Welcome to Dull sign
Image credit: By Peter Mercator [CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons

When I started writing Interesting Thing of the Day in April 2003, the idea was simply that I’d tell readers about things they probably hadn’t encountered—or, at least, provide interesting new information about well-known things. And when choosing topics, I tried to select things that would still probably be interesting long in the future. Like, maybe for five whole years.

It’s hardly surprising that with the passage of time, some of those old articles haven’t aged well. Although I’m in the process of gradually rehabilitating older articles, a number of them are beyond hope—their topics just aren’t interesting anymore. In some cases everyone has heard of the thing by now; in others, the thing has stopped existing or the underlying facts have changed in dramatic ways; and in still other cases, I realized the story simply has no more to offer modern readers.

So I’ve decided—probably a decade too late, in some cases—to retire a bunch of those old articles. They all redirect to this page now, and I’ll add to this list as necessary. Sure, I could keep them online indefinitely for the sake of nostalgia, but I’d rather have this site reflect an approximation of the truth than be a snapshot of history.

Let’s say goodbye together to some topics that were interesting while they lasted. (Dates in parentheses are when the article first appeared on Interesting Thing of the Day.)

  • Donate-a-Click Programs: Support a worthy cause with a click instead of cash. Yeah, you can still do this in a few places, but it’s not much of a thing anymore. (April 20, 2003)
  • Twin Peaks: I’m a devoted Twin Peaks fan, and can talk endlessly about this unusual series. But—especially given its 2017 Season 3 resurrection—it’s not like the rest of the world is unfamiliar with it. (April 23, 2003)
  • Code-Free DVD Players: It’s still possible to buy DVD (or Blu-ray) players that will let you view discs from other parts of the world, but with most people getting their video via streaming services and downloads these days, there’s not much of a story there anymore. (April 27, 2003)
  • Micropayment Systems: Many people have tried and failed to produce easy, cost-effective, and popular ways to send and receive tiny amounts of money online. Success seems as elusive now as in 2003. (April 28, 2003)
  • Lightsabres: In the dark days after Episodes I-III, but long before Disney took over Lucasfilm and began reawakening the Force, some dedicated fans obsessed over how lightsabers “really” work (and why they should be spelled “lightsabre”). (May 15, 2003)
  • On-Demand Publishing: Print-on-demand books were a revolutionary idea a couple of decades ago, but now everybody’s doing them and it’s no big deal. (May 20, 2003)
  • Affiliate Programs: In a kinder, gentler age of the internet, people used affiliate programs in a virtuous way to earn a few bucks while promoting products they liked. Now such programs tend to bring out the worst in people. (June 2, 2003)
  • TidBITS: This site is still going strong, having been in continuous publication since 1990. (And yes, I’m still nominally a contributing editor.) It’s great, but, I mean, it’s just a website, you know? (June 7, 2003)
  • Cascading Style Sheets: Web designers thought CSS was the bees’ knees when it first appeared. Now it’s just part of the plumbing—nothing to see here. (June 27, 2003)
  • Weblogs Revisited: Hey, remember blogs? Sure, but do you remember not knowing about them? I do. Good times. (July 21, 2003)
  • Public Enrichment Project: A nonprofit organization that promoted fun, creativity, and community has sadly (but unsurprisingly) ceased to exist. (August 2, 2003)
  • Wikis: Back in the days before Wikipedia was considered the primary repository of all the world’s knowledge, wikis seemed like a cool and innovative idea. (September 12, 2003)
  • Wu Wei: The Taoist concept of not-doing is sort of interesting, but my lame attempt to use it as a framework to talk about this site was not. (September 14, 2003)
  • The Mega Dog: I actually wrote an article about a ¾-pound, $1.49 hot dog served at a (long-since demolished) casino in Las Vegas. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. (October 7, 2003)
  • Take Control Ebooks: This clever experiment in digital publishing was a bold idea in 2003. All these years later, it’s still very much alive—in fact, I bought the business in 2017 and run it as my day job—but now that Amazon sells ebooks by the boatload, it’s hardly unique. (November 10, 2003)
  • Social Networking Systems: Before Facebook and Twitter, “social networking” meant sites like Friendster, Orkut, Friendly Favors. Those were the good old days. (June 23, 2004)
  • Text-Based Ads: I remember when Google was trying to promote an unobtrusive and respectful approach to web-based advertising. Now that combination of words doesn’t even make sense. (November 24, 2004)
  • 3-D Printers: There was once a time when you couldn’t buy a 3D printer for $200 at your local Best Buy, and the very notion of “printing” a solid object seemed like futuristic fantasy. (December 8, 2004)
  • Moleskine Notebooks: Today, these delightful little notebooks are everywhere. Back when they were hard to come by, their story was much more interesting. (May 30, 2005)
  • Viral Marketing: Remember the Million Dollar Homepage and One Red Paperclip? Ah, lovely ideas from a more innocent era. But viral marketing has come a long way since then, and it’s no longer much of a novelty. (July 12, 2006)
  • The Fourth Anniversary of ITotD: Pretty much nothing I said when ITotD was four years old is still true or relevant. (April 4, 2007)
  • La Chose Intéressante du Jour: When Morgen and I headed off to Paris for five years in 2007, I wrote about how I thought that would affect the site. I was not entirely correct. (July 16, 2007)

It feels kind of good to clear out a bit of clutter and make space for newly interesting things.

