If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.

– Malcolm X


Featured artist: Brad Hansen

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 108!

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Despite all the chaos and decay around us, last week will be remembered by me as a good week. Your responses to the launch of Friends of DD have been radiating good feelings like a well-insulated hot water bottle. Some of you told me that this model “is very much you” because it feels “thoughtful and subtle”.

I think there is a unique reciprocal aspect to this patronage model that breeds thoughtfulness on both sides. Tim Carmody, whose writing in ‘Unlocking the Commons’ inspired me to give this a try, describes it like so:

“I don’t just want my money to buy an object; I want it to support institutions and individuals I like, and I want it to support the common good. This is one of the weird things about patronage. As a consumer, your first thought is to your own benefit. As a patron, it’s to the good of your beneficiary. Likewise, as an artisan supported by patronage, you tend to think more about what’s best for your patrons and audience than you do yourself.”

This rings true. I feel like the thought and care I put into this over the years is being rewarded. At the same time, readers make me feel honour-bound (in a good way) to do what’s best for them. This dynamic creates a certain trust or intimacy that both sides enjoy and benefit from.

I don’t think the ‘pay if you can’ model – mixed with some subtle advertising – works for everyone. But when it does, it’s a compelling alternative to creating a two-class system, especially in digital publishing. I like how Tim put it:

“The most powerful and interesting media model will remain raising money from members who don’t just permit but insist that the product be given away for free.”

Once again, thank you for putting your trust in me! – Kai

Dense Discovery is a weekly newsletter at the intersection of tech, design, sustainability, and culture read by over 36,000 subscribers. Do you have a product or service to promote? Sponsor an issue or book a classified.


Tool for Thought SPONSOR


Muse →

Deep thinking doesn’t happen in front of a computer

Muse for iPad is a spatial canvas for your research notes, sketches, and screenshots. Instead of linear notes, the fluid & freeform interface in Muse is inspired by your desk: personal, creative – even a little messy. Download Muse on the App Store and use 100 cards for free.


Apps & Sites

Backlight →

Website privacy inspector

Use this little inspector tool to check your favourite (and your own) websites for how visitors are being tracked and what data is shared. It’s always surprising to see how mindlessly even small sites overshare visitor information.

Nova →

Code editor for Mac

The good people at Panic have released a new text editor named Nova. Since I’m not a developer, it’s difficult to compare it with other editors, but having been a user of Panic apps in the past, I’m pretty sure that Nova offers a delightful experience. And as always, it’s nice to support small independent software makers.

Goodlinks →

Read-later app

Bookmark things to read later in a more distraction free environment. It’s an alternative to Pocket or Instapaper but with a dedicated macOS app (in addition to its iOS mobile app).

Orbit →

Community platform

Orbit is another community platform that offers more powerful group features than just a simple Slack channel. Your Orbit profile also allows you to easily join other Orbit groups that are open to the public – similar to Facebook Groups.


Worthy Five: Jaipreet Virdi


Five recommendations by deaf historian of medicine & disability Jaipreet Virdi

A question worth asking:

Why do we marvel at technological advancements – like this stair-climbing wheelchair – but don’t think of fixing the social barriers that block access?

A Twitter account worth following:

Imani Barbarin is a firebrand on the activism front who regularly shares her encounters with racism and ableism and draws attention to the importance of understanding Black experiences when discussing disability rights.

A book worth reading:

Sara Hendren’s new book What Can a Body Do? calls on us to imagine a better-designed, more accessible world.

A word worth knowing:

‘Disability Dongle’, created by Liz Jackson, is defined as: “An elegant and well-intended, but ultimately useless solution to a problem disabled people never knew they had.”

A podcast worth listening to:

Many podcasts are posted without transcripts and therefore aren’t accessible for me, but I do like disabled activist Alice Wong’s Disability Visibility podcast which features an incredible variety of disabled experience, culture, arts, and more!




The Little Book of Humanism →

Lessons on purpose, meaning & joy

I’ve long been intrigued by the Humanism movement – a secular philosophy that, according to the American Humanist Association, “affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good”. This new little book seems like a great starting point. Added to my reading list.


Moduletto →

Modular notebook system

Moduletto offers a completely customisable, modular system for paper notebooks: select your cover material and colour, then add your inserts: plain pages or maybe a weekly calendar view, all available in different paper colours. Then pick your preferred strap that holds it all together. It’s so weird that Austria-based Moduletto still doesn’t offer an English version of their website. (Use Google Translate to shop in English.) I think their modular approach to notebooks would be a huge success to paper geeks around the world.


Overheard on Twitter

Learned a very relatable term today: “報復性熬夜” (revenge bedtime procrastination), a phenomenon in which people who don’t have much control over their daytime life refuse to sleep early in order to regain some sense of freedom during late night hours.



Food For Thought

The Problem With Bill Gates →


No, not the conspiracy-type Bill Gates problem, but the very real problem of a system that creates Bill Gateses in the first place: “The only way billionaires can help us is to invest in unmaking the system that created them. There is no way to be a moral billionaire. The existence of that fortune is built on a form of systemic exploitation that precludes redistribution. There cannot be both billionaires and the means of billionaires fixing the world out of the goodness of their hearts, because the only way to maintain billionaires is to maintain a system of dragging money toward billionaires.”

Oliver Burkeman’s last column: the eight secrets to a (fairly) fulfilled life →


I’m not usually one for happiness advice columns but this one I enjoyed. “The capacity to tolerate minor discomfort is a superpower. It’s shocking to realise how readily we set aside even our greatest ambitions in life, merely to avoid easily tolerable levels of unpleasantness. ... (This is how social media platforms flourish: by providing an instantly available, compelling place to go at the first hint of unease.)”

All politics is bad, says Coinbase →


The CEO of Coinbase last week published a statement proclaiming that his company will discourage discussing/engaging with politics within the company. In my view, it’s a misguided and unrealistic position to take and Can Duruk sums it up nicely: “Political apathy is not a neutral stance, but a strongly conservative one, almost by definition. When there are competing forces, one trying to pull you in a direction and another forcing you to stay where you are, saying that you’d rather not move is picking a side, not removing yourself from the equation.”

Degrowth and MMT: A thought experiment →


An interesting piece about government debt: given that governments around the world are piling debt on debt to pay for the recovery, the conversation is now turning to ‘who is gonna pay for that?’ MMT (Modern Monetary Theory) tells us that governments can create as much money as they want – there is no budget to balance. As this essay argues, one reason why we are made to believe that countries need to manage their finances like individuals is this: “Governments have to maintain an artificial scarcity of money in order to ensure a steady flow of cheap labour for private firms. ... Capitalism seeks to sabotage public abundance in order to generate private riches.”


Aesthetically Pleasing

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I love aerial photography and could browse Nearmaps’ feed all day.

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Activist and artist Nneka Jones uses a mix of embroidery and paint to create faces of Black girls and women with a bullseye target on them.

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Project Ö is a stunning summer cabin project in the Finnish Archipelago, started by two designers. It so far consists of a main cabin with a sauna and a workshop.

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It’s so much fun playing around with Fontsmith’s variable fonts showcase. Their About page goes into the details of this powerful new addition to the type designer’s toolkit.



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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.