Welcome back to the old blog. After a great summer, it’s time to get back into the habit of regular writing.
A few years ago I posted about what I read. The post got no online comments, but came up several times in conversations I’ve had since. I read a lot, in many different formats: books, articles, magazines, etc. But over the last year an interesting trend has been the rise and rise of a format many had written off (pun intended): the email newsletter. This format has an increasing share of where I spend my attention.
Interestingly, With only one exception (listed below) the newsletters I’m subscribing to are typically nothing more than collections of links, pointing out to articles across the web. In the age of info overload we’ve seen the return of the role of the editor.
I’ve subscribed to many newsletters, and unsubscribed to almost as many. Over the last year I’ve become a ruthless unsubscriber, a habit I can recommend to one and all. Newsletters is definitely a sector where quality beats quantity.
Here are the newsletters I have actually kept reading and why. I recommend all of them.
First up is Azeem Azhar’s Exponential View. Every weekend Azeem sends around a well curated list of links. The content is largely about technology trends and the economic and cultural impacts of those trends. Frequent topics include AI, transport (driverless cars, etc), smart cities, energy, and similar. It’s a good look at the cutting edge, and always stimulating. When I contrast this view of the rapidly advancing future with the mundane banality of everyday life here in Spain - despite Barcelona being regularly heralded as one of the most “smart” cities in the world - I do wonder if many of the pundits are a little too enthusiastic in their view that radical change is just around the corner, but that’s no discredit to the newsletter. As ever the future will no doubt arrive “very slowly, then all at once”. Regardless, Azeem does a great job on the curation, with some articles going deep, others listed in his “Nuggets to appear smart at dinner parties” section.
Benedict Evans’ weekly newsletter on tech is more a factual summary of key industry events with relevant links. It’s a good way to stay on top of what the tech giants are up to. Given that I spend most of my time working at the micro level with start-ups I find it’s enough to keep me informed about the endless wrestling matches of the tech giants. To be honest, I usually just scan the headlines, actually diving in to read only one or two of the underlying articles. As software gears up to eat the world, there is a lot of noise. This is a good view of the feast.
For intellectual stimulation I particularly enjoy Venkatesh Rao’s Breaking Smart. Every week he fires off I am not sure if it is a good or bad thing that I find the twitter inspired bite-sized chunk format of the newsletter appealing. It is always just enough to make me think a lot. Many bonus points to Venkatesh for also offering the content auf deutsch.
Finally I subscribe to (and donate a small amount to) the Perl Weekly. Perl is the programming language I know best, and the only one I love. I have no illusions it is at the cutting edge (though perl6 is), but there remain many people doing interesting things with Perl (for example ahem, my very own OpenCage Geocoder, or check out Ovid’s soon to be launched Tau Station game, which I’m looking forward to). The Perl Weekly is just enough for me to keep a toe dipped in the actual technical world. These days I’m much less interested in the syntax of how people do task X in language Y, and much more in the broad architectural themes - the Perl community does a good job writing about such things.
That’s it. Only these four have stood the test of time.
What good newsletters am I missing? Besonders würden mir deutschsprachige Vorschläge gefallen.