Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each others welfare, social justice can never be attained.

– Helen Adams Keller


Featured artist: Koma Zhang

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 97!

View/share online

Wow! I can’t thank you enough for the close to 1400 submissions to last week’s mini survey about a paid version of DD. Almost everyone added some feedback, some very elaborate, all of them constructive and kind. It took me half a day, but I read every single one of them. The split between paying/non-paying was about 40/60. Let me share some of the most frequent comments:

“Don’t remove the ads.” So many of you like the ads in DD. Even in a paid version, many of you wouldn’t mind keeping them, as long as they continue to be unobtrusive and relevant.

“More/not more content” While many who selected ‘paid’ like the idea of more/exclusive content, quite a lot also stated that the time commitment required for the current DD was just right.

“Subscription fatigue” I hear you. As mentioned, I totally understand the fear of subscription-itis. Personally, I keep a list of ongoing payments to give me a better sense of control. I’m more lax with those deemed a ‘business expense’ which, for many of you, DD might be.

“Corona-induced austerity” A large part of those who selected the free version said that they’d like to support DD in the future, but currently experience financial stress. (It pains me to read this and not because I want your money.)

“Offer a DD & Offscreen package deal.” I’m so grateful to see that lots of you are (paying) Offscreen readers! There are several reasons why I’d like to keep the two apart. A main one is that I want to become less dependent on Offscreen as the main source of my livelihood.

“Do a Patreon.” Patreon serves a lot of creators well, but apart from personally disliking the Patreon experience, I generally try to avoid being exposed to the whims of large platforms.

One suggestion that stood out to me was the idea of letting a minority of paying readers support the majority of non-paying readers. In other words, keep things free and accessible for everyone by letting those pay for it who can afford it. Inspired by Kottke.org or even The Guardian, this model depends on the generosity of a segment of readers that see the benefit of avoiding a two-class system. It is less about ‘bang for buck’ (i.e. What else do I get?) than it is about helping the dissemination of content you believe should be available to everyone.

I really like this model because it aligns well with my own values as a publisher. The income from such a model would allow me to lower the cost of my sponsor slots, making it (hopefully) easier to fill them. Over time, it would lessen my dependence on advertising until it eventually could replace ads entirely. I have more to say about this in the near future. Thanks again for your thoughtful responses! – Kai

You receive this email because you subscribed to Dense Discovery, a weekly newsletter at the intersection of tech, design, and culture read by over 43,000 subscribers. Support us by sponsoring an issue, booking a classified ad, or sharing this issue with friends.


Sell Creatively SPONSOR


Swell →

Headless ecommerce for innovative brands

We reimagined what an ecommerce platform can be. Create unique storefront flows and try new business models, without building from scratch or using a patchwork of apps. Swell gives you a modern API and dashboard for getting to market faster, without thinking about backend maintenance.


Apps & Sites

GGather →

Advanced bookmarking

GGather is another great bookmarking tool. You can feed the web app through browser extensions and bookmarklets, then categorise and tag, rate and search items in various ways, as well as add notes and other details.

Fluently →

Translation management

“Fluently is an online text editor with a multilingual translator, dictionary, and thesaurus built-in.” If you’re working on any longer texts in multiple languages, Fluently provides a powerful package of tools, including a smart machine translation engine to get you started.

Monica →

Open-source personal CRM

Similar to last week’s Revere app – though produced as an open-source app, and therefore free as a self-hosted version – Monica is a ‘personal CRM’ to help your organise the social interactions with people close to you. I like its Githubby look, though I feel a bit uncomfortable with giving a personal assistant-type app a female name.

SpreadSimple →

Spreadsheet-powered online store

SpreadSimple allows you to manage a simple storefront through a Google Spreadsheet. The spreadsheet becomes the content management system and automatically syncs the changes you make to your chosen SpreadSimple template.


