Take pride in knowing that your struggle will play the biggest role in your purpose.

– Mel Maynard


Featured artist: Maria Fadeeva

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 149!

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Dropshipping – the tech bros’ favourite get-rich-quick scheme – is a world of meta-capitalism: cheaply produced widgets from who-cares-where made by doesn’t-matter-whom are marked up and aggressively marketed to gullible, hyper-targeted Facebookers and Instagrammers.

What’s even more profitable than selling widgets, though, is selling the idea of selling widgets. You know, those YouTube commercials in which alpha males with bleached teeth and Maseratis boast about how a dropshipping side hustle made their Bali lifestyle possible.

A lot of us perceive this blow-your-own-trumpet style of marketing as cheap and cringeworthy. It definitely makes me hit the ‘skip ad’ button with a fair amount of loathing. The truth is, though, that much of the tech world operates on the same shoddy marketing: people boasting about their success.

Whether it’s how to get to 100,000 subscribers or to $100,000 in MRR (monthly recurring revenue) – a huge chunk of tech media is held together by the same ‘You could be THIS successful!’ messaging. Just like in the world of dropshipping, the product is irrelevant. It’s just a vehicle to riches, a means to an end.

The growth-hacking success stories are everywhere and always get the clicks. They are the content marketing equivalent of the inflatable Tube Man: they get your attention before you even realise it’s all just fluff propped up by hot air.

Fortunately, a more pleasant, thoughtful sub-section of the internet remains where a marker of good taste and good character is not success but substance. Here, people pursue endeavours by treating their audience not as a mere source of attention to be monetised, but a community to be served. People in this little corner of the web are motivated by respect and appreciation, not envy and desire. It is a refreshing little oasis of quiet humility in a world of noisy, competitive gloating.

I’m so glad you are here. – Kai


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Website Builder for Designers SPONSOR


Pixel Together →

Go beyond the template

Pixel Together gives you the ability to easily create a premium website, without restrictive templates or expensive code. Independently-owned, we offer user-friendly drag and drop design, local tech support, Search Engine Optimisation and top notch animation tools.


Apps & Sites

The Sample →

Discover fresh newsletters

Select your areas of interest, add your email address and The Sample will send you an example of a different newsletter every day – without automatically subscribing you to it. You can decide whether to subscribe through a link below each email.

Newsletterss →

A dedicated newsletter reader

The oddly named Newsletterss app provides a unique email address to read all of your newsletters in a dedicated interface, making organising subscriptions and avoiding spam traps easier.

Big Tech Funding →

See who gets money from Big Tech

Whether it’s altruistic organisations, research projects or lobbying groups, a lot of projects and people receive funding from Big Tech. This (sadly Chrome only) browser extension slaps a warning label on Twitter accounts that receive money from Google, Facebook, Amazon and Co. [Note: after publishing a reader pointed out that this app was created by some conservative American thinktank with questionable motives.]

Fingerspelling →

Learn sign language with your webcam

A great example of how machine learning can aid us in acquiring new skills: turn your camera on and let this app teach you the spelling of words in American Sign Language.


Worthy Five: Sarah Nguyen


Five recommendations by product designer and incurable night owl Sarah Nguyen

A concept worth understanding:

Neurodiversity: different brains process things differently – there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to being human. It’s part of what makes life beautiful.

A podcast worth listening to:

I found Terrible, Thanks for Asking in a stage of my life where I was going through a lot of grief. It’s full of touching stories – if you’re in the right headspace to listen. Awful experiences can sometimes lead to personal growth, even if you wish they had never happened.

A book worth reading:

Americanah by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie is a beautiful love story and paints a rich picture of contemporary America. Most people recommend non-fiction books in things like this but I like fiction. It transports me.

An activity worth doing:

Find a small joy that is absolutely non-productive. For me, it’s crosswords. Solving puzzles makes me happy. It’s a cheap way to get eureka moments and the associated endorphin hits.

