The Best of the Web, February 2020

Editor’s Note: For this edition of the Best of the Web, I’m handing the wheel over to Liora Lebowitz, our newest team member. Please give her a warm welcome…

My name is Liora, and I’m the new Program Assistant for Idealware. If you correspond with our Training email address or participate in our webinars, I’m probably the person you are communicating with. I also handle a fair amount of Tech Impact’s social media, so if you wanted to “like” a few of our Facebook posts or retweet some Tweets, that would really brighten my day!

The transition into my role at Tech Impact has been smooth (my first day was our holiday party), and I love being able to provide support to other nonprofits through my work. I’m happy to have the chance to share some of the best #nonprofittech related things we read this month.
So here, in no particular order, is this month’s Best of the Web.

Activate This ‘Bracelet of Silence,’ and Alexa Can’t Eavesdrop

In the New York Times, Kashmir Hill profiles a new “anti-device” device designed to prevent smart-home devices from constantly listening in.

Deepfake Video of Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Holland in Back to the Future

Don’t agree with a casting choice? Just recast a film with your favorite actors. Jason Kottke shares this very convincing deepfake video of Back to the Future where Robert Downey Jr. And Tom Holland replace Micahel J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd. It’s fun to watch, but terrifying when you consider the ramifications of the technology and the effect it might have on our ability to trust our own eyes.


Imagine someone with your name posting something upsetting on social media? According to Ren La Forme at Poynter, “You should grab your username everywhere you can. A tool called namecheckr (why are tech companies so averse to vowels?) searches dozens of social media companies, apps and web pages to see if your username of choice has been snatched up yet.”

The Social Innovators Who Shaped 2019

Here’s one brought to us by the folks at Fast Forward: “In Forbes, Shannon Farley rounded up her annual list of tech nonprofit leaders whose impact transformed the lives of millions. In 2019, these leaders empowered domestic workers with portable benefits, protected our children from online sexual abuse, and preserved vaccines for 12M babies. In short, their work fundamentally shifted our collective potential to solve issues previously thought intractable. And bonus: They’re all women. “

Dark Pattern
If you listen to the Reply All podcast, you might have heard this episode last year, but it’s still relevant—and never more than in the leadup to tax time. It digs into the Free File tax program (that 70 percent of taxpayers are eligible for) and why most of us won’t be able to find that program anywhere on the internet.

“Did you know that if you make less than $66,000 a year, you can prepare and file your taxes for free? No? That’s no accident. Companies that make tax preparation software, like Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, would rather you didn’t know.”

Note: According to ProPublica, companies are now prohibited from hiding the Free File tax program from Google search results, but you probably won’t find it until at least the second page of search results.

Why Nonprofits Give Away So Much Crap

I have so many tote bags in my house that I have a tote bag just to hold my tote bags. Jasmin Malik Chua from Vox writes about why the goodies we collect from our favorite nonprofits might be doing more harm than good.

Inside the Billion-Dollar Battle Over .Org

This New York Times article, reported by Steve Lohr, outlines the backlash and proposed solution to a private equity firm attempting to purchase the rights to dot-org domains.

Help Your Community by Helping the Census

The U.S. Census is approaching, and this will be the first time that it will be conducted digitally. Amy Sample Ward from NTEN outlines how the Census impacts nonprofits, and how nonprofits can support Census efforts.

Iowa’s 2016 Caucus App Worked and Everyone Forgot About It

People are feeling a lot of frustration about the technology shortcoming that was the Shadow App, but did you know that Iowa has successfully used an app in the previous caucus? Vox’s Sara Morrison reports on the 2016 app and what went right.

Why Rudy Giuliani's Twitter Typos are a Security Fail

Rudy may be a cybersecurity advisor, but hackers have been taking advantage of typos in his tweets by buying the mistyped domain names and redirecting visitors to a fake page designed to spread malware rather than to the original page that Giuliani had meant to type. Don’t be like Rudy. (See also: Don't be like Rudy.)

Larry Tesler: Computer Scientist Behind Cut, Copy and Paste Dies Aged 74

You may not know the name Larry Tesler, but he almost certainly made your life easier. While working in Silicon Valley in the early 1960s, at a time when computers were inaccessible to the vast majority of people, he innovated the "cut,” "copy," and "paste" commands that made PCs more user friendly.

Thanks to everyone who sent links this month, and as always, if you have something you think you would be a good fit for Best of the Web, send it to Chris at

Liora Lebowitz


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