Worthy Five: Vishal Katariya


Five recommendations by PhD student and newsletter curator Vishal Katariya

An Instagram account worth following:

Pascal Baudar is an author, ‘invasivore’ and wild food artist.

A concept worth understanding:

Bayes’ Theorem describes how to quantitatively update knowledge when presented with new evidence.

A newsletter worth subscribing to:

Austin Kleon’s weekly dispatch is kind, clever, and full of creative inspiration.

A recipe worth trying:

Pasta with a creamy, plant-based hummus sauce!

A cause worth supporting:

Small, local farms that foster community and build resilience.




How to Be Bored →

Escape excessive busyness

This looks like a great companion read to Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing: “Eva Hoffman explores the importance we place on success, high level function, effectiveness and alertness in today’s competitive society. In a world where it is almost impossible to be idle, she draws upon lessons from history, literature and psychotherapy to help us embrace boredom and find meaning in doing nothing – to appreciate real reflection and enjoy the richness of our inner and external lives.”


Ethical Explorer Pack →

Cards to stimulate ethics discourse

I keep coming across decks of cards that aim to prompt discussions about ethical leadership in tech and beyond. This one is also available as a free download. “Whether you’re launching a new product at a startup or updating software used around the world, consider this a go-to tool for sparking dialogue, identifying early warning signs, and brainstorming positive solutions.”


Overheard on Twitter

Every generation can be summed up by which version of Hallelujah they listened to. Boomers got Leonard Cohen, Gen X got Jeff Buckley, and Millennials got the Shrek soundtrack.



Food For Thought

The Big Picture →


A fair warning: this essay will upset you. If you aren’t afraid of reading about the collapse of the Anthropocene, continue. The author Richard Heinberg describes the precarious (to put it mildly) future we face as a civilisation and explains what stage we are at in the adaptive cycle of exploitation, conservation, release, and reorganisation. Highly illuminating, but also highly demoralising.

The silence is deafening →


Some great observations here by Devon Zuegel: in digital media we lack many ways of signalling disapproval other than through the conscious effort of voicing it. “A huge part of the problem is that digital spaces generally have no equivalent of a disapproving glare. You’re stuck choosing between staying silent and entering the fray, with few options in between. If you have little reason to believe that other reasonable people will back you up, you’re going to stick with the default: silence.”

Rethink →


A BBC podcast series with lots of great thinkers offering their perspective on how the world should change after the pandemic. The format of this podcast is a five-to-ten-minute audio essay. So in each episode you listen to people reading out their own essay, including folks like Samantha Power, the Pope, the Dalai Lama, and Anand Giridharadas, whose short, six minute meditation on ‘20/20 foresight’ I really enjoyed.


Aesthetically Pleasing

❏ ❏

Photographer Amanuel Tsegaye captures the raw, human everyday of Ethiopia’s capital Addis Abeba.

❏ ❏

Singapore-based Qu’est-ce Que C’est Design has an impressive portfolio of editorial design work.

❏ ❏

Yes, they are fake. I had to look twice too. Japanese artist Wakuneco makes these fake cat heads – often on commission by real cat owners – using felted wool and glass eyes.

❏ ❏

“Symmetry, balance, rhythm and nuance combine to create a fresh, contemporary take.” I like the plain, neutral look of Anon Grotesk.



Daily Haloha is a simple daily routine to help us look inward and share outward. It starts with a single thought-provoking question to the world each day. Anonymous and uplifting.

Harpoon is the next generation time-tracking and billing software that helps you plan and forecast a profitable future for your agency. 14-day free trial.

Learn a solid design process for UI/UX design. Made for designers looking to take the next step. Join the waitlist for the Process Masterclass. Taken by over 1000 designers.

The Hinoki Essentials: 400 years of Japanese swordsmithing pedigree imbued into three new knives for everyday living. Access limited early-bird pricing now on Kickstarter.

Classifieds are paid ads that support DD and are seen by our 43,000 subscribers each week.

Book yours →


The Week in a GIF


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