Diversifying My Productivity Stack

By Max Li | Published: June 29, 2013

I have been pretty displeased with Google over the past half year or so. Besides issues over privacy, they have changed/broken/shut down all of their products I use. This is on top of the fact that they probably have sufficient data about me to know me better than I do myself. Reducing their hold over me is certainly worth trying. That being said, I’m going through this change primarily because I want better alternatives in terms of functionality/user interface; I probably wouldn’t care sufficiently if their products actually worked the way I want them to.

First, I stopped using Google Calendar a while ago. This wasn’t much of a big deal to me. I was only able to get read-only syncing to my Windows Phone (what a surprise). With pretty much no configuration options at all, there was pretty much no recourse in fixing that (or a later problem where a few of my calendars wouldn’t sync at all). So I switched to Windows Live Calendar, and I’ve been having a much better experience. The syncing is fixed and the web UI is nicer that that of Google Calendar. I admit it’s not open and I’m now under the whims of Microsoft, but hey, it actually works!

Gmail and Search are the harder parts. It would be very difficult to completely stop using Gmail. Sure, I can start using Hushmail or something, but because many sites I’m signed up to are associated with my Gmail address, and since they don’t seem to offer an option to change email addresses, I’m pretty much stuck using Gmail in one form or another. I don’t have a great solution for this. Most of my newer signups have been using a MailNull address, so I can redirect those emails easily enough.

I experimented with dropping Google’s search engine many times in the past ever since DuckDuckGo launched. I’ve always gravitated back to Google because of its better handling of more complex search terms. The best path going forward for pragmatic reasons is probably using DuckDuckGo for most searches and falling back to Google when that fails.

I think diversifying these tools has helped me from having my life monopolized by one company.