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? Good times. 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.