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SciFly NYC // 111 // Searching for Speculative Signals

Weekly Events 1/27 - 2/2

Hey SciFly Readers!

This week, I'd like to share some of my 'signal scanning' resources with you. As I continued the IFTF's Ready, Set, Future! Intro to Futures Thinking class on Coursera this week, the instructor shared their favorite places to look for signals and I was absolutely fascinated.

I've never actually thought of my collection of 'feeds' as an apparatus for signal scanning, they have always seemed more like the proper food groups for a good speculative content diet. At the end of the day, I suppose they are kind of the same thing, although I should be better about jotting things down in one place vs. a neverending series of mobile tabs in Chrome (that I scroll through in order when I have downtime on the train) and quick Evernote clippings (that I go through 3 times a year and organize). 😂

Also, as I mentioned last week, I liked the simple framework of recording the 3 things for each signal encountered and then sharing and debating them with others.
  1. What change does this represent? From what to what?
  2. What is driving this change? What is the 'future force'?
  3. What will the world be like in 10 years if this signal gets amplified if it becomes common and widespread?

Perhaps it is time for a Signal Repository to share with the Speculative Futures global network, so we have a sandbox for ideas and worldbuilding.

However, as interesting as the idea is, as per my resolutions this year, I am simplifying! But I have given the format a lot of thought re editability, commenting & ease-of-entry, so I would be happy to chat with the idea if someone is interested in taking it on!

Anyway, I digress...

So I had the wonderful opportunity last Friday of connecting with some really cool people at an awesome NYC Futures Drinks organized by Alisha Bhagat from Forum for the Future. While we were talking, the topic of dealing with the deluge of content the interwebs has to offer came up, and I shared my process for sorting content into streams using an RSS aggregator. This is how I organize all of my great signals into cohesive categories and give myself a daily read list that makes things feel (slightly) more bearable.

Since this process is tied so closely to my daily signal scanning, I'd also like to quickly share it with you (I think I also outlined this in more detail in a previous post where I raved about KillTheNewsletter).


Doc's Speculative Signals Scanning Process aka Surviving the Deluge

Trying to keep up with all the websites, newsfeeds, and especially newsletters I care about quickly became a huge hassle, especially when I joined the PRIMER19 organizing team last year and was in charge of all of our social media posts. After PRIMER was over, I swore that I would find a better way of sorting through things I care about, and finally had a conversation with a friend about the old-school technology of RSS feeds and aggregators.

Basically, every article, newsletter, post, etc. is comprised of data like what the text is and information about media assets. links etc. A website is a kind of like a design template, or a reader for viewing that raw content in a pretty way (just ask anyone who has to deal with CSS...)

However, an RSS reader allows you to 'subscribe' to a website with regular updates (like a blog or a newsroom) and suck out that raw data content from their pages into your own interface, an RSS aggregator or reader, which formats them in a new way based on the platform. It also often allows you to categorize your feeds by topic/category.

For example, I have the categories:
  • Art
  • Design & Inspiration
  • Google & Android
  • Innovation
  • Makers & Creative Tech
  • News
  • NYC News & Events
  • Pure Tech
  • Shopping
  • Speculative
I personally like the RSS Aggregator Feedly, a cloud-based platform that compiles news feeds from a variety of online platforms and makes it easy to read through it in a format you like (on both web and mobile) as well as offering some quick-share capabilities. 

You can choose to read all of the updates per topic, or - my preferred method - get an updated digest of stuff you haven't yet read. I also like how easy it is to dismiss an item that isn't interesting, or save the item for later if you don't have time to read it right away.

When combined with Buffer, a great social media management app that allows you to post a bunch of updates to a queue and have them go out over your social media at predetermined times (e.g. 9 am, 12 pm, 2 pm, 4 pm, 6 pm) per platform, Feedly allows me to quickly browse, save, and share a bunch of content in a short window of time, all looking like it comes out over a day, or a bunch of days.

I typically do this type of stuff int he morning before work, while on lunch break, or on Sundays when I take care of my 'non-work' work, e.g. free passion-work that isn't part of my day job (like this newsletter!).

But the Arkenstone of this treasured process is KillTheNewsletter. For a long time, Feedly was working great for all the websites & blogs I liked, but I was getting drowned by all the newsletters for organizations and cool projects I had randomly signed up for. This Fall, I did a HUGE mail purge on my Google accounts and ported everything to this amazing website. It lets you create a temporary email address to subscribe to a newsletter, and then turn that email address into an RSS feed which can be sucked into Feedly. Basically, you just get all of your newsletters as Feedly feeds. It's amazing.

So, KillTheNewsletter + Feedly + Buffer is my best solution so far to manage the chaos of being interested in too many things at one time (classic Gemini)! :D

Doc's Favorite Sources for Speculative Signals

Using the process above, I have organized all of my favorite sites into RSS feeds that I can read in one place. Here are a couple of the best ones I have found with a Speculative leaning. I suppose you could say they are good for signals, or a speculative diet, your choice!

A couple of them I just found out about from the IFTF class as well, so interested to see what kind of content they stir up!

Art Design Inspiration Innovation Makers & Creative Tech NYC News & Events Pure Tech Speculative
I hope you find the list helpful, and please feel free to email me with any suggestions!!!

Also, if you want to chat more about engaging with signals more deeply as a community, join us on the Speculative Futures slack and we can make something happen (message me for an invite!).

Thanks again for listening and keep reading for great speculative events!

"The future is here, now let's distribute it." 

Doc Martens

SciFly is a design studio dedicated to leveraging speculative design and science fiction to imagine and prototype alternative futures enabled by today's emerging technology.


Monday | 1/27

Tuesday | 1/28

Wednesday | 1/29

Thursday | 1/30

Friday | 1/31

Saturday | 2/1

Sunday | 2/2

OnGoing [classes, exhibits, shows etc.]


What I'm Reading

Here is a quick snapshot of my favorite books, podcasts, and articles this week.

by A/D/O

This Marvelous Machine Splits Moon Dust Into Oxygen and Metal
by Jason Dorrier

357 Amazon Employees Launch Mass Defiance of the Company's Communications Policy 
By Slashdot

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