Update (March 11, 2019)

As more time has passed and I’ve updated a larger percentage of our old articles, quite a few more have shown that they need to be retired:

  • Car Sharing Programs: Long before companies like Uber or Lyft were a glimmer in anyone’s eye, car sharing services seemed like the next big thing in on-demand urban transport. (April 4, 2003)
  • Moxy Früvous: This ’90s band from Toronto was clever and innovative, and had a huge fan base. Then it disappeared for no apparent reason, and years later one of its former members was embroiled in a high-profile sexual assault case. Kind of taints the music I once loved. (April 5, 2003)
  • White LEDs: The way white LEDs work still blows my mind, but because they are now such a normal part of everyone’s life, they hardly seem worth an article here. (April 9, 2003)
  • Personal Flying Machines: Long before anyone in the press talked seriously about a future of flying cars, the state of the art in personal aircraft looked a lot different. (April 24, 2003)
  • NextBus: There was a time when it was almost magical to be able to tell, using your cell phone, exactly when the next bus would arrive. (May 18, 2003)
  • Hoverboards: When I first wrote about hoverboards, I was talking about experimental designs that actually, you know, hovered. Now most people use that term to refer to a two-wheeled, self-balancing platform. What? (July 8, 2003)
  • The Pluto Controversy: Back in 2003, the idea that Pluto might not be a planet after all was considered scandalous. I think we all know how that turned out. (Pluto’s just fine, by the way, even if it has been demoted to “dwarf planet.”) (August 8, 2003)
  • The Evolution of Scrolling: Back in the days before the trackpads on Mac laptops even had built-in scrolling capabilities, my thoughts on scrolling mechanisms seemed a lot more insightful. (September 11, 2003)
  • A Perfect Baguette: Years before we moved to France, we had a baguette at a Paris bakery that blew our minds. But it feels a bit silly and self-indulgent to have a whole article about it. (September 15, 2003)
  • Muffin Tops: Another fad that has come and (mostly) gone, even though we can all agree that the top is, by far, the best part of a muffin. (September 21, 2003)
  • Pedometers: Apart from the fact that most of us now have pedometers built into our smartphones, smartwatches, or fitness bands, my old article on pedometers was full of mistakes about…Thomas Jefferson. Oops. (October 4, 2003)
  • Peanut Milk: This odd product, reputed to be an amazing elixir, was produced for many years at a small shop in San Francisco. The shop and the product are no more. (July 16, 2004)
  • The Kepler Mission: In the years before this planet-hunting NASA mission launched, it was an exciting prospect. The mission is now complete, and was wildly successful. (August 13, 2004)
  • The S-Curve: The unintuitive relationship between time and expertise doesn’t strike me as especially interesting anymore. (September 25, 2004)
  • Interesting Burger Joints: This compilation of an earlier series of articles on burger restaurants seems downright quaint nowadays. We get it: simple menus, high quality ingredients cooked to order. (March 4, 2005)
  • Egocasting: The notion that we can all create personalized media streams for ourselves was once a pipe dream. Now it’s just normal. (April 1, 2005)
  • Vegetable Oil as Diesel Fuel: Sure, it’s still possible to convert your diesel car to run on vegetable oil, but with the increasing popularity of electric and hybrid propulsion, it’s a lot less interesting now. (April 4, 2005)
  • Sedna’s Moon: I wrote a lot of stuff here about objects in the far reaches of our solar system, including an article about an object that turned out not to exist. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (May 9, 2005)
  • Parkour: This odd and rather dangerous sport that involves running up walls and across rooftops (among other things) was novel back in 2005, but now it’s pretty well known. (May 16, 2005)
  • Xena: Xena was the provisional name for the astronomical body now known as the dwarf planet Eris. It now has so much company in the Kuiper Belt that it’s not particularly noteworthy. (June 5, 2006)
  • Aquanomy: Water connoisseurs had their day, and that day is past. (August 28, 2006)
  • Ethanol Batteries: This technology seemed interesting at the time, but it never really went anywhere. (November 17, 2006)
  • The PB&J Campaign: Can you still save the world by eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch? Maybe, but it’s not really a thing anymore. (July 18, 2007)