Imagine the world before the internet. Let's say you wanted to hear about some oldster's summer camp experience. Your options were pretty limited. Perhaps you could go to a Rotary lunch or hang out in the local diner or bar, hoping one of the people who drifted in had a story to tell. Or, you could subscribe to a magazine and trust that one of its editors would find and print a reminiscence. You'd spend a lot of time waiting.
Here you’ll find an archive of Nathanael’s weekly email. In it, he features an essay and curated reading on technology + marketing + simplicity.
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A few months ago, my wife ordered several things from Target for the kids. Since they didn't fit, she went to initiate a return. Instead of asking for the items back, Target just refunded our money and told us to keep them. As a practicer of frugality, this free stuff caught my attention. Why is it the case that for Target it was more profitable to give us the stuff for free?
My weekly email started as a way to make some use of my incessant online reading habit. Some fraction of what I read seemed interesting and worth passing along. Rather than only make social postings into the void, I thought some friends would find the good things from my stack of reading interesting. And so emerged "recommended reading" which morphed, as all online things do, into a pun, "Nathanael's Reading." But you can't give a fellow like me a platform without making him think you want a ted talk. Thank you for clicking the links and for reading the words at the top!
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I've been a train commuter during the second half of this summer. First due to real construction in the basement; then due to reconstruction (and finally finishing?) the basement office. When I time it just right, the train and bike will take an hour each way. Commutes are a top driver of unhappiness, according to the social scientists, and it's not hard to see why: knowing you'll hand over two of your sixteen waking hours to repetitive travel isn't a good start to the day. While my train and bike are on the easier (and prettier) side of a Boston commute, I still end up, all those hours later, right where I started.
Sometimes consumer technology seems like a get rich quick scheme that actually works. An engineer comes up with an application that does something nifty, some designers and marketers get involved to make it work intuitively and find its audience, and then they laugh all the way to the VC funding or big company acquisition. It seems like the scheme benefits us app users, too: we put the app on our phone, for free or a token fee, and enjoy its delights.
For about a month, off and on, we've had a plumber in our basement. Between his work, with all its noise and debris, and the Tetris-like reshuffling of our basement's stuff, the most notable result of the construction, thus far, has been me taking the train to HubSpot's office in Cambridge most days. We should also emerge with a new furnace.
As a father to three boys, I noted with some interest Richard Reeves's 2022 book about Of Boys and Men. While some people tried to use it as another silly armament in the culture wars, the book wasn't intended that way, nor did the usage really stick. Reeves was far more interested in understanding the problem boys face and straightforwardly solving it than he was in pegging the blame on anyone. (This Guardian review has a bit more on his approach.) Reeves's book was far different from most in along these lines. The people talking about any challenge faced by a group tend to be far more interested in wielding the grievance as a cudgel.
A few weeks ago, I read two wildly dissimilar books. Irresistible by Adam Alter, was one of those books that said it all in the subtitle, "The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked." Makoto Fujimura's refractions was far more difficult to discern, but a deeper work about the power of human creativity in our technopolistic age.
More than a hundred and fifty people read the weekly email “Nathanael’s Reading,” which he’s sent every Friday since 2016. Nathanael includes original thoughts and curated reading on technology + marketing + simplicity. Subscribe by entering your email here