The Markup - A New Technology Media Org

created Feb 24, 2020 - updated Feb 25, 2020

https://themarkup.org

The Markup has been under development for several months. It's scheduled to begin publishing tomorrow.

Excerpts from https://themarkup.org/about.html:

The Markup is a new kind of journalistic organization, staffed with people who know how to investigate the uses of new technologies and make their effects understandable to non-experts. Our work is scientific and data-driven in nature. We develop hypotheses and assemble the data through crowdsourcing, through Freedom of Information requests and by scraping public sources to surface stories.

We will publish our stories on our own site, and also through distribution partnerships with other media. We plan to distribute our work in multiple forms, including text-based stories, podcasts, radio appearances and video formats.

We are a nonprofit newsroom and we will publish our articles under a Creative Commons license so that others can freely republish our work. Whenever possible, we will also publish the data and code that we used in data-driven investigations, as well as a detailed methodology describing the data, its provenance and the statistical techniques used in our analysis.

The Markup’s website does not expose readers to any third-party tracking. The Markup will collect as little personal information about our readers as possible, and we will never monetize this data.

The Markup is supported by its readers, and by the following organizations: Craig Newmark Philanthropies, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Open Society Foundations and the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Initiative, which is a collaborative funding effort backed by the Knight Foundation, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, the Hewlett Foundation and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman.

Yesterday, I signed up to receive their email newsletter, and I successfully signed up by using the Link2 web browser. The Markup's email newsletter sign-up page did not require JavaScript. That's a huge positive.

An email sign-up consists of a text input field and a submit button. This worked on the web in the early 1990s.

A couple days ago, I tried to sign-up for an email newsletter, produced by the New Yorker. They don't deserve to have "the" capitalized. I could not sign-up for the New Yorker's email newsletter because I had JavaScript disabled. In 2020, a text input field and a submit button required JavaScript to work.

I decided that it was unnecessary to receive an email newsletter from a media org that does not understand simple technology. Why would JavaScript be needed to enter an email address in a text input field and hit submit? What security and privacy concerns exist with the New Yorker's website?

At the moment, The Markup's website uses a fairly simple and useful web design. It does not consume 20 percent or more of the screen space with an unnecessary fixed header. With JavaScript disabled, the website still works fine, displaying the small amount of content that exists on the site.

https://webpagetest.org/result/200224_QY_4aa72d02e6ac8e21e7a742280b941ae7/
https://themarkup.org/about.html
From: Dulles, VA - Chrome - Cable
2/24/2020, 3:21:32 PM
Download time: 1.382 seconds
Web requests: 13
Bytes downloaded: 229 KB
Cost: $

For new and existing media orgs, that's incredibly good. It's not great, but at the moment, The Markup's web design is one of the best in existence, among media orgs.

Maybe this all changes tomorrow when The Markup starts publishing articles. Maybe The Markup flips to the switch to using a horrendously bloated modern web design.

For the downloaded bytes for the above page, 6 KB were for HTML.

184 KB or 78 percent of the downloaded bytes were for the font.

This is the shocking part. Only 35 KB were for JavaScript. Only 3 web requests were for JavaScript. That's heading in the humane direction.


Excerpts from https://themarkup.org/privacy.html:

The Markup will collect as little personal information about you as possible when you visit our site and we will never monetize this data. We don’t agree with the common practice of making the audience unwittingly “pay” for journalism by allowing third parties to track their users. We would much rather you donate to us directly if you care about our work! For that same reason, we do not intend to display advertisements on our site, because they so often contain tracking technology.

However, we do want to collect some basic information about readership of our articles to help us understand who is reading our journalism — both on our website and on those of our publishing partners. Collecting this limited reader data about how you interact with our work will allow us to better serve you.

The data we collect includes information about the device and software you use to access our website (user-agent header), your device address (IP address), which can be used to infer approximate location, the time of your visit, and the page you were visiting prior to arriving at our website (referrer headers). This data allows us to test that our site is working well, determine which articles are attracting the most interest, and fight abuse or spam if necessary.

Some of you voluntarily share some personal information with us when you sign up for newsletters or to be contacted by us. We will not rent, lease, or sell this voluntarily-submitted data to third parties without your explicit consent, unless required by law. If we are compelled to share data about users with law enforcement, we will attempt to give notice to those users.

We will, by necessity, share your email address with our email service provider, Revue. Please consult Revue’s privacy policy for further details.

Our donor payment processor is Stripe, whose privacy policy is here. In order to comply with credit card processing requirements, The Markup’s website includes third-party javascript from Stripe which may contain other tracking. However, this content is only loaded upon clicking the “Donate!” button on the donations page.


