Under the comb, the tangle and the straight path are the same.

– Heraclitus


Featured artist: Ironmould

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 221!

View/share online

Many of us think ‘being nice’ is an important aspect of civil discourse that helps us come together and exist in harmony, but in this fantastic lecture by Australian journalist Amy Remeikis I learned that ‘niceness’ is also wielded as a weapon by those in power (often men) to keep others in line (often women).

“I am not nice. I despise ‘nice’. Nice in our social construct is just another weapon to keep us silent. To keep us in our place. Because if we drill down into it, nice is just another form of oppression. To be nice is to be passive and in many cases dishonest. Being nice is a way of forcing someone into doing nothing, saying nothing, and standing for nothing, because it may cause someone else discomfort. And so it is used as part of the armoury of civility, wielded by those who hold power and are actively engaged in not feeling discomforted, in holding onto the way that things always have been. Because those ways have always been very, very comfortable for them. They’ve been very nice. Discomfort is for the not-nice among us.”

It’s an eloquent, powerful speech that draws on familiar concepts of feminist literature. It has several references to Australian politics, but it offers plenty of lessons for listeners anywhere. It certainly made me question the way I judge other people (especially women) in terms of ‘niceness’ and how to interpret related feelings of discomfort. – Kai


Become a Friend of DD →

With a modest yearly contribution you’re not only helping keep Dense Discovery going, you also receive special discounts and get access to the DD Index, a searchable catalogue of past issues.


Dense Discovery is a weekly newsletter at the intersection of design, technology, 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.


A Podcast All About Pivoting SPONSOR


We used to believe that people with mental health issues were cursed. Today, we talk about mental health on first dates and chat with our therapists online. Just how did therapy become such an ordinary thing? We spoke to one of the leading online therapy startups in Europe with $8.6M of investment about this shift and whether AI will take over the niche in the future. New CTRL SHIFT episode is available now on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.


Apps & Sites

Mela →

Recipe manager for Mac

From the same person that created the popular Reeder RSS reader comes Mela “a simple, elegant and modern recipe manager for iOS and macOS that syncs with iCloud.” And once again, I tried and failed to find out how much the premium version costs.

Essayist →

Academic writing app

An app that would have saved me a lot of time and frustration during my student years: Essayist not only helps format your academic essay, it also pulls in citation information via Google Scholar.

Iago →

Learn Japanese via subtitles

What a cool idea for learning a new language: Iago is a browser plugin that lets you interact with subtitles in shows on YouTube, Netflix and Disney+ by breaking down words and explaining their meaning. It’s unclear whether the tool supports more languages than just Japanese at this point.

Realtime Inequality →

US income/wealth inequality visualised

A fascinating little tool visualising historical data on income and wealth inequality in the US. It shows, for instance, that in the last two decades income grew just 3.1% for the bottom half of US Americans, but a whopping 35.4% for the richest ten per cent.


Worthy Five: Lauren Crichton


Five recommendations by marketer and newsletter writer Lauren Crichton

A video worth watching:

If you’ve ever wondered where consumersim came from, you should watch Adam Curtis’ 2002 docuseries The Century of the Self. It traces consumerism’s roots to Freudian theories and asks profound questions about the role of the self in mass democracy.

A book worth reading:

All about love by bell hooks. Because love is too important to remain defined by the patriarchy.

A newsletter worth subscribing to:

From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy is a Substack at the intersection of food, politics, and media. Honest and probing, Alicia has a spiky point of view that will inspire and challenge you every week.

A podcast worth listening to:

This 2020 interview between comedian Adam Buxton and novelist Zadie Smith. Two talented Brits, in the thick of pandemic lockdown, discussing everything from the indisputable niceness of Tom Hanks to the relationship between private education and racial inequality. Hilarious and thought-provoking in equal measure.

A quote worth repeating:

“Get going, then get good” from Jack Butcher via the brilliant Lauren Currie OBE. It defies perfectionism and inspires action. Every time.

