A great challenge of life: Knowing enough to think you are right, but not knowing enough to know you are wrong.

– Neil deGrasse Tyson


Featured artist: Coen Pohl

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 217!

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It’s the time of the year to point back to my ‘normalising no-gift holidays’ issue and remind everyone who feels overwhelmed, stressed or ethically conflicted about purchasing useless gifts that it’s possible to leave Retail Christmas behind. Well, for the adults in the room, at least.

I realise that my perspective on Christmas is particularly grinchy because of the huge geographical distance between me and the rest of my family. It’s easier to break with traditions if your close ones are spread across different continents. That said, I have heard from many people who have come up with alternative traditions to celebrate this time of the year together.

Some friends of mine take the whole family camping on Christmas. (Admittedly easier to do in the southern hemisphere.) I love this idea because it’s kinda the exact opposite of Retail Christmas. You forgo all the usual creature comforts and return after a few days in the bush really appreciating everyday luxuries like hot water and flushing toilets. The shared experience comes with tech-free family bonding time, too.

Another great idea, especially for people who find themselves without family, is volunteering: there are tons of soup kitchens, animal shelters and other charitable organisations who could use a hand during the holidays. Plus, it’s a great opportunity for meeting like-minded folks. (Here’s a handy list for Australians.)

Anyway, that’s about as much time as I want to spend writing about Christmas. If you have an unconventional Christmas tradition that defies the shopping and consumption frenzy, I’d love to hear about it! – Kai


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Apps & Sites

Crouton →

Recipe organiser

I’ve been looking for a new recipe app after my old one changed to a subscription model. Crouton looks great: lovely design and all the basic features I’m looking for: recipe import from websites, recipe scanning, measurement conversion, built-in meal planner and more.

Permission Slip →

Personal data removal

Non-profit Consumer Report offers this mobile app for US Americans to find out which companies store their private data and then lodge a deletion request in one click.

Woofz →

Dog training app

As a future dog owner (when the time is right) I really appreciate that someone put all the dog psych knowledge in a great app: lots of training tutorials from professional dog trainers, a direct chat line to pro dog handlers, and a ton of other educational content.

ooh.directory →

Blog directory

“A collection of 951 blogs about every topic.” Directories like this make me reminisce about early Yahoo! and how it was a big part of late ’90s search engine optimisation. But yes, blogs! I’m here for the renaissance of personal blogging!


Mini-Interview with Laura Hilliger


A short conversation about cooperatives with Laura Hilliger, co-founder of We Are Open Co-op. She is a writer, educator and technologist who builds and invents for ethical companies and organisations.

Can you briefly explain what cooperatives are?

Cooperatives are democratically controlled organisations. Each member of a cooperative has an equal voice – one member, one vote. This might sound simple, but we’re conditioned to understand ‘majority rules’.

Based on this statement by International Cooperative Alliance, cooperative members also “believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others”.

Worth noting that cooperatives are not a small ‘subculture’ of the business world. The world’s top 300 cooperative businesses have a turnover of over two trillion dollars a year. 10% of all jobs on the planet are co-op jobs. This economic system is hiding in plain sight and the powers that be don’t want us to know that there is a different way.

What encouraged you to create/be part of a cooperative yourself?

We started We Are Open Co-op (WAO) because our ‘radical’ founding members wanted to work with others in a fair, sustainable and equitable way. We wanted to have control over our work and use our skills and talents to make the world a better place. We wanted to align our behaviours with our beliefs.

At this point in history it’s especially hard to argue that capitalism is a system that’s working for us, the people. We can see clearly the extractive model that capitalism propagates and how damaging that is. Cooperatives have offered a functional alternative for hundreds of years, though.

More practically, what did setting up your cooperative involve?

Getting started, we realised that we would need to use a business form that allowed us to control our capital while also ensuring current and future co-op members would have ownership over the business. We formed a limited company for control over the capital and wrote specific language in our Articles of Incorporation to ensure member ownership and control. Some countries have specific business forms for cooperatives, many do not. Several of the principles of cooperation are about helping others understand the benefits and nature of cooperatives. So we reached out to people in the cooperative economy to help us. We strengthen the cooperative movement when we work together.

Can you give us an example of how you make decisions within such a flat hierarchy?

WAO is a collective of individuals who broadly agree on many things. Like any group of people, there are nuanced differences in our positions on the issues of the day, so we run a weekly meeting with standing agenda items to make sure we’re all looking after the cooperative. Instead of corporate pronouncements, we put our current thinking on an open wiki, and we are allowed to change our mind about policies. We use consent-based decision-making (sociocracy) for issues that we feel require everyone's involvement and a defined process.

