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The World Wide Web can be a rough place, but there’s a lot you can do to make it better for yourself, and others. Here are 12 practical ideas you can start on right now!

1. Take Quick Tests To Help Companies Design Better Sites

Why: I’m sure you’ve had to deal with a lot of bad interfaces in your life, where the buttons have confusing labels or the content is unclear. Did you know companies will pay you to test their interfaces and tell them how to improve? You could help save us all from badly designed apps and websites!

user-testing

If you have access to a microphone and are comfortable with speaking your thoughts aloud in English, you can also sign up as a tester with User Testing. An alternative in case you don’t is Enroll (run by product design company ZURB).

2. Find Bugs; Get Paid

Why: It’s no secret that big software companies occasionally harbour big security holes. This jeopardizes everyone’s data, from personal information to finances. If you have a knack for finding bugs and want to use your talent for good instead of evil, both Google Google Will Pay You $100+ If You Just Help Them Out Google Will Pay You $100+ If You Just Help Them Out Google has paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars to regular users for doing one simple thing. Read More and Facebook Facebook Will Pay You $500 If You Do This One Thing Facebook Will Pay You $500 If You Do This One Thing Facebook has paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars to regular users for doing one simple thing. Read More are open to paying you for the bounties you find.

3. Understand Terms of Service, Even If You Didn’t Read Them

Why: Knowing the Terms of Service you are signing up for when you use the Internet is essential to protecting your rights online, and establishing a culture that keeps companies from sneaking in terms they shouldn’t.

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tosdr

If you can’t be bothered (like most of us), check out “Terms of Service; Didn’t Read” before you use a website’s service, and consider adding the extension to your browser. If that doesn’t work for you, try these other ways to know what’s in the Terms of Service 5 Ways to Find What's in Those Terms of Service 5 Ways to Find What's in Those Terms of Service These five websites and tools help you understand the terms and conditions and privacy policies of websites. They are too long too read, but your online rights depend on them. Read More .

4. Make Sure Your Browser Is Up To Date

Why: People who make websites hate having to optimize for older browsers (especially Internet Explorer). It wastes their time, clutters their code, and makes it harder for them to create modern features that take advantage of what newer browsers can offer. In other words, old browsers slow innovation down, so update yours regularly. Not only that, but your experience of the web will get better because of performance enhancements and features you otherwise wouldn’t be able to see or interact with.

5. Support Artists and Web Creators You Love

patreon

Why: One of the best ways to ensure your favorite online content creators can continue to do their work is to give them the means to do it more. Maybe they have a donation button on their page, or a Patreon account. Consider making a regular subscription.

6. Turn Off Your Adblocker.

Why: Ad-block makes it harder for writers, film-makers, graphic artists, and programmers to earn money from their work. If they can’t make money from their work, they’ll have to put more time into other things, which means either the quality suffers, or you’ll have less to enjoy. Not convinced? Here are several more reasons why you should get rid of Ad-block It's About Ethics in Stealing Games Journalism: Why AdBlock Needs to Die It's About Ethics in Stealing Games Journalism: Why AdBlock Needs to Die A simple, free browser plugin killed Joystiq – and is ruining the Internet. Read More .

7. Share Your Twitter Block List.

Why: If one user you follow has blocked another user, there’s a good chance you will want to block them too, because they’re probably annoying or offensive. Thankfully, Twitter allows people to import other user’s block lists. Sharing yours will save your friends time and make the Twitter community a more peaceful place.

8. Fight Typos

typobounty

Why: Typos are an annoying scourge of the web, making us look unprofessional and making it harder for search engines to find relevant content when it’s spelled wrong. Website owners may even pay you for the typos you find, if you go through TypoBounty.com for example.

9. Comment on Articles, But Leave The Trolls Alone

Why: Writers of your favorite online magazines and blogs love engaging with readers. It shows them what parts of their writing is engaging and resonating, gives them clues on what to write next, and it’s fun! However, online trolls are looking for attention and they waste everyone’s time and energy. If you engage with them, they’ll continue, and that means the writer has to spend time moderating when they could be writing, or engaging with worthwhile comments.

10. Avoid Accidentally Sharing Fake News and Pseudo-Science.

Why: We all love a well-written piece of satire, but sometimes fake news causes a real scare. Facebook is experimenting with a Satire tag to mark articles from sites like The Onion, but you can do your part too.

snopes

Take everything you read with a grain of salt, and try to check Snopes whenever you come across something that seems fantastical or too-good-to-be-true, and comment when your friends share pseudo-science or believe the fake news.

11. Get Informed About Net Neutrality.

Why: Without Net Neutrality, Internet Service Providers can give certain content faster or slower speeds depending on what the creator pays for, or block some content completely. If we lose net neutrality, the Internet would no longer be an even playing field for businesses, minority groups, or niche interests. What we love most about the Internet would all but disappear – and for some reason there are lots of politicians who don’t understand it These Public Figures Have No Clue How Net Neutrality Works These Public Figures Have No Clue How Net Neutrality Works Donald Trump, Jeb Bush and other public figures don't seem to understand what net neutrality actually is. Read More . Check out these genius YouTube videos on net neutrality Net Neutrality, As Explained By YouTube’s Geniuses Net Neutrality, As Explained By YouTube’s Geniuses Are you still not sure what Net Neutrality actually is? Don’t feel dumb: it’s a nuanced concept. So, we tracked down videos from some of the smartest people on the Web. Read More for more in-depth explanations of how it works.opencongress

You can keep track on the progress of laws that may affect Net Neutrality (among others) in the United States through OpenCongress.org, and Canada through OpenParliament.ca.

12. Make Your Website “Green”.

Why: Did you know the web has a carbon footprint? 10,000 Google searches together cause the same carbon dioxide emissions as a five-mile drive in a standard car. Hosting, serving up websites, and serving up a bright-colored website, all contribute to the emissions of the World Wide Web. Smashing Magazine has a set of guidelines for green web design, worth being aware of if you own a website, or to bring to the attention of web developers you know so they can do their part.

Got Any Other Ideas?

I hope you learned new ways you can give back to the web community from this list, but now it’s your turn to share.

What are your favorite tips from this list, and what else would you love for your fellow citizens of the Internet to do to make the web a better place? Let us know in the comments below.

  1. Preston
    June 23, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    Great article! Definitely worth the read. Not quite sure if I agree with 'turn off your ad blocker' - I can understand where you're coming from, however, I constantly get bombarded with ads on the majority of websites I visit - they can be simple blog sites, YouTube vids, Reddit posts, you name it! It more than likely has an ad on it.

    I understand that people are trying to make money from advertising and PPC but I will there's a correct and an incorrect way of doing it - having an ad constantly annoy you or doesn't allow you to close the tab is dam right malicious.

    One services that wasn't mentioned is UserTest.io - it's like Usertesting but I feel it's better to use as it's a free service. You also get paid more from i. That could just be because of the payment not being USD though.

    Can check UserTest out at: https://usertest.io

  2. Squalle
    December 5, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    #8... funny. I read a bit about it, thought, eh, I'll give it a try. During the sign up process, I mis-typed my password and got an error (pasted directly from their site):

    ERROR - Password and Password Confrimation were not equal

    Then, they require you to install a toolbar, I'm guessing so they can keep track of you for their advertisers.

    Does anyone writing this stuff on this site research this stuff they write about?

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