We live in a world where we have to hide to make love, while violence is practiced in broad daylight.

– John Lennon


Featured artist: Cosmo

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 121!

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To follow up my ruminations from the previous issue, here’s a more practical answer to the question of how I try to balance reading for work and reading for pleasure. This is not meant to be a piece on ‘more productive reading’. It’s just my (evolving) approach to maintaining a reading practice that suits my lifestyle. Of course, none of these are hard rules – I break and bend them all the time because I’m not a robot.

Most of my work-related reading happens in Pocket where I dump interesting content from Twitter, blogs and newsletters. I’m a premium user, mostly for the unlimited highlights. I wish it allowed me to take notes inside the app, too.

I figured the key to avoiding crippling ‘read later’ debt is to limit my list size to around 25 items and have no qualms about deleting articles that don’t capture my interest quickly. I try to read one or two pieces on my phone every day, usually over breakfast or when I take a break. By default, we tend to fill little gaps during the day with checking social feeds. I’ve arranged the apps on my phone in a way that Pocket becomes my go-to gap filler, instead of getting sucked into the doomscroll hole.

As for books, I usually have two going at the same time: one non-fiction and one fiction. I learned that my brain is most receptive of non-fiction during the day, so I try to read a chapter or two over a tea break in the afternoon. As I mentioned last week, most non-fiction feels like work to me. I don’t particularly enjoy reading it. My curiosity about the topic keeps me going, rarely the writing itself. That’s why it takes me quite long to finish a non-fiction book. I pick it up when I’m in the mood or completely ignore it for days when I’m not. No hard feelings.

Fiction on the other hand is an act of pure, unabashed escapism. There is no judgment or limit to what, when, and how much to read, although I usually read before bed and on weekends. I mostly read on my Kobo these days, because it’s convenient and conducive to more reading: I buy and line-up the next book on my list whenever I’m close to finishing the current one.

If you get the impression that I’m a voracious reader, you’re wrong. I’m a pretty slow reader. I don’t devour books. I struggle with the same attention deficits as everyone else who works online. Focus and time for deep reading doesn’t come easy.

There is one lesson I learned from Ezra Klein that I like to share: When I commit to a whole, uninterrupted hour or so of reading, I get into a flow state that makes reading easier, more enjoyable and more rewarding. That’s why reading ten minutes six times a week does not equal reading for one full, undisturbed hour. This may seem obvious to those who read a lot, but if you’re struggling to finish books try dedicating a larger chunk of time to a book and see how it changes your experience.

Having said all of the above, I also learned to ignore most articles about building better reading habits, because they turn reading into yet another chore you ought to ‘get done’. I don’t really track time or follow strict rules. One week I go to bed early, so I can read more, the next I stay up late and lose myself in a new TV show. Life happens in phases, and I think it’s totally acceptable to just follow the ebb and flow of your interests. – 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.


Minimal Shared To-Do Calendar SPONSOR


Tweek →

For personal, family & team work

This simple to-do list gives you, your family or your team a weekly view of tasks. Now you can easily handle task management and work together with your colleagues on to-dos or projects. You can create an unlimited list of calendars and share them via direct read-only link.


Apps & Sites

Pika →

macOS colour picker

Free and open-source, Pika lets you easily and quickly detect and clipboard-copy the colour value of any area of your screen, in the format you prefer. A built-in WCAG compliance check allows you to compare colours for accessibility.

ScreenplaySubs →

Streaming with screenplays

Install their browser plugin and watch your favourite Netflix shows or movies while following along the screenplay side-by-side. ScreenplaySubs promises plenty of rewatch value.

Ethi →

Analyse what Big Tech knows about you

I’m not quite sure how I feel about this app. If I understand correctly, Ethi dissects your personal data dump from Facebook (and soon other Big Tech companies) which can help you understand what these companies know about you. But since it’s siloed in their own app, there is very limited action you can take to remove that data from the source. In fact, by uploading your data to another platform you’re spreading your private info even further. That said, we need more tools and methods to reveal the complex and comprehensive profiles Big Tech has on each of us, and Ethi is a step in that direction.