A piece of advice worth passing on:

Doing nothing is an active decision. Sometimes we don’t want to make a choice, so we don’t. But staying silent on something you believe in or staying in a job or career you’re not sure about isn’t doing ‘nothing’. Rather, you’re making an active choice. Often it’s worth taking a risk.




This Is Your Mind on Plants →

The power of psychoactive plants

In his latest book, writer Michael Pollan dives deep into three plant drugs – opium, caffeine and mescaline – and “throws the fundamental strangeness, and arbitrariness, of our thinking about them into sharp relief. Exploring and participating in the cultures that have grown up around these drugs while consuming them, Pollan reckons with the powerful human attraction to psychoactive plants. Why do we go to such great lengths to seek these shifts in consciousness, and then why do we fence that universal desire with laws and customs and fraught feelings?”


Under a White Sky →

The nature of the future

Her previous book The Sixth Extinction explored the ways in which our capacity for destruction has reshaped the natural world. In her newest title, Elizabeth Kolbert looks at the many dystopian-sounding methods we’re developing in the hope to stop said extinction. Under a White Sky examines “how the very sorts of interventions that have imperiled our planet are increasingly seen as the only hope for its salvation. By turns inspiring, terrifying, and darkly comic, Under a White Sky is an utterly original examination of the challenges we face.”


Overheard on Twitter

My brain is like Chrome. 237 tabs open, 3 are frozen, and I’ve no idea where the music is coming from.



Food for Thought

When **it Gets Real →


In what is essentially a long pitch for his newsletter/podcast, futurist and sustainability advocate Alex Steffen predicts that there is only one constant on the road ahead: discontiniuty. “Folks who understand this crisis often describe the changes growing from it as massive and imminent. Even more, though, they’re immanent – like rising floodwaters in a flat riverside town, they flow through our societies in all directions, they suffuse all our decisions, they wash away boundary lines and landmarks; each of us finds ourselves a stranger now in a strange land, a xenotopia. You and I and all the people we know live in a moment when learning how to move through a landscape stripped of its familiar reference points is an essential life skill.”

One step beyond: the ascent of mountain runner Kílian Jornet →


I love reading stories like this: Kílian Jornet is more machine than runner, living a reclusive outdoor life in remote Norway. “He is the fastest man to have run up and down various big peaks, including Mont Blanc (normal time: two days; Jornet time: four hours, 57 minutes). ... At one point he went five days straight without consuming anything: running, sleeping, running, sleeping. At a party a couple of days later, he fainted drinking a glass of orange juice. ‘My body was still recovering’, he says. He never went to another party again.”

The Blue Zones of Happiness →


I heard about The Blue Zones of Happiness – research on the key ingredients for a good life – in a podcast a few years ago, but only now got around to watching the video presentation: “Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones of Happiness, explains how he researched exceptionally happy people and found common denominators among them – and compares the ingredients of happiness in Singapore, Costa Rica and Denmark.”


Aesthetically Pleasing

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The latest series of aerial photographer Tom Hegen captures central Spain’s unique agricultrual landscapes. “In the area between Huesca and Madrid, the art of dry farming is practised. The fields are cultivated during the winter season when rainfall is just sufficient to grow crops. Harvesting takes place just before the summer heat dries out the ground.” Books and prints are available from his shop.

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The works of Spanish digital artist Pol Solà conveys a sense of serenity through simple, soothing gradients and shapes.

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What a smart approach to branding for Circularity, a consultancy that advises other businesses on how to achieve a waste-free, circular business model. “The core identity is a three-dimensional, organic and fully circular ‘C’. When seen in a digital space it is in constant motion, adapting and changing, just like the resources used and re-used in a circular world.”

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Yalla is a decorative display typeface, inspired by Arabic designs and “geometric forms, working in interesting ways and contrasting with smooth, calligraphic details”.



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