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


Books & Accessories


Eating to Extinction →

A way out of our food mono-culture

This book’s excellent blurb made me really interested in the shortcomings of our current food system: “Over the past several decades, globalization has homogenized what we eat, and done so ruthlessly. The numbers are stark: Of the roughly six thousand different plants once consumed by human beings, only nine remain major staples today. Just three of these – rice, wheat, and corn – now provide fifty percent of all our calories. Dig deeper and the trends are more worrisome still: The source of much of the world’s food – seeds – is mostly in the control of just four corporations. Ninety-five percent of milk consumed in the United States comes from a single breed of cow.”


The Little Book of Living Small →

Advice for small-space dwellers

I had a browse through this book at a local shop over the holidays. As many of you know by now, I’m a big fan of small-footprint living. This is a lovely coffee table book offering a good mix of visual inspiration and practical advice for managing a tight footprint.


Overheard on Twitter

As you become an adult, you realize that things around you weren’t just always there; people made them happen. But only recently have I started to internalize how much tenacity everything requires. That hotel, that park, that railway. The world is a museum of passion projects.



Food for Thought

The politics of civility →


Australian journalist Amy Remeikis powerfully argues that ‘being nice’ usually just means obeying the rules of those in power, usually men. “Being civil, good manners – that’s ideally how debate should be. But journalist Amy Remeikis says it’s time for women to wise-up and stop being nice because men in power use niceness as a weapon against them. It’s okay for men to forcefully prosecute an argument but not so for women or critics of the establishment. She deconstructs how the code of civility is used to maintain the status quo.”

A fact-checked debate about legal weed →


The movement to legalise weed is advancing in a lot of countries. Thailand legalised it last year. In Germany, a coalition government is working on draft legislation to make it legal. I found this very respectful debate about the pros and cons of legalisation quite insightful and learned a few arguments against it that I never really considered before.

Why the super rich are inevitable →


An eye-opening and kind of fun way to illustrate/explore one of the main causes of wealth inequality. I love the interactive element that lets you simulate different outcomes based on wealth redistribution. “Why do super rich people exist in a society? Many of us assume it’s because some people make better financial decisions. But what if this isn’t true? What if the economy – our economy – is designed to create a few super rich people?”


Aesthetically Pleasing

❏ ❏

Stiff Peaks is a cute, playful backyard studio for a writer.

❏ ❏

I’m really liking the paintings of LA-based artist Shyama Golden whose works “populate a parallel dimension with a cast of characters which include vine-covered trees suggestive of human archetypes, Sri Lankan devil dancers dressed as Yakkas who take part in exorcist rituals, and self portraiture.” (via)

❏ ❏

Nashville-based design/branding studio Perky Bros makes use of simple, carefully crafted elements to produce a delightful portfolio of work.

❏ ❏

Ooh, this is very much my type: Delphia is suitable for a wide variety of applications. It’s an elegant, modern workhorse of a typeface, extendable with multiple weights and widths.


Notable Numbers


Due to internet/media restrictions imposed by the Russian government, VPN installs in Russia reached an all-time high and surged by 11,253% above the norm in March 2022.


A study of drivers in Britain showed that those who own a car spend on average 13% of their gross income on it. For those paying for their car with a finance or loan deal this proportion rises to 19%.


The annual report by California’s Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board showed that California law enforcement searched teenagers whom officers perceived to be Black at nearly 6 times the rate of teens believed to be white during vehicle and pedestrian stops in 2021.



Subscribe to the Scrappy Podcasting Newsletter for one unconventional, 2-minute idea per week on how to punch above your weight as a small but mighty show.

Vzy makes it very easy to create beautiful websites on your phone. Start with templates, remix colours, font and layouts. No code or design skills required.

Is your website losing users? The Writers can help you attract more users and better outcomes with less hassle and stress. Australia’s risk-free copywriting agency.

Alternative investing means new ways to invest in what you believe in. And nobody covers this stuff more than the team at Alts. Subscribe for free and see what you’ve been missing.

Classifieds are paid ads that support DD and are seen by our 36,000 subscribers each week.

Book yours →


The Week in a GIF


Reply or tweet at DD with your favourite GIF and it might get featured here in a future issue.