with more interesting ones.

Make your own list.


Now go read How To Get Rich. Listen to Anything You Want and at least two Naval Ravikant interviews.

All I want for xmas is a John Oliver vs Jordan Peterson debate

Some criticisms of John Oliver I posted on FB recently – now on the open internet.

“John Oliver tells me what to do.”

I used to find Last Week Tonight with John Oliver amusing, but recently something about it has been bugging me.

He obviously has a liberal bias, which is fine.

He uses very selective editing. Sometimes he has to cut the clip half sentence to make sure none of the context leaks into his story (or joke rather).

With enough selective editing he can probably convince his audience of anything and make them laugh about it at the same time. Seems kinda dangerous to me.

He thinks he’s a comedian – but, his audience thinks he’s a journalist.

A scary number of people seem to post links to John Oliver episodes to motivate their position on a topic.

After reading this and watching a recent episode, I think it’s the recipe that’s the most annoying…

From Quora… here’s how he does it:

– Introduce topic, make a joke about it. Add it a lot of “F” bombs for effect
– make point #1. Joke
– Joke
– point #2. Joke
– Ludicrous metaphor, F-bomb, over the top joke, F-bomb, F-bomb, joke
– point #3. usually gets to the meat of his segment around this point. F-bomb, serious voice.
– points finger at the camera / audience. F-bomb. Joke. F-bomb
– conclusion. Joke

“Found this on the internet :) Oliver continues in the tradition of Jon Stewart, adding reinforcements to the “liberal” bubble. He coddles his viewers by convincing them (as if they needed more convincing) of how right they are, how wrong they are, how many more facts they know than them. The visual assault of fact after fact without any time given to admit the weak points in his argument robs his viewers of the opportunity to think, or have any deep understanding of an issue. Worse, the false sense of solidarity that comes with sharing an Oliver segment on Facebook is an invitation to apathy not resistance.” — Jacques

Too many jokes to be taken seriously. Too serious a topic to be a comedian.

From HBO – the tits and dragons company – you can now get your comedy and brainwashing at the same time.

Keep this in mind when you share the next John Oliver video.

How to Fix Voting

Ask everybody in the country to transfer some money (say R100) to the bank account of a political party they would like to support. Give people an 8 hour window to do this. Let the banks recon/verify it all and share the results the next day. Repeat this every year.

For bonus points, we only count your vote if you are not in any social grants or welfare database, and you are over 30 years old.

We already trust the banks with money. You can do all this in 2 minutes from your phone.

This will work in any country.

So simple.

The Thing I Hate The Most

Somebody recently asked me what I hate the most?

I had to think for about 11 seconds…

I really hate it, when people send me calendar invites, via email, without first communicating some context about a meeting – what’s the agenda? does the day and time suit you? maybe you should just read the documentation? maybe you have the wrong person?

First COMMUNICATE with somebody, then figure out if a meeting is needed, then agree a meeting date and time, then – send the ical file… sending a meeting invite and then having somebody reject it seems super lame.

99.8% of the time I’m actually happy to manage my own calendar, but if you send me a calendar invite .ics, ical, it will live happily next to the item I already added. I guess there is a small chance I screw up the timezone, so if you are flying in for this meeting, please send a calendar invite. Thanks bro.

Yeah, maybe this does not suit your company culture, but that’s the point of the strong opinions series, you get to strongly disagree with me. (-:

ps. a close second is probably sending winmail.dat attachments. Don’t do that.

Part of my series on Strong Opinions.



When you get something done, just respond with: “done.”, quickly.

Somebody ask you to fix something small?, do it now, respond quickly. Somebody waiting for an invoice to get paid?, don’t pay it and make them check the bank statement, just tell them it’s done. Somebody ask you to configure something, do it, confirm with: “done.”.

This is different to responding to every email with a “Thank You”, that’s pretty pointless.

Get shit done, close the loop, move on. Don’t send extra fluff.

Part of my series on Strong Opinions.

The See Below Problem

After getting way too many people reporting problems in lazy ways, I now have this template. Feel free to use it. Hash Tag What Would Derek Do. #WWDD

The See Below Problem Response Template:

I’d like to help, but you are getting this standard response (yes, I cut and paste this), because I’m finding it hard to work out the details of the problem you are reporting.