Excerpts from The Markup's September 2019 email newsletter, the only one sent thus far by The Markup.

https://www.getrevue.co/profile/themarkup/issues/hello-from-the-markup-199187

That privacy promise often makes our job more difficult and more expensive. We call it the #PrivacyTax.

Consider this newsletter. It took us five weeks to find an email provider that would disable the tracking technology in this message. We looked into eight different companies before finding this one.

We thought we’d been able to turn off the trackers with one company and felt deceived when some showed up anyway.

Why was this so hard? Because tracking is so standard in newsletters that it’s built into the tech. Sometimes the senders even know your physical location and what type of device you’re using when you open their newsletter.

How? They embed tiny transparent images which are unique to each recipient. When you open the message, your email program will request the unique tiny transparent image and that tells the sender you opened their email — and potentially other details about how and where.

I use Fastmail to manage my email, and Fastmail, like with other email clients, provides an option to block images. When I view an email that contained images, I see the following message within Fastmail.

Remote images blocked to protect your privacy. Load images

If I want to see the images and enable any tracking images, then I need the click the link for "Load images."

I also maintain an email account at https://riseup.net. I receive a couple email newsletters in this account. Riseup provides two different web-based clients. One works without JavaScript, and this is the one that I use in the Firefox and in Links2 web browsers. I have my Thunderdbird email client pointing to my Riseup account. I also have my mutt email client pointing to the same Riseup account.

Within Thunderbird, I see the following message:

To protect your privacy, Thunderbird has blocked remote content in this message.

mutt is a text-based email client that I use from the command line. Obviously, it won't display images.

More from The Markup's September 2019 email newsletter:

At The Markup, we don’t think we need granular stats on who opened our email and when, or what device they were on, or where they were when they opened it.

That’s why we were so disappointed when we thought we’d found a company that allowed users to turn them all off – but it didn’t work, at least not for us.

Who was it? The 800-lb gorilla in the email marketing world, Mailchimp.

When we asked Mailchimp for an explanation, a spokesperson told us the company doesn’t turn off click-tracking until after an unspecified “probationary period” because they need to ensure “abuse prevention.”

Mailchimp’s failure to clearly explain this probationary period and that it was disabling the anti-tracking technique “is deceptive,” said Marc Rotenberg, the Executive Director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “The Federal Trade Commission should take a closer look.“

After going back and forth with Mailchimp for several days, we started shopping around for another email provider. We eventually found a tiny Dutch startup called Revue, which agreed to our request turn off all user tracking. The founder told us we were the first customer to request it. (We tested it and it worked this time!)

Their service is pricier than Mailchimp, but that is the #PrivacyTax we are willing to pay. We hope it gives you peace of mind.

Everything that I have posted above makes me interested in the media org. Hopefully, they keep their web design sane.

Feb 25, 2020 update

The Markup started publishing today. This morning, while listening to public radio, a segment focused on a story, published by The Markup.

https://themarkup.org/allstates-algorithm/2020/02/25/car-insurance-suckers-list

The website looks a little different now, but it seems to have remained on the lean side, which is good. I'm not a fan of the moving sections on the homepage when mousing over each section, but it's no biggie. It's more of a gimmick.

webpagetest.org results of a letter from the editor, published today.

From: Dulles, VA - Chrome - Cable
2/25/2020, 10:52:19 AM
First View Fully Loaded:
Download time: 1.329 seconds
Web requests: 19
Bytes downloaded: 429 KB
Cost: $

Only one web request went for JavaScript. And only 37 KB of the downloaded bytes were for JavaScript. Both are impressive for a new media org. Impressive for the lack of JavaScript. And the content still displays without JavaScript.

256 KB of the download were for font. This comprises the bulk of the download. The Markup should rely on system fonts. 7 web requests were font-related.

The Markup may be using the Ivar font.

https://www.typewolf.com/site-of-the-day/fonts/ivar

Ivar is a serif typeface family designed by Göran Söderström and published through Letters from Sweden in 2017. The design began as a serif companion to the foundry’s sans-serif Siri family but deviated significantly from there. Ivar is available in three distinct optical sizes—Ivar Text, Ivar Headline and Ivar Display—with each optical size available in four weights with corresponding italics.

The Markup offers two feed formats: RSS and Atom.


More Feb 25, 2020 info about The Markup. Late in the evening, the top post at Mediagazer focused on The Markup. Too bad nobody has noticed The Markup's lightweight website, which is massively contrarian, compared to the bloated messes offered by nearly every other media org.

https://mediagazer.com/200225/p20#a200225p20

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/24/business/the-markup-tech-launch.html

https://www.niemanlab.org/2020/02/big-tech-is-watching-you-whos-watching-big-tech-the-markup-is-finally-ready-for-liftoff/

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