Feel compliments as deeply as you feel insults.

– James Clear


Featured artist: Franco E.

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 110!

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During a recent run, I stopped at a traffic light and saw two people in safety gear climbing a large tree. I asked the person on the ground what was happening. He replied: “Just maintenance. Everything needs looking after, mate!” And for the rest of my run, it dawned on me that every single object I passed by was in need of upkeep: the street sign, the tree, the electricity pole, the sidewalk, the markings on that sidewalk...

Cities are, of course, totally artificial spaces. Nothing exists naturally, not even the vegetation. Every object was planned, is accounted for, and appears on some sort of maintenance schedule. Acknowledging this fact makes me appreciate how hesitant and slow local councils often are about changing public spaces.

We don’t think much about maintenance, in part because we’re constantly distracted by shiny new things. And few industries are more susceptible to the appeal of novelty than the tech world. As this NY Times piece argues, we have “an impoverished and immature conception of technology, one that fetishises innovation as a kind of art and demeans upkeep as mere drudgery”.

In the ‘innovate or die’ shark tank of the startup world, we idolise innovators as ‘creators of the future’ while the unsexy work of keeping old systems running smoothly is seen as clinging to the past. Unfortunately, a functioning society heavily relies on the latter: “While innovation – the social process of introducing new things – is important, most technologies around us are old, and for the smooth functioning of daily life, maintenance is more important.”

So here’s to the tree climbers, the bin cleaners, and the road resurfacers that keep our cities going – and to the bug fixers, security patchers, and repo maintainers that keep the internet from breaking: you are important and you are appreciated.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.


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Apps & Sites

Echo →

Instant voice messenger

I don’t work in a team but one day I’d like to try out a voice messenger like Echo to see if it makes chatting to colleagues more personal (and more fun?) and less distracting.

Shift →

A wrapper for your web apps

Shift is essentially a browser that allows you to easily move between your most-used web apps. You can also switch between and search across (!) multiple Google accounts without logging in and out.

Smartforms →

Manage form endpoints

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Membership Guide →

How to run membership programs

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Worthy Five: Saron Yitbarek


Five recommendations by Disco founder Saron Yitbarek

A video worth watching:

Daniel Shiffman’s explanation of the perceptron algorithm. It’s incredible how he takes a relatively complex and intimidating topic, breaks it down and makes it super accessible.

A question worth asking:

Asking ‘What are you optimising for?’ allows us to be intentional and focus our results on something that’s actually valuable to us. Regardless of whether or not we’re aware of it, we’re all optimising for some sort of outcome. This question helped me make very important decisions.

A book worth reading:

Hatching Twitter will teach you a lot about friendship, rivalries, and how products and companies really get built.

A newsletter worth subscribing to:

There’s always something very tangible, actionable and full of information in Fred Wilson’s AVC. His emails take maybe a minute to read, but you’ll always end up smarter and more informed.

A podcast worth listening to:

How I Built This entertains you with honest, vulnerable stories of entrepreneurship and inspires you to reach your own potential.




How to Future →

Leading in an age of hyper-change

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Karst Pencils →

Woodless colouring

Australian wood-free notebook manufacturer Karst just launched a new product: a set of 24 ‘artist pencils’ that are made without trees. The pencil has a full lead body – no more wooden barrel. A steep price tag but, dang, they look pretty.


Overheard on Twitter

With ADHD I have exactly three types of work days:
✔️ Get absolutely nothing done
✔️ Get 4 hours of work done, at a random time of day
✔️ Get 40 hours of work done in 8 hours



Food For Thought

Is this real life? →


What is real? What is true? Can these questions be answered subjectively? As this piece shows, the answer is ‘no’ – probably. “Science (which, you could argue, is also a form of fact checking) has been around for centuries trying to debunk most religious beliefs – and yet religion still plays a major role in Western society. If entire education systems teaching millions of people about science haven’t worked, why do you think adding a small fact check disclaimer below a YouTube video would?”

33 Things I Stole From People Smarter Than Me on the Way to 33 →


I admit that I’m a sucker for ‘things I learned at age X’ lists. Some nice nuggets in here, including: “Steve Kamb told me that the best and most polite excuse is just to say you have a rule. ‘I have a rule that I don’t accept gifts.’ ‘I have a rule that I don’t speak for free anymore.’ People respect rules, and they accept that it’s not you rejecting the offer/opportunity, but that the rule allows you no choice.”

What I learned from preparing for the end of the world →


I’m more and more convinced of trying gardening as a form of activism and self-preservation: “Carys Bray was raised believing that the Second Coming was imminent. Now, in the face of climate change, she reflects on her lessons in surviving an apocalypse.”


Aesthetically Pleasing

❏ ❏

How did I miss the rebranding of coffee magazine Standart? The new editorial design is pure delight.

❏ ❏

I really enjoyed this photographic home-coming story by Lawrence Agyei, a US-based, Ghanaian photographer who re-discovers his home country through portraits. Navigate his site with the left/right arrow keys but don’t forget to scroll down on each page for more about his journey and work.

❏ ❏

It takes a while to decipher the murals by Toronto-based artist Ben Johnston, but once you do, you realise how clever his lettering art really is.

❏ ❏

Rois is a powerful extended sans-serif typeface inspired by heavy headline typefaces.



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The Week in a GIF


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