The Recommendations Post
How to keep your finger on the pulse of the internet
So for something different from our normal programming: I thought it would be a fun exercise to share with you all how I write this newsletter. Specifically, all the content I ingest and then try to distill down into 1-2 posts per week of what you really need to know.
Now we all know that the only source for news and analysis of the social web you’ll ever need is Infinite Scroll. Obviously.
Subscribe now! I crave that sweet, sweet validation that only comes from you putting your email in the box!
But just in case I die in a freak accident, here are some additional great blogs, newsletters, forums and sites for keeping up with what’s going on online.
Platformer from Casey Newton and Zoe Schiffer is an outstanding source of independent journalism about what’s happening on our biggest platforms. They broke some of the biggest stories about Elon’s takeover of Twitter back when that was the hottest thing in news, and they’ve also been at the forefront of reporting on other controversies for sites like YouTube, Meta and Substack.
Recommending that you read Stratechery, like many of the items on this list, is really recommending a single person. In this case it’s Ben Thompson, Stratechery’s founder and author. Ben is one of the single most important thinkers about how technology, networks, and platforms work writing today. Period. It’s impossible to read Stratechery without having your mind blown at least once a month. The only downside is that the site is heavily paywalled, so it’s often just impossible to read Stratechery, period.
Mike Masnick’s Techdirt is similar to Stratechery, but with a slightly different focus. Mike is also a fantastic theorist of what’s happening with our social networks and the systems that undergird them. But Mike’s focus often tends more towards content moderation, government policy, the laws and court cases impacting the internet. He’s even set up his own non-profit to advocate for smarter tech regulations, and god bless him for it. Highly recommended.
Politico’s Digital Future Daily
I’m not just recommending this because they’ve quoted me several times1. Digital Future Daily is a great way to keep in touch with how the DC and Brussels crowds are thinking about the world of tech. Because it’s Politico, it’s obviously very regulation focused and has better connections to insider government figures than anyone else recommended. DFD tends to focus on the bleeding edge of tech - the metaverse, AI, crypto, wearable tech, new energy sources, etc. My one complaint is that the newsletter is at times overly AI focused at the exclusion of other areas, but it’s irreplaceable for the political side of tech.
Founded by former Vice employees, 404 Media manages to capture a lot of what made Vice alluring without the sophomoric stunts or bizarre cultural cosplaying. They do solid reporting and have uncovered scams, scandals and more at some of the biggest tech giants. It’s owned by the reporters as a collective, and it shows in the quality of their work.
Ryan Broderick’s Garbage Day is probably my favorite single source for pure internet culture analysis. Like virtually every single person who writes about internet culture, Garbage Day leans heavily to the left and engages in a lot of performative Ugh, Capitalism style commentary. But it’s also deeply in tune with internet culture and whip-smart about peeling back trends.
Today in Tabs
I don’t know exactly how to say this without being condescending, but Today in Tabs is basically discount Garbage Day. That’s still pretty good and fun! It leans harder into joke-ishness and is more freewheeling. It’s more prone to political one-liners attached to links with little commentary, and has less original thought. Still, it’s a fun read and will keep you abreast of lots of internet trends.
The Atlantic’s Charlie Warzel is a fantastic writer, and as you’d expect from a more prestigious publication his pieces tend more towards the thinkpiece-ish. The previous two newsletters are filled with very silly internet nonsense, but Warzel tries to use big tech and the social web as a mirror into how we live our lives. Almost all his pieces are worth reading.
Rebecca Jennings at Vox
Jennings doesn’t have a cute name like ‘Galaxy Brain’ for her beat - she’s just the internet culture beat writer at Vox. Despite that branding shortfall, she’s one of the smarter reporters anywhere working the internet beat . Vox as a whole is not what it used to be, but there are still pockets of the site doing excellent work (shout out to Future Perfect). Jennings is definitely one of those pockets. Whether she’s deep diving a TikTok trend or analyzing why we care so much about online celebrities, Jennings is worth reading.
A weaker recommendation than what’s above, partially because I don’t pay for the premium version of this Substack2. Embedded is somewhat heavily paywalled, so for the free version you’re mostly getting interviews and the odd essay every now and then. The interview series is very hit or miss - some of them are interesting, some are terrible. This is one of those where I don’t read every entry, but it’s worth staying subscribed to because there’s an occasional banger post.
If you want to know the dramatic shenanigans happening online, there’s no real substitute for just being online all the time. You’ve gotta be scrolling Twitter, swiping through TikToks, etc.3 But one useful tool I’ve found for keeping track of it all is Reddit - nothing quite matches niche subreddits for documenting the discourses all over the internet. These are my favorites.
HobbyDrama is probably the most wide-ranging of these subreddits. You might read about drama from the model train community, fights happening on GoodReads, or about a famous instance of forum drama from a decade ago. There’s always good stuff to find in the weekly threads.
Your go-to source for drama happening on reddit. If it’s absurd and people are fighting about it on reddit, SubredditDrama will be on the case
Celebrity-focused gossip and news. An intensely dramatic subreddit itself, and less internet focused at times. But if a celebrity did something dumb online, you’ll hear about it at FauxMoi.
Focused on Twitch (and occasionally YouTube or Kick). It’s not just a subreddit for ‘fails’ - it showcases funny or interesting clips of any kind from popular streamers. But in addition to funny clips, LSF is highly attuned to beefs, controversies and any sort of dramatic shenanigans involving streamers. It’s so popular that streamers will frequently reference it in the middle of their streams (“this is going to end up on LSF, isn’t…”)
CoffeeZilla on YouTube
Departing Reddit, one of the best YouTubers I’ve found this year has been Coffeezilla. He specializes in uncovering scams and deceptive practices, often those perpetrated by prominent influencers and online personalities.
Assorted non-internet niche blogs that should get more attention
I’ll try to focus the word on niche here, because you don’t need to me to tell you obvious stuff like “Nate Silver is a good follow for election analysis” or “Matt Levine is the god of finance commentary”. Both of those things are true! But Nate and Matt are already quite famous. Here are less famous people still worth your time:
I Might Be Wrong from Jeff Maurer
It’s politics + jokes from a jaded former John Oliver writer. It’s funny stuff and saner than most political writing.
Statecraft is a substack from the Institute for Progress that focuses on the art of actually getting things done within big bureaucracies. Incredibly in-depth and often the kind of writing that isn’t replicated anywhere else.
Asterisk is a weird, cool magazine that will publish deep dives on just about any bizarre topic. Not every article hits but almost all of them pique my interest.
Remember when Gawker was central to internet culture? Remember how even after Gawker got worse and eventually died, Deadspin was some of the best sports writing on the internet?4 Well Defector keeps that spirit going with a roster of former Deadspin writers. Actual Deadspin is a terrible, lifeless zombified version of itself these days. Defector is keeping the flame alive.
Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘Cut to the Feeling’
It’s very important to me that the entire world knows how fucking good this song is. That’s all.
Ok, not JUST because of that
My wallet can only take so much and I pay for a pretty decent number of them.
The real secret sauce is to find some really good private discord groups
And at times some of the best writing period