Tyk is delighted to announce that we have awarded funding to software developer Derek Ekins for his browser extension, Plurality. In a world of fake news and billionaire-backed media manipulation, Plurality offers a route to non-partisan, independent information.
The grant was made as part of the Tyk Side Project Fund. What’s that? It’s a programme that we set up to support people with exciting ideas to access the seed money they need to turn a hobby project into something more substantial.
Tyk itself was born as a side project, when our CEO Martin couldn’t find an API management platform that did what he needed. After many late nights spent tinkering around on his computer, Martin realised he had created not only a platform that met his own needs, but one that had serious potential to deliver outstanding API management to businesses around the world – which Tyk now does.
Through the Tyk Side Project Fund, the company is now passing it forward, giving other creators a jumpstart to tread their own path. Derek Ekins is one such creator. A talented and driven change-maker, he has set a course to break down barriers and make a difference. We sat down with him to find out more about Plurality, how it came about and what the Tyk funding will mean for the plugin’s future.
Tyk: Please can you tell us what your project, Plurality, is all about?
Derek: Plurality is a browser extension. When installed you can click on mainstream media articles from your social media feed and instead of loading the article Plurality kicks in and shows you several articles on the same subject from independent sources. You can then read those articles and share them instead.
Most of the media in the UK is owned by a handful of billionaires. They have a lot of control over the news cycle and are able to use it to push their own agenda. In a democracy, that is not a good position to be in as we rely on our media to be independent and to tell the truth.
Plurality is trying to change that by helping people to avoid the billionaire owned media and instead consume and share news from independent media.
Tyk: What led you to start this side project in the first place? What’s your background?
Derek: Over the last couple of years, I’ve become increasingly dismayed over the media coverage here in the UK. It’s not been particularly truthful, with most of the newspapers owned by just a few billionaires, who can control what we do and don’t hear about.
After the last election, I was left feeling annoyed, to say the least, having seen the lies and manipulation that these billionaires had been spreading. I began thinking about how to leverage the popularity of social media and the way that news is shared on it.
Obviously, people want to know what’s going on in the world and billionaire-funded national newspapers make it easy for them to access news. Meanwhile, there’s a lot of independent media out there that’s really hard to find, because a lot of them publish irregularly, cover only particular topics and don’t have a wide reach on social media.
I wanted to make that whole process of finding independent news easier which is why I started Plurality.
Tyk: How are you managing with working fulltime, having a side project and juggling family life?
Derek: It is not easy! I have a lot of late nights and early mornings. At the moment I just have to accept that things will take longer than I want them to and as long as I keep the momentum going then I’m pretty happy.
Tyk: What are the values that drive you personally? What’s important to you?
Derek: Two main things: fairness and truth.
What really helped to inspire Plurality was how unfair it was that prominent political figures were so unfairly represented in the media in the run-up to the last election. The truth was out there, but the stance taken by many of the national newspapers led to an election that was based on untruths. That really annoys me!
Tyk: What are the challenges that you face when working on a side project like Plurality?
Derek: The main challenge is finding the time to work on it. There are some technical challenges too but as that is my area of expertise they are usually straightforward to overcome.
Actually promoting the project by marketing, networking and using social media are really the most daunting tasks ahead. It is not an area I’ve really worked in so I am having to spend a lot of time learning how to do this.
How will the Tyk Side Project Fund help Plurality grow?
Derek: When I got the email from Tyk letting me know that I had won funding I was just blown away. Until that point I hadn’t really committed any resources to Plurality, other than my time. Having the Tyk funding has given me the ability to start running Plurality in a production environment so that day to day I can use and test out the application.
Tyk: What tips would you give to someone looking to start a side project?
Derek: I also work on another project that maps carbon reduction projects across my district. From that project I’ve really come to appreciate the value of being part of a complete team. It really helps to have people onboard that have different skill sets as they can often do the tasks that you can’t and are far better at it. If you can find people to work with it does make everything much easier.