The true test of intelligence is not how much we know how to do, but how to behave when we don’t know what to do.

– John Holt


Artwork by Michael George Haddad

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 20!

View/share online

Last week a reader emailed me to ask why I decided to use email as my medium of choice for publishing Dense Discovery. It’s a good question.

Every medium has its pros and cons, of course. I still love blogs – the idea of owning your content and the publishing platform is as powerful as ever. Despite all the issues with social media, I also still enjoy being on Twitter. I’ve made many friends through the blue bird and it’s fair to say my opinion on many political, societal, and tech issues has been heavily influenced through links shared via tweets and retweets by friends and strangers.

For me, the good ol’ newsletter sits nicely in between the two. It’s a little publication I dispatch to your inbox once a week where it sits patiently until you decide what to do with it. It won’t disappear. Its position in your inbox will not change due to your previous behaviour or that of people you are connected with. You can start reading now and finish it tomorrow or – because it’s automatically archived – many months later. There are no comments, no network approval metrics. It feels quiet, a bit quaint almost.

Robin Sloan sums it up nicely: ‘Email is definitely not ideal, but it is: decentralized, reliable, and not going anywhere – and more and more, those feel like quasi-magical properties.’ – Kai

Looking for ways to support Dense Discovery? Here are three: (1) Get your company to sponsor an issue, (2) Book a classified ad, (3) Share this issue with friends and colleagues.


Modern Snail Mail


Postable makes mailing real cards as easy as sending an email – whether you’re sending one birthday card to your friend or thousands of birthday cards to your customers. Choose from our highly curated collection of cards created by top designers – all printed on 100% recycled stock. Pick a card, type a message, and we take care of the rest. Get 20% off with the promo code DENSE.


Apps & Sites

Qlearly →

Bookmarks and tabs manager in one

Qlearly is a browser extension that allows you to create bookmark boards that present themselves whenever you open a new tab. You can easily organise and search your bookmarks or open the links of an entire board with just one click.

Harvestr →

Manage user feedback and feature requests

With Harvestr you can pull in user feedback from various platforms, such as Slack, Zendesk, Intercom and email, to build a central hub that helps you prioritise your feature requests and informs your product roadmap.

Security Checklist →

A checklist for staying safe on the internet

I’ve been looking for something like this to share with less tech-savvy friends: ‘An open source checklist of resources designed to improve your online privacy and security.’

Kirby →

Flexible, database-free CMS

Indie web advocate Bastian Allgeier just launched the newest version of Kirby, his popular flat-file content management system. I use Kirby for the Offscreen site and while I don’t have that lovely admin interface of the latest version, I’m very happy with Kirby’s performance and ease of use. And of course, supporting indie projects like his just feels great.


Idle Knowledge


Icon by Anatolii Babii

The Wikipedia of alternative facts

Convinced Wikipedia has a liberal bias, ultra-conservative Americans launched Conservapedia. Many of its over 45,000 entries (!) are based on conspiracy theories and conservative religious propaganda – such as an entry on the link between atheism and obesity, listing a number of prominent overweight atheists including Christopher Hitchins and Kim Jong-il. (Links intentionally left out.)


Goods & Accessories


Lift Standing Desk →

Plywood standing desk made near you

‘The Lift Desk is an adjustable height workbench. You can lift it from sitting to bar to standing desk height to cater for varied working needs.’ I love the Opendesk concept: a network of CNC-powered furniture makers around the world creating furniture based off the same design files. (You can also just purchase the file itself and find your own CNC mill nearby).


The Benton →

Stainless steel barrel pen

I love a carefully crafted pen: ‘The Benton uses a 304 stainless steel barrel design, which means you won’t crack your cartridge – keeping the ink where it’s meant to be, on the page. With its pusher-mounted lanyard, you can pull it from your pocket easily, or you can keep it at the ready with the PVD-coated steel pocket clip (or both).’


Overheard on Twitter

Apparently kids are taught this acronym in school now: T.H.I.N.K. before you speak. T - is it True? H - is it Helpful? I - is it Inspiring? N - is it Necessary? K - is it Kind? I feel like I need this to pop up every time I go to post online.



Food For Thought

Why We Need More Online Friction →


Reducing ‘friction’ in UX terms has always been one of the highest priorities in digital design. Perhaps it’s time to rethink that strategy and embrace a sort of ‘cooling off period’ for users: ‘Most websites, for instance, view transparency as a barrier to entry, or as friction. That may mean, for instance, serving up a simple explanation of what the user is trading away with his or her next click, pausing to get explicit buy-in, or even just presenting a clear view of what lies beyond the current page.’

In Search of Lost Screen Time →


‘In 2018, 253 million Americans spent $1,380 and 1,460 hours on their smartphone and other mobile devices. That’s 91 waking days; cumulatively, that adds up to 370 billion waking American hours and $349 billion. In 2019, here’s what we could do instead.’

How language shapes the way we think →


One of last year’s most-watched TED talks, and for a good reason – it’s great! ‘There are about 7,000 languages spoken around the world – and they all have different sounds, vocabularies and structures. But do they shape the way we think?’


Aesthetically Pleasing


A beautiful, ongoing series of type animations by Federico Leggio.

❏ ❏ ❏

Nunchi is a branding project for an entirely new creative neighbourhood of restaurants, fashion boutiques and design stores in Le Marais, Paris.

❏ ❏

Inspired by the online archive Typewriter Database, each weight of Compagnon references a different period from the history of typewriter typefaces.

❏ ❏

Good Moves is a huge collection of motion design from around the web, with a new one added every day.



Unleash your joy & creativity with mindfulness. Marisa Garau offers a simple & powerful way to stress less and find mindfulness in everyday life. Use code DD20OFF to get $20 off!

Want to sell your art online? Threadless Artist Shops is the best and easiest platform to use to sell your art in your own customized online store for free. Just create art and spread the word!

Invest in your creative career with Skill Camp, a 2-day intensive workshop event led by the top creatives in the industry. Only 30 spots per track... Grab your ticket today!

People from companies like Mixcloud, Ring and WeTransfer use CLARO to get their to-dos done. Get your invite →

Classifieds are paid ads that support DD and are seen by thousands of our readers each week.

Book yours →


The Week in a GIF


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

[email protected]