The Round Down, 8 Weeks In

I started The Round Down on a bit of a whim two months ago, armed only with the conviction of knowing that I’d long wanted to do an email newsletter of human-approved articles and links for like-minded people. The idea of writing/commissioning original content for such a vehicle was definitely on my mind, but seemed secondary and much harder to get started with, and getting started was priority one.

Getting YJ Soon and David Liu onboard to share editorial and news gathering duties, with David focusing on games (check out his gaming podcast, Staring at Screens), has made it possible to keep up.

Eight weeks and as many issues is enough time to get settled. We noticed an unconscious trend towards quantity, and the last few that went out had a touch too many things to look at. The initial goal was a small and unintimidating selection of links for weekend reading, nothing that feels like work, and we will be trying hard to steer that course from now on.

Thanks for supporting this project (no one has unsubscribed, yet) and if you would like to sign up to receive it every weekend, it’s free at

Learning about email newsletters the hard way, week 2

Issue 2 of The Round Down is out, but I had to abandon the TinyLetter service at the very last minute when it flagged the finished newsletter as containing spam, and refused to send it out until a human on their team could verify it wasn’t. That simply doesn’t work for our weekend publishing schedule, so I decided that relationship was over.

Although TinyLetter was acquired by Mailchimp, it doesn’t seem to share tools and services with its larger parent, which is honestly the only game in town if you want to do full-featured newsletters for no money down. I’m betting on it being more reliable and letting us do neat things like submit posts by email. Issue #2 went out without getting caught in a spam filter, so that’s a start.

TinyLetter provides a front page for your newsletter, but Mailchimp does not. I’m now using a custom domain + Tumblr for that, and that’s where old issues will go too.

One thing I wish I’d caught: a link that got corrupted in the Markdown to HTML conversion, that I forgot to fix. Rushing to set up Mailchimp and Tumblr over lunch didn’t allow time for a final check. With all other web publishing being of the instant and editable sort, and this being my first go at using email like this, it was something of a surprise that I couldn’t just reach out and edit it afterwards. Hard to keep a print production mentality when you’re writing in Google Docs.

Subscribe to The Round Down by email.

The Round Down: Issue 1

I was at Facebook’s local office earlier this week and saw a poster to the effect of “It’s better to launch than to be perfect”. Now, I can think of many examples where this approach is just dangerous, but naturally it’s different when a capable company like Facebook says it (when was the last time the site went down for a day?). For a while now, I’ve had the idea of putting out a catch-up newsletter on weekends. Somehow, I started drafting one up this week. Call it a beta. Do subscribe here, and we’ll see if this thing gets anywhere near perfect.

Thanks to YJ Soon for his kind assistance with this issue.


“A Condescending Publication for Those Who Slept Through the Week”

Issue #1 v2


Apple vs. Samsung
The patent trial of the year saw closing comments from both sides this week, and although a verdict in the somewhat esoteric case was not expected to be reached by a jury of nine regular people in just 3 days, that’s exactly what happened: in Apple’s favor. Samsung will now appeal the $1bn damages owed for their “slavish copying” of the iPhone’s software, hardware, and trade dress design.

Jury Awards $1 Billion to Apple in Samsung Patent Case


From the If-You-Can’t-Beat-‘Em Dept
Smartphones have all but replaced the traditional digital camera for most consumers, and Nikon’s latest compact camera got the memo. Powered by the Android Gingerbread OS, with a large touchscreen on the rear, it’s really a modern mobile device with better optics. Or, given Android’s openness, a camera that’s just as likely as you to pick up an infection on holiday.

Nikon Launches Its First “Smartphamera,” the Nikon Coolpix S800c With Android OS


We Save Photos on Our PCs, But Not Blog Posts
Have you gone all-in on the personal cloud? Surely the thought of all your stuff just vanishing has crossed your mind. Dave “Father of RSS” Winer reminds us that blogs, too, are impermanent. If you love what you post, don’t rely on a Google or WordPress to pay your publishing fees forever. It’s good advice, take it from someone who has Posterous sites circling the sink. The newly-refreshed looks like a good option.

The Web is Socialist, But It’s Not a Family



Do You Know Where Pop Music Comes From?
Those sticky summery earworms: you’ll still hear them everywhere, but now they’re being chosen and propelled into the charts by Facebooking young ‘uns as much as the suits from Big Radio. We’ll spare you the obligatory Call Me Maybe pun.

The New Rise of a Summer Hit: Tweet It Maybe


YouTube Pick

Dayum! A Tasty Burger Review in Song
Speaking of summer hits, the Gregory Brothers’ “Dayum” is another instant left-of-mainstream classic in the tradition of their “Double Rainbow Song”. This video takes an enthusiastic burger review (shot in the parking lot of a Five Guys) and turns it into an anthem for double-cheese supersizing.



Top Tweets

@danielpunkass: Apple celebrates $1 Billion award from Samsung by misplacing it in $100 Billion pile.

@FrescoJesus: MY FACE!!! WHAT HAPPENED TO MY FACE!!!!!! (Context)

@thewaveparticle: When I was little, I asked what my dad did at the office. He tried to explain, but I couldn’t understand him. Now, the tables are turned.

@om: Random observation: if you have to use the phrase “quadrant” to describe your policies, you are no longer a consumer company. (Context)

@willowbl00: I like to shout “have you tried polyamory” at the screen during love-dramas.


Wood for the Read Later Fire

You’ll Never Be Chinese — Prospect Magazine

Death and taxes. You know how the saying goes. I’d like to add a third certainty: you’ll never become Chinese, no matter how hard you try, or want to, or think you ought to. I wanted to be Chinese, once. I don’t mean I wanted to wear a silk jacket and cotton slippers, or a Mao suit and cap and dye my hair black and proclaim that blowing your nose in a handkerchief is disgusting. I wanted China to be the place where I made a career and lived my life. For the past 16 years it has been precisely that. But now I will be leaving.



Sign up to conveniently receive THE ROUND DOWN by email whenever fate sees fit. It’s free!