Whether through our work with other cooperatives in the CoTech Network or with contributions to forward-thinking publications like Dense Discovery, our members are eager and willing to help others learn about how openness, distributed leadership and cooperation can change the world for the better.

What websites would you recommend for people interested in better understanding the process, benefits and challenges involved in cooperatives?

The International Cooperative Alliance has the basic definitions, resources and events to help people on their way. If you understand the basics and want some more contextual information, the CoTech Network has hundreds of cooperators and loads of resources. Finally, our friends at Outlandish have an excellent Sociocracy 101 workshop.

(Did you know? Friends of DD can respond to and engage with guest contributors like Laura Hilliger in one click.)


Books & Accessories


Rutherford and Fry’s Complete Guide to Absolutely Everything →

The story of the universe

This book looks like a fun, insightful read for the holidays: “This comprehensive guidebook tells the complete story of the universe and absolutely everything in it – skipping over some of the boring parts. Drs Hannah Fry and Adam Rutherford will show you that reality is not what it seems, common sense is neither common nor sensible, and our minds have evolved to lie to us all the time.”


The Conservation Revolution →

Radical ideas for saving nature

Climate change, biodiversity loss, ocean acidification – the conservation movement is calling for a new awakening to save what’s left of nature. But the views of what comes next diverge sharply: do we need greener economies or a total overhaul of our capitalist systems? The Conservation Revolution argues for “convivial conservation as the way forward. This approach goes beyond protected areas and faith in markets to incorporate the needs of humans and nonhumans within integrated and just landscapes.”


Overheard on Twitter

Without caffeine I wouldn’t have the explosive energy required to sit in a chair all day every day.



Food for Thought

Politics, Friendship, and the Search for Meaning →


A wonderful deep read on the role of friendships and how politics meddles with our need/search for closeness, understanding and... love. “When politics is understood as war, genuine friendship becomes difficult because friendship contributes nothing to the cause. What it is replaced with is ‘allyship’ or ‘comradeship’. And comrades are not, strictly speaking, friends. They are rather partners in a cause. ... if friendship is a virtue, this would explain why it is simultaneously so difficult and rewarding. The difficulty lies in the fact that virtues are innate capacities that can only be actualized through long practice. One cannot simply wish friendship into being or master it in a single act.”

The Riddle of Rest →


People who read Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing would have opinions on this short read about finding true rest: “That’s why rest is ultimately about doing things that have nothing to do with the furthering of your place in society. Rest can take the form of reading a book, but only if that book serves no purpose to your professional or personal goals. ... Whenever there’s anything centered around how my sense of self-worth can be furthered, I am not in a state of rest.”

What Happens to Your Brain When You Stop Believing in God →


This is a VICE piece, so make of that what you will. Still, I find the idea that our belief systems shape our neurological frameworks pretty fascinating. “When we finally break up with religion, we rebound. Eventually, non-religious people who once had religious epiphanies get those same feelings from being in nature, or from seeing profound scientific ideas expressed, Anderson says. ‘The context changes but the experience doesn’t.’ Most non-religious people are ‘passionately committed to some ideology or other,’ explains Patrick McNamara, a neurology professor at Boston University School of Medicine. These passions function neurologically as ‘faux religions.’”


Aesthetically Pleasing

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Photodarium 2023 is a tear-off-calendar for photography lovers. Each page of the chunky 365-page block features a Polaroid shot by a different photographer with a little story about the photo and the photographer’s credits printed on the back. Made in Germany. Friends of DD enjoy a 15% discount. Become a Friend to access specials like this.

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The Ryokan Manly House is a 52-squaremetre apartment in Sydney – a beautiful transformation of a two-story Victorian-style tavern, built in the late 18th century. The floor-to-ceiling timber and the different levels are lovely, but it’s the bedroom’s zen garden with a bonsai tree coming out of the wall that does it for me. The apartment features on Never Too Small.

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How adorable is this collection of tiny buildings, transportation, and public architecture, made from paper by artist Charles Young? (via)

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Gambit is a beautiful display serif typeface that “feels sharp and confident whilst remaining graceful and delicate thanks to its high contrast structure and suave angular wedge serifs”.


Notable Numbers


In France, battery-powered scooters have become a major means of personal transport. In 2021, over 900,000 scooters were sold – an increase of 42% over 2020 numbers.


In 2020, US American tax payers subsidised fossil fuels by around $27 per capita. This number is much higher in Germany at $115 per capita. But that is still far less than the whopping $286 every Australian pays to prop up fossil fuels.


Google says Gmail is blocking nearly 15 billion unwanted emails a day. During the holiday season the spam load increases roughly 10%. In the past two weeks alone, Google supposedly blocked over 231 billion spam and phishing messages.



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