The Weekly Review

by Chris Bowler

Quartz: Daily Obsession

I’ve shared my love for a good email newsletter in the past. Until recently, most of my favorites have been put out by single publishers. Bloggers and writers who use email as an extension of their own web site. But this past week I’ve seen what I’d consider the very best use of email I’ve ever experienced.

It’s the Daily Obsession from Quartz.

For a little context, the team at Quartz has been putting out one of these daily news-around-the-globe emails for a while now, titled the Daily Brief). It’s similar to other options like the Economist’s Espresso or Dave Pell’s Next Draft. I’ve subscribed to it on and off over the past couple of years and it’s well done. It provides bite sized summaries of recent events and the best part is the writing is clever and full of wit, but without alienating the reader. It’s hip.

But this past week, the Quartz team launched something new. It’s an afternoon newsletter that, rather than summarize a bunch of topics, goes deep into one topic. It’s the Daily Obsession … and it is so very well done!

Each email is broken into several sections, somewhat like The Weekly Review. Each one has a quiz near the beginning, a poll near the end, several stats that give insight into the topic, and of course, there is a lot of information and external links for those who want to read more about the topic.

It’s the perfect form for 2017. The email itself is about the length of the daily brief, but each section on its own is short and sweet. Brevity still rules the day here. You can quickly move from one section to the next, each slightly changing the focus of what you're learning about the subject at hand. In all, you can read through one of these in just under 5 minutes, but come away with a better awareness of the email’s subject than you had going in. Excellent writing, good stats, clever headlines, funny GIFs, links to related videos … Quartz has nailed the perfect combination of content that fits today’s readers.

Most important to me is the writing: if they nailed all the rest but the writing fell short, the entire idea would fizzle. But the writing is the glue that makes this newsletter so special. From the pre-header to the footer, the Obsession is filled with copy that makes me feel raging envy. It’s like the team has their finger on the pulse of what is hip and have perfected their delivery.

Subscribe and see for yourself.


How much screen time?

For any of us with children, this is the question that will quite possibly define our generation as parents. Are we putting our children’s future in harm’s way? Or will the amount of time they spend in front of screens of any size play no significant part in how their lives turn out?

Looking forward, that’s a very hard question to answer. Obviously, there are many factors that play into whether or not someone’s life is successful. And there are many different definitions of success. But there are a few things I remind myself of whenever I ponder this area of our family’s life.

  • Look to my own behaviours. Whether or not we come to a definitive answer in our culture about “how much is too much”, I can help my children by honestly evaluating how I’m spending my own time. Remember, our children are often a reflection of ourselves. If you see something you don’t like, you're likely the one who needs to make a change.
  • Establish better defaults. I don’t simply mean that you train yourself to pick up a book instead of your phone every time you have a spare minute (although that’s a good thing to do). But when I preach this to myself, it’s my way of remembering that my motives are important. Am I picking up my phone in order to check something I care about? This gets me to asking what do I care about. Is my default motivation entertainment and pleasure? Or do I feel a broader purpose for my life? Hopefully, the answer to the last one is yes. Then I can start to ask what am I doing right now to achieve that broader purpose? What defaults can I build to get myself moving down that road?
  • The dose makes the poison. Old adages can be cliché … but often they make a lot of sense. I don’t believe that 30–60 minutes of screen time for my children is a problem provided that there is balance and useful pursuits through the rest of the day. But if I see them spending the rest of the day wandering around not accomplishing much of anything, spending all their time talking or thinking about the screen related activity — that’s when I start to worry.
  • Creation trumps consumption. Cameron Moll shared recently how they're family had to go back to the "contract" when consumption started to take first place. That's the same for our home, but we also add an emphasis that being creative away from the screen should get as much attention as being creative with a screen.

I don’t have all the answers here. But I think about this a lot. And we talk about it with them. A lot. Even if we don’t get it right, they know our worries, our own struggles, and what we value.

Hopefully that will bear fruit.