How to bypass annoyance with slick design and serious dogoodness.
UPDATE: DoGooder is now available for Chrome, the Brain Pickings browser of choice. Perfect combo of performance and purpose.
This week, a new report found that the average American guzzles more than 34 gigabytes of data per day. And anyone who’s ever been online can attest that a hefty portion of this comes from advertising, which, with the exception of the best-curated sites (ahem…), can be anything from a distraction to a nuisance. This has led many to the infamous Adblock Firefox plugin, eliminating ads altogether. But why take your negative experience and turn it neutral, when you can turn it positive?
Enter DoGooder, an ingenious new browser plugin for Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer that turns your ordinary browsing into donations supporting sustainability initiatives and movements — with no cost to you and no change in browser performance.
Here’s how it works: DoGooder hides all the ordinary ads and swaps them out for simple daily green tips, health and wellness ideas, and well-designed messaging for meaningful initiatives from the LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) category. Half of their profits then go to a thoughtfully curated list of charities and nonprofits — which means DoGooder has the potential to generate thousands of dollars a month for good causes.
If you’re a publisher, there’s nothing to fear — DoGooder doesn’t block ads from being served on your site, it just changes the end-user experience, so your CPM earnings remain unaffected. (Think of it as slipping a nice cover over a questionably designed couch.) If your run a charitable or sustainability-related site, you can even drop DoGooder a line and they’ll whitelist you and “exempt” your site from ad-blocking.
This is what a couple of popular sites look like goodified:
In the bottom right-hand corner of the screen, you can even keep track of how many ads have been swapped.
And if for some reason you’re particularly enamored with the regular ads on some site, you can always disable DoGooder there simply by right/ctrl-clicking on the site and selecting “Show Original Ads.” The right/ctrl-click is also the way to let DoGood Headquarters know about a good cause they should consider featuring — just select “Suggest a Cause to Support.”
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What lurks beneath the buzzwords and how to digest the hard-to-swallow.
You may recall The Story of Stuff — Annie Leonard’s brilliant 20-minute animated film, dissecting the “materials economy” and dispelling a number of sustainability myths.
This month, Leonard and her team release The Story of Cap & Trade, an equally cunning, captivating and fact-rich look at COP15′s favorite sustainability solution. The engaging, fast-paced film probes into the hidden dangers of the proposed (non-)solution, from how the biggest polluters are exploiting the system’s loopholes to why climate Band-Aids like fake offsets don’t work, and exposes the dysfunctional reverse logic at the core of the concept.
A growing number of scientists, students, farmers and forward-thinking business people are all saying, ‘Wait a minute…’ In fact, even the economists who invented the cap-and-trade system to deal with simpler problems [...] say cap-and-trade can never work for climate change.
Though in this day and age, climate conspiracy theorists abound, Leonard’s film delivers a punchy yet sober account of an incredibly complex, multifaceted and little-understood issue — all in just under 10 minutes.
We like the idea of illuminating a political buzzword, allowing us common folk to digest the hype-coated serving of headline-worthy fluff. (We also like that the film puts its money where its mouth is and “recycles” some of the Story of Stuff footage, whether or not the wink is intentional.) Because without an open social conversation, there can’t be widespread understanding, which means there can’t be widespread action. And without that, COP15 is just a bunch of suits burning up jet fuel to spend a week in a Scandinavian hotspot.
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How to be a cool and cultured polyglot of a friend and friend of the polyglot.
‘Tis the season of giving, and we have your back with curated gifts ideas that are bound to delight and enlighten with a mix of smarts, quirk and non-genericism. This is Part 1 of the three-part Brain Pickings holiday gift guide: Books. (Part 2 will focus on gifts for kids of all ages and the eternal kid, and Part 3 will give you ideas for priceless free gifts.)
THE ANCIENT BOOK OF SEX & SCIENCE
Four Pixar animators release a racy side project — need we say more?
Still, we did — here’s our full review, with a few glorious illustrations from the book to give you a teaser taste of what’s an absolute cover-to-cover gem.
Perfect for: Designers, artists, animation lovers, irreverent culture buffs, hipsters of all stripes
We reviewed it here, where you can read about the incredible story of how it came to be and see exclusive images from its pages. (It was also one of the most popular pieces on Brain Pickings this year.)
Perfect for: Lovers of photography, jazz, history, New York, vintage culture
THE VISUAL MISCELLANEUM
What makes information visualization so appealing is that it bridges so many different disciplines — design, statistics, content curation, art, mathematics — to marry them with pure human curiosity and the love of knowledge, offering digestible, intuitive insight into issues that may otherwise seem confusing, alienating or intimidating. The Visual Miscellaneum does all that and more, with fascinating and gripping visualizations of anything from global Internet trends to the most pleasurable guilty pleasures.