You probably spent a few minutes investigating this problem already, and you have an idea of what the cause might be. I often get emails forwarded to me with a one line top-post saying – “see below, go fix!”, which I then have to reverse engineer and harvest for details, many layers deep, to try and begin to understand the problem. This is far from productive, so please help by sharing your understanding of the problem and your theory on what might be causing the problem. Here are a few things to ponder:

* Please describe the problem like I’m a 5 year old.
* Please use accurate and specific names for the various systems or services.
* Please make sure you have read all the documentation related to the system you are using.
* Please feel free to include screenshots and error messages, but also include the text versions of any service IDs, line numbers or customer details – so I can cut and paste these when searching.
* Please make sure you put all of this in the body of the email – subject lines are for subjects.
* Most important: write your questions and comments in a way you would like to receive them.

Thanks. Happy to help, just need a solid starting point, please.

How To Browse The Web

Things you must do before you browse the web…

Step 1) Install Firefox. You want an independent browser. No evil empires.

If you are unsure about Step 1, watch an Enron documentary or two, and then go for a long walk.

Step 2) Install some plugins for Firefox. You need:

a) Privacy Badger, from the EFF. You know who the EFF are right?

b) HTTPS Everywhere. Also EFF, and Aaron Swartz was involved is this plugin, you know who that is right? Watch: The Internet’s Own Boy.

c) uBlock Origin. Because the brightest minds of our generation are building “AdTech”, yet ads are _still_ lame, and because 0.1% of humans (muppets) click on ads, we have to endure this foolish torture, or just block them.

d) NoScript. Because Google “tag manager” is just spyware, and you don’t want people running evil javascript in your browser, trying to sell you things you don’t need. Pro tip: set configure it with “Temporarily set top-level sites to TRUSTED”.

e) Add Blocker for Youtube

f) Dark Reader

g) HTTP/2 Indicator and IPvFoo and SixIndicator

h) DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials

Step 3) Read Social Media Sanity and Use This Tech.

Social Media Sanity

Social media lost the plot around 2017 when Facebook and Instagram added stories.

Here is my quick guide to save you from this spiral of lame.

Social Media Complicator…

You should…

  • Remove all social media mobile apps from your phone. Facebook. Instagram. Twitter. Bonus: you will waste less time.
  • Post photos to Instagram with Flume for macOS.
  • Browse Instagram with Firefox and uBlock Origin ad blocker. They really went overboard with the ads.
  • Browse Facebook on the web only – or with a mobile web browser if you must. You kinda need this to find info about events. Use the Hide Post feature often to manage your feed.
  • Use the Pocket feature in Firefox and the Pocket app on your phone. Useful for catching up on reading and keeps you from ending up with a million open tabs.
  • Avoid Facebook Messenger. Delete the app now. It’s pure evil. Don’t send people Facebook messages unless you have no other option.
  • Avoid WhatsApp, use Telegram.
  • Avoid Twitter, it’s been dead for a while – only use (read) it when you go on a protest march or want to share the odd link to a blog post. Also, you should probably not trust Twitter after they shadow banned Scott Adams.
  • Which brings us to: host your own content! The day Facebook, Twitter and Gmail goes away you should be smiling, not crying.

Lastly, if you are going to be on these networks, at least post something interesting every week. Write, create, share. Too many time wasters and lurkers. Say something interesting! Share strong opinions.

More of my ideas on what tech you must use.

Previous posts in my Strong Opinions series.

How To Get Lean

A quick guide to losing body fat, easily and quickly.

TL;DR: Fasting and 2 hours of walking per day.

Green Tea and Coconut Oil

You can lose about 10kg of fat in four weeks. All you need to do is:

The maths: 7500 kcal per 1kg of body fat. 450 kcal per hour of walking. Aim for 3000 kcal per day, or 400g fat loss per day, or about 2.5kg fat loss per week. You’ll use about 1900 kcal per day by just being alive (depending on your lean muscle mass), so add about 1000 kcal with two hours of walking. In my experiments I can lose an average of 550g of fat per day while fasting.

Two 5-day fasts should do it. The rest of the time eat one super healthy paleo/keto meal per day.

If you get bored, have some green tea with coconut oil.

Fasting and walking. Simple. You can’t screw this up. Yes, I have tested it.

Read this for more detail: Fasting for Fat Loss

ps. I’m not a doctor, read the details of the fasting post above.

Previous posts in my Strong Opinions series.

Update Dec 2017: Actually, one of the best long term hacks I’ve found is just to avoid gluten. Simple. Easy to explain in social situations.