๐Ÿงต First, a little history of PrivacyTools: PrivacyTools was founded in 2015 and quickly became a trusted resource for those looking for privacy-respecting tools, software, and services. It was operated by one man with suggestions from Twitter and Reddit.
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Things were looking good! The site's source code was hosted on GitHub, and eventually a few more longer-term contributors started helping out with the project. The subreddit started gaining traction and more and more people began improving their privacy online! ๐ŸŽ‰
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Around 2018-2019, federated services really started taking off, and we wanted to promote their usage. Projects like @joinmastodon and @matrixdotorg were promising compelling, usable alternatives to massive centralized networks like Facebook, Twitter (lol), and Google.

5:46 PM ยท Sep 30, 2021

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So, we launched a variety of services like a Mastodon homeserver, and opened these services to the public so our community could see for themselves how easy it would be to switch their own communities over and off the classic centralized data-mining networks.
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We also redesigned the website to make different categories more navigable and add more content alongside our recommendations. We didn't want to keep simply recommending software, we wanted to explain those recommendations and provide education about why things like this matter.
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All this hard work required the collective efforts of a number of different people, it couldn't just be a one-man show anymore. We definitively had a team. A team of highly motivated volunteers all working to achieve our goal of sharing good privacy education online.
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These efforts paid off! Thousands of users joined our Matrix and Mastodon communities, forming a place where people could share tips and socialize without their behaviors being tracked by the platform they were using.
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Our existing communities benefitted as well. Since 2019, the r/privacytoolsIO subreddit nearly quintupled in size! Thanks to our great community helping each other out, we became what I believe is the second largest subreddit around this topic, behind only r/Privacy itself.
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The website had boosted activity as well. With more team members able to make changes and evaluate suggestions, it was easier than ever to fix outdated information and showcase new and exciting privacy tools that were being introduced every day.
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At this point in time, the project was operating as essentially a partnership between the project's original founder and the sysadmin (Jonah) responsible for operating various services.
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There were other team members working on smaller sub-projects day-to-day, but those two were the ones primarily making the longer-term/overarching decisions for the direction of the community and resources.
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Things were still going well, but there were signs of trouble near the end of 2019. The founder's behaviors were becoming more erratic, sometimes making unilateral changes to the website that the rest of the team were in disagreement with.
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He would disappear for weeks and later months on end, not only absent from public communities like our subreddit and GitHub, but also unavailable to the team internally.
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In this absence, Jonah took on more responsibilities within PrivacyTools as a de facto project lead: Onboarding new team members, triaging GitHub issues, moderating the various platforms, and generally deciding how the group would operate moving forward.
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More emphasis was placed on team decisions and collaboration to balance out the workload, and on transparency, being open with our community about every stage of the decision-making processes and our own financial situation thanks to our generous community.
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In early 2020, the founder returned from one of these absences and had a dispute with Jonah about the direction of the project. He felt that *his* project had become too team-oriented, and wished to go back to "simpler" times when he had total control over the website's content.
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As a result of this disagreement, Jonah ultimately decided to leave the project, leaving control in the hands of the existing team including the project's founder. The founder promised the team he would again be more involved from this point forward.
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Things were getting a little shaky, but PrivacyTools seemed to have a clear way to move forward from this point! Except, the founder never delivered on that promise.
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Read through this next thread to find out our motivations for becoming Privacy Guides:
๐Ÿงต Problems brewing at PrivacyTools in 2020-2021 This is a continuation of our first thread on the history of PrivacyTools, which you can read here:
Show this thread
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