For a look inside and further well-deserved superlatives, check out our review of the book.
Perfect for: Those into data visualization, design, trivia; lifelong learners and the relentlessly curious
CASSETTE FROM MY EX
When a blog gets a book deal, you know it’s onto something great. And Cassette From My Ex: Stories and Soundtracks of Lost Loves is a perfect case study. Sixty noted writers and musicians wax poetic about their mixtape masterpieces and the relationship that inspired them, revealing amusing and incredibly relatable pieces of human truth in the process.
Perfect for: Music lovers, hopeless romantics, cultural nostalgics
THE OBAMA TIME CAPSULE
Regardless of your political inclinations or nationality, it’s hard to deny the incredible cultural phenomenon of Obamania. From being the first campaign in history to be orchestrated practically on social media, to helping a generation never before interested in politic find its civic voice, to making the boldest case for equality to date, it affected much more than politics and reached much further than America.
Now, author and photographer Rick Smolan (whom you may recall from last year’s fantastic Blue Planet Run, another highly recommended read) is capturing the phenomenon in a unique project: The Obama Time Capsule.
Besides brimming with amazing images by 140 of the world’s leading photographers, the book features an excitingly unusual twist: It’s customizable and personalizable.
We’re keenly aware that politics is a tricky subject. Views vary, people pout, and the concept of “happy medium” is darn near nonexistent. But look at it this way: If your mom had a personalized visual record of Beatlemania, full of vibrant vintage photographs and inscribed with her own dedication to her not-yet-born children, how priceless would that be?
Perfect for: History lovers, Obama supporters, those interested in the sociology of politics, customization addicts
Another excellent blog-turned-book, Strange Maps: An Atlas of Cartographic Curiosities features 138 of the most fascinating, absorbing and remarkable maps from the blog’s 3-year history of culling the world’s forgotten, little-known and niche cartographic treasures.
From the world as depicted in Orwell’s 1984, to a color map of Thomas More’s Utopia, to the 16th-century portrayal of California as an island where people live like the Amazons, the book peels away at our collective conception of the world over the centuries, revealing rich layers of history, sociology, politics, anthropology and pure amusement.
Snack on a few maps from the book for a taste of its brilliance in our full review.
Perfect for: Map geeks, history geeks, geeks; the chronically curious
WHOLE EARTH DISCIPLINE
Between 1968 and 1972, author and activist Stewart Brand, who helped start the environmental movement in the 60′s, published the highly acclaimed Whole Earth Catalog — an iconic counterculture compendium of tools, texts and miscellaneous information, which Steve Jobs went on to describe as the conceptual forerunner of the World Wide Web.
Perfect for: The socially-conscious, ecologically-minded, future-forward
Johnny Carrera’s Pictorial Webster’s: A Visual Dictionary of Curiosities is an absolute feat of artistry and bookbinding — a charming, chunky volume of over 1,500 engravings from Webster’s 19th-century dictionaries, cleaned, restored and curated in a captivating and unusual reference guide for modernity.
From a high-tech waterless washing machine, to low-cost prosthetics for landmine victims, to Braille-based Lego-style building blocks for blind children, to a DIY soccer ball, the book reads like a manual, thinks like a manifesto, and feels like a powerful jolt of fire-in-your-belly inspiration.
Perfect for: Design thinkers, change agents, do-gooders, those in need of inspiration and restoration of their faith in humanity
WE FEEL FINE
In 2005, visionary artist-storyteller Jonathan Harris embarked upon an ambitious project: To record the collective sentiment of the social web in a massive ongoing visualization. The project, titled We Feel Fine, soon became an icon of interactive storytelling and data visualization.
Four years and 12 million human emotions later, Harris co-authored We Feel Fine: An Almanac of Human Emotion, a remarkable and visually indulgent anthology of infographics, visualizations, and scientific observations of the dreams, passions and worries that make us human. We’ve been awaiting this book for a long time, and it more than meets our gargantuan expectations — so it’s at the top of this year’s Brain Pickings favorite and comes highly, highly recommended.
Peek inside the book’s whimsical and fascinating pages in our full review and read editor Maria Popova’s interview with Harris for Wired UK.
Perfect for: Everyone and anyone, but especially the visually inclined; fans of PostSecret; cultural voyeurs
For more excellent, eclectic and relentlessly fascinating gift ideas, check out all the books we recommended this year. And stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 of our holiday gift guide.
Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.
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