We’re driving faster and faster into the future, trying to steer by using only the rear-view mirror.

– Marshall McLuhan


Featured artist: Aurélia Durand

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 107!

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I’ve been working on several under-the-hood changes that I’m launching today. Important for me (but hardly visible to you) is the move to a new, more reliable email platform: EmailOctopus.

A big ‘thumbs up’ to Ben and the rest of the small team at EmailOctopus. They’ve been open to my feedback and really helpful in getting me set up on their platform. We’re still tweaking some of the details, so let me know if anything looks broken.

If you are interested in how I built DD – from the custom template to the comment section – I’ve just updated a lengthy post I wrote a few years back and now published it on my own site.

Last but certainly not least, I’m also launching DD’s new membership program. It’s called Friends of DD and is entirely optional.

After months of contemplating a reader-supported version of DD and even receiving emails encouraging me to ‘do a Patreon’, what I’ve come up with couldn’t be simpler: you pay if you can.

It’s a model based on the idea that the most enthusiastic, loyal readers are willing to pay a small fee in order to keep DD fully accessible for everyone. It depends on the generosity of those who feel strongly about avoiding a two-class system of free and paid tiers.

Could this ingenious idea lead to a new publishing startup with the mission to disrupt the newsletter economy? I bloody hope not. Would it help me keep doing what I do and, especially right now, make up for some of the shortfall from having to put Offscreen on hold? It certainly would!

I may add more perks over time, but right now Friends of DD are just that: generous supporters of this humble newsletter. If you get something valuable out of it and believe that $1.60 per month won’t break the bank, consider becoming a friend. Thank you! – Kai

Dense Discovery is a weekly newsletter at the intersection of tech, design, sustainability, and culture read by over 31,000 subscribers. Do you have a product or service to promote? Sponsor an issue or book a classified.




What makes people actually read long texts on the web?

This thorough editorial by Readymag has the answers. Find out what makes on-screen readability different to other media. Explore the evolution of layouts and typesetting on the web. Learn which fonts address specific issues and how to create legible text with a flexible editorial template.


Apps & Sites

UpNote →

A better notes app

UpNote is a more powerful (and nicer looking) alternative to macOS’ built-in notes app. Features include better notes management, optional password protection, and sticky windows (for keeping your notes above other windows while you’re working).

Tabby →

Auto-close unused tabs

Tabby is a browser extension that automatically closes tabs you haven’t accessed for a while, but makes them easily restoreable. Available for most browsers.

Arbtr →

Minimal sharing with friends

It’s unclear whether Arbtr is in private beta or still just a concept, but it’s an intriguing new approach to sharing content in small groups: every member is only allowed to share one link at a time. Once you share something new, it replaces the old.

Jungle →

Plant-care app

Struggling to keep your houseplants alive? Use Jungle to identify your green friends and schedule a care plan: “Tracks everything your plant needs and notifies you when they’re getting thirsty.”


Worthy Five: Nadia Odunayo


Five recommendations by The StoryGraph founder and amateur dancer Nadia Odunayo

A question worth asking:

‘Which choice will I likely end up regretting the least irrespective of the outcome?’ Regret minimisation is a great framework to help you make big decisions.

A book worth reading:

Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg. If each person read this and took away just one practical lesson, the world would be a far better place.

An activity worth doing:

A personal weekly retrospective – what went well, what didn’t go so well, and what do you want to improve on? A great way to go into each week optimistic and focused.

A concept worth understanding:

Opportunity cost: I suspect we don’t fully consider the next best alternative often enough – if we did, would we still make the same choices?

A newsletter worth subscribing to:

Matt Clifford’s Thoughts in Between for an incredibly insightful and inquisitive email every Tuesday. You feel yourself getting smarter as you read.




Work Won’t Love You Back →

A case against ‘labour of love’

A timely relevant book to remind us of the dangers of connecting joy and pleasure with labour. “A deeply-reported examination of why ‘doing what you love’ is a recipe for exploitation, creating a new tyranny of work in which we cheerily acquiesce to doing jobs that take over our lives.” (Pre-order, release in Jan 2021)


Fieldnotes →

Letterpress edition

I don’t have much use for pocket-sized notebooks, but I’m always in awe of the creativity and craftspersonship that goes into the making of Fieldnotes’ quarterly special editions. The latest one is the ‘United States of Letterpress’, featuring the work of nine independent letterpress shops from across America. Don’t miss the behind-the-scenes documentary.


Overheard on Twitter

The real 5G conspiracy is that we’ve been paying for mobile data but only used wifi for 6 months.



Food For Thought

The end of tourism? →


I love travelling as much as the next person, but I also know that it’s an unsustainable act of privilege. While we won’t see an end of tourism, the current crisis forces a much needed reset on an industry that impacts local cultures like no other: “Tourism dependency has something in common with the aid dependency that I observed as a reporter in Afghanistan after the 2001 invasion. In both cases, the worst threat is the possibility of sudden withdrawal.”

Anthropocene: The Human Epoch Trailer →


This two-minute trailer took my breath away. I hadn’t heard of this documentary, described as ‘a cinematic meditation on humanity’s massive reengineering of the planet’. Some more stunning visuals by one of the people involved in this film can be found here. The official website is annoyingly unclear about where I can watch the whole documentary. If you know where it can be watched online (or what streaming service it’ll be on), please add it in the comments section.

There’s a growing movement where startup founders look to exit to community →


This is such a breath of fresh air and a welcome deviation from the usual robber-baron approach of Silicon Valley: “Exit to Community (E2C) ... explores ways to help startups transition investor-owned to community ownership, which could include users, customers, workers or some combination of all stakeholders. ”


Aesthetically Pleasing

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Need a happy, serene place to escape to? Try Minjin Kang’s amazing renders of sunrise and sunset scenes.

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A beautiful, interactive visual guide of the potential impact of climate change on just five specific locations. Don’t miss the slider at the bottom right and notice how the text changes as you drag it. (You must be on a desktop to watch/use the site.)

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I’m always interested in how we can make urban living healthier, more self-reliant and more sustainable. The ‘Home of Tomorrow’ campaign by IKEA doesn’t just look pretty, it includes lots of interesting projects, such as downloadable open-source manuals on “how to make your own indoor growing units – a spirulina, an aeroponic, and an aquaponic farm and a micro garden”. The official site here.

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Neue World is a super-serif font family with 6 widths and 48 cuts. “Inspired by vintage display types often manually squeezed to fit the print size, this typeface has all the widths required to accommodate any format.”



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The Week in a GIF


Email or tweet us the URL to your favourite GIF and we might feature it here in a future issue.