Piar →

Link previews

I’ve lately been optimising the social media previews of some of my own sites and saw a pretty big difference in terms of engagement. Piar provides an easy way to check what your links look like across the social web and within messengers.


Worthy Five: David Dylan Thomas


Five recommendations by author, speaker, and filmmaker David Dylan Thomas

A concept worth understanding:

Exformation’ is something I’ve been trying to get my head around lately: basically all the information we throw away in order to communicate. It has huge implications for inclusion and emotional labour.

A video worth watching:

What Hath We Wrought by danah boyd is one of the most important talks you can watch if you want to understand the political moment we’re living in.

A book worth reading:

Artificial Unintelligence by Meredith Broussard does a great job of demythologising AI, helping you understand what it is and isn’t capable of and how bias can easily enter in.

A podcast worth listening to:

I’ve just started listening to How to Citizen by Baratunde Thurston. The first episode alone is one of the best podcast episodes I’ve ever heard.

A piece of advice worth passing on:

Alex Hillman once told me: “It’s impossible to listen and react at the same time.” When you actually listen instead of waiting your turn to speak, people feel heard. And you actually learn what they’re trying to tell you. It’s a win/win.




Reset →

Reclaiming the internet for civil society

Released late last year, Ronald Deibert’s new book could not be more timely. He argues that “digital technologies have given rise to a new machine-based civilisation that is increasingly linked to a growing number of social and political maladies. Accountability is weak and insecurity is endemic, creating disturbing opportunities for exploitation”. Sound familiar?


Project Planner →

Poster-sized wall planner

“Establish roles, assign tasks, set timelines, and track progress for a seamless project management” – on your wall. These giant project planner sheets come in a set of 12 lovely, pastelly colours, printed on tree-free paper.


Overheard on Twitter

HEARTWARMING STORY: A woman’s coworkers found out she was walking five miles to work because she didn’t have a car so the community came together to elect political leaders who would fund and maintain a safe and reliable transit system so she and others could get to work.



Food For Thought

I Feel Better Now →


I expected this piece to just offer a critical view of mental health apps but then it surprised me by going a good step further to explore how surface-level our discussion about the causes of mental illness remains. “Brain chemistry and childhood trauma go a long way toward explaining a person’s particular struggles with mental health, but you could be forgiven for wondering whether there is also something larger at work here – whether the material arrangement of society itself, in other words, is contributing to a malaise that various authorities nevertheless encourage us to believe is exclusively individual.”

This city bans cars every Sunday – and people love it →


Here’s a feel-good story about the Colombian city of Bogotá which closes its main avenues and highways to motorised traffic to allow the weekly Ciclovía to occur: “As many as one-and-a-half million Bogotanos come out on Sunday to bike or ride. The extremely lazy are free to stroll. And eat. And dance. And people watch. Along the Séptima Norte stretch of the Ciclovía ... flaneurs fill sidewalk cafes, their dogs parked below their chairs, baby strollers alongside. Nearby, a capoeira group rehearses, and a bit further several dozen tai chi students push the air gently away in this direction and that.”

Useful and Overlooked Skills →


A short read with some great observations: “If risk is what happens when you make good decisions but end up with a bad outcome, luck is what happens when you make bad or mediocre decisions but end up with a great outcome. They both happen because the world is too complex to allow 100% of your actions dictate 100% of your outcomes.”


Aesthetically Pleasing

❏ ❏

Hugely talented illustrator Nicholas Moegly creates detailed, moody sceneries. Absolutely stunning.

❏ ❏

The Cardrona Hut – in a typically stunning New Zealand setting – uses lots of sliding panels that give the simple rectangular structure a sense of expansion and contraction. I also love the natural, limited material palette that gives it that classic ‘alpine hut’ feel.

❏ ❏

So soothing: Andreas Wannerstedt’s Eternal Installations is a series of “dreamlike environments, where large-scale art installations are stretching the boundaries of physical laws”.

❏ ❏

Millik is a multipurpose display font with plenty of decorative alternates and ligatures.



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