#18: A Human Voice

"The One Man Magazine" + the road ahead

Happy Sunday & welcome to Issue 18!

After getting some feedback, I settled on a new format that I think accomplishes all of my goals for the newsletter. I needed something that 1) encouraged conversation, 2) required minimal thought to organize, and 3) incentivized me to dig into some tertiary goals. I landed on the following:

  1. Introduction (this)

  2. Original essay (either mine or a guest’s)

  3. X of the Week (a person, organization, and/or book to highlight)

  4. Must Reads (my favorite articles, podcasts, and other content of the week)

I’m pretty excited about this. I hope it encourages some new thoughts, conversation, and consistency along the way.

That said, #2 is going to be delayed for the week. I began writing a piece called “Think, but Think for Yourself,” focusing on how capitalism encourages ideological thinking, why that’s bad, and how a post-capitalist society would require first-principles thinking.

It’s taking me a lot longer than I thought and I don’t want to rush it, so I’m going to hold off until next week. If you’d like to read a draft, shoot me an email — would love to get some early eyeballs on it.

Without further ado…

Person of the Week: Kai Brach

Kai Brach runs two of my favorite publications, and he does it all on his own.

The first is Offscreen Magazine, a beautifully designed print magazine offering “a humane perspective on technology and the web.” The second is Dense Discovery, a similarly aesthetic digital newsletter, the quality of which I aspire to reach.

Kai reaches a worldwide audience from his home in Melbourne, Australia. I’ve been digging deep into his work, writing, and advice over the last few months, and I wanted to share a bit here:

The workflow behind Offscreen Magazine is outlined in detail on Kai’s blog. He prides himself on transparency, and he certainly walks the talk. Everything from design to printing to shipping to marketing is covered in this post, plus a lot more. All that said, Kai has become a major advocate for indie publications in general, and highlights them in his newsletter on a regular basis. Offscreen itself is a “One Man Magazine.”

Dense Discovery is intentionally designed and written to achieve Kai’s goals. In full transparency, I stole the “Book/Org/Person of the Week” segments from the newsletter directly from Kai. He isn’t the only — or the first — person to implement those types of segments, but I admire how they are direct products of his philosophy behind his publications. He highlights other indie magazines, other voices in responsible tech, other organizations that share his mission. I hope to do the same.

Design is front-and-center in Kai’s publications. Kai began his career as a web designer, and that experience very clearly carries over into all of his work. It’s a refreshing change from the white label, formulaic designs that most publications (including mine) follow.

If you enjoy the topics I cover in this newsletter, I highly recommend that you check out Kai’s work.

Must Reads

The Twilight of the Ethical Consumer. The author makes the argument that individual “ethical consumption” is not enough to force companies to make substantial, positive change. The ideas here aren’t new, but she cited a Zephyr Teachout book, and this quote really resonated:

“When progressives do fight private power, we often do so on the terms set by the right, in which one’s role as a consumer is more centrally important than one’s role as a citizen.” Teachout points out the reflexive guilt that liberals feel when we use Uber or Amazon or give our money to other “bad companies,” and notes our highly privatized response to corporate malfeasance. Our instinct is to delete our social media account instead of demanding that the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice stop mergers, hold social media companies liable for what gets posted, and break up Big Tech.

How to be an Idea Person: I’ve always been a bit too much of an “idea person,” so this essay was an interesting read. A pretty pessimistic outlook, but a productive one nonetheless:

The condition also creates a voracious appetite for a very unhealthy kind of intellectual diet: heavy on concepts, a little lighter on facts (favoring  qualitative and historical rather than quantitative and current) and rather light on how, or skills/procedural knowledge (though we are quick skill-learners as a breed, we rarely get beyond ‘amateurish’ at anything). That’s like having a congenital inclination to overeat fats and simple carbs with too little complex carbs and protein, and no exercise to integrate the protein into muscle and maintain it. Again, sufferers don’t choose that mix of cravings.

That’s all for this week! Really excited for you all to read next week’s essay. I’m also kicking off a 30 Day Writing Challenge with a couple of friends, so expect a bit more original content in the coming weeks.

If you enjoyed, please share, like, and send thoughts :)

— Jihad