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Field Notes

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Letter to the editor

Posted on Feb 29 2020 in Letters

Hi Kai,

I wanted to send a note of thanks for the work you’ve created and shared. I’ve sticky-noted so many things in my Offscreen issues over the years. 🙂

Personally, the last year has been filled with a lot of questions and thinking about life decisions. I decided to quit my job near the end of 2019 mainly to take a break from the ASAP-ness and noise of the tech world, and now I’m in that transitional stage of looking for a new team to work alongside. Offscreen’s content is something I go back to often when thinking about my next steps.

When I was getting into the web development world in a professional sense (2015), I remember seeing ‘People Behind Bits and Pixels’ on the cover. Then Issue 16’s cover had ‘The human side of technology’ on it. There was always a focus on people and their experiences. It was a nice contrast to some of the companies I came across. When it was time to choose my first employer, I knew I wanted to be part of a company whose team valued and work exemplified traits like kindness, empathy, connection and communication. Reading the stories within Offscreen was part of that decision.

I think it’s safe to say that recently sometimes it feels quite heavy, globally. The last few issues have felt charged with a certain energy. A combination of a call to action, a call of warning, a call of urgency, a call to slow down, etc. They’re a good reminder that there are definitely things we need to change in not just tech, but as a collective society. They’re also a lovely reminder of hope for the future, and things that people have done/are doing to move the needle.

There’s a few folks I donate to/‘patronize’ on a regular basis. Every once in a while I take some time to think about why I’m supporting these people to make sure I’m allocating resources to causes I still believe in, but I never really have to think about why I’m an Offscreen Patron. It’s an automatic ‘continue to support’. I always know that I’m supporting quality – especially of the calibre and bent that we need more of at this time.

Thanks again + hope you’re well,

Letter to the editor

Posted on Sep 13 2018 in Letters

Hi Kai,

I live in Richmond, Virginia, USA which is about 1.5 hrs drive south of Washington D.C. There's a wide range of stereotypes about American's but I'm probably in line with many of the young professional male ones: thirty years old, upper-middle class white male, married to my college sweet heart, with a dog and a beautiful one-year-old little girl, in a house close enough to the city center to walk around but big enough for a yard and a couple of cars. I started my own consulting firm for digital business automation this year. In many respects, I live an unremarkable and privileged American lifestyle. However, I do my best to engage with my community and strive for positive change in the world in various ways. Medical trips serving the poor in Honduras, helping Afghan refugees settle locally, simply raising a child with love and care. Nothing game-changing but I try not to just sit on my privilege like Scrooge Mcduck. Recently, Offscreen has been an integral part of my life journey...

A community where I frequently have honest open conversations is my (Christian) church. That community consists of about one half young people – mostly liberal leaning – and one half old people – mostly conservative. It's this crazy microcosm of what's going on in America in a community of about a hundred people. We're brought together by our shared faith in God, but sometimes (like how much of the rest of the world views Christians and/or Americans) we look at 'the other side' and think "WTF is wrong with them?!?!". In spite of all this, our community has begun to acknowledge that the world is changing rapidly and society is becoming more divisive and one way for us to figure it all out is to talk respectfully and frequently with people we don't agree with. Often, people in this particular community bring secular topics to the table to discuss. In that spirit, I've been sharing Offscreen with folks and the ensuing conversations with people have been deeply moving.

Some highlights of conversations involving Offscreen:

The Jocelyn K. Glei interview might have changed dozens of people's lives in just my own community. Mind you, almost all of the folks in this group of Americans have zero familiarity with the whole world you live in as you daily reflect on technology's impact on society. So when you drop into the lap of the average technology-addicted and attention-enslaved American this incredibly insightful discussion on technology and how it impacts us, it's like this veil is lifted. I shared my copy with a usually exhausted mom who works at a bank and when she gave it back to me the next week she said she cried because it all cut to the core of so many problems she's been trying to sort out.

My pastor has an amazing gift to connect with our diverse perspectives each Sunday. While some people picture preaching as some judgement-day holier-than-though speech, his are pretty much like weekly TED talks with Christian themes woven throughout. You might find it interesting that he's indirectly drawn from Offscreen about a half dozen times this summer alone to highlight various points about slowing down. A few times, he mentions the "Day in the Life" stories highlighting how slowing down helps us open our eyes to the right way to care for ourselves and treat others with kindness.

Personally, I think the big take away has been that you are collecting content which people are thirsty for as they try to navigate such a rapidly changing world. I've yet to share my copy with someone and it not result in this crazy deep reflective conversation with them afterwards. Even folks who are much further right politically than your interviewees (or even the overall voice of the magazine) are able to have the core messages resonate.

I'm sharing this with you because I think it's important for you to know what your doing is advancing humanity. Even if it's just in this tiny stereotypical pocket of America, the work you are doing forces meaningful conversations and healthy reflections at a grassroots level. It is breaking outside of the bubble of your peer and professional network and is actually penetrating into the society that feeds the beast needing to be tamed.

Thank you,

Letter to the editor

Posted on May 02 2017 in Letters

Dear Kai,

Thanks for the speedy delivery of the three issues of Offscreen. I’ve just finished issue 14, now going through 13 and I already feel thankful for what they have done for me. It immediately convinced me to subscribe.

I started out as a graphic designer with a ‘focus on web’ 18 years ago, and then worked at a design agency, before becoming an entrepreneur 10 years ago. I’ve grown up along with the web – learning new tools and new ways of thinking, and incorporating it all into what I offer my clients.

Along the way I’ve lost my interest in design-focused magazines. More recently, I have been on the lookout for something that was more in line with my point of view, something that would enrich my thinking as an entrepreneur. And Offscreen is the perfect fit. The human perspective, the background stories with all the ups and downs really motivate me to continue chasing my dream to create products that help and inspire others.

Thank you very much for that!


Letter to the editor

Posted on Apr 18 2016 in Letters

Dear Kai,

I would like to say ‘thank you’ for the amazing work you have been producing throughout the Offscreen journey. About a year ago, out of frustration, I had decided to give up my PhD programme, but browsing again many of the fascinating human stories in past Offscreen issues was one of the factors that convinced me not to quit and keep going. (The main factor was the that my parents offered to move across Europe for a few months to live closer to my wife, myself and our little daughter and help us take care of the little one so I would focus on my research and writing – showing yet again that basic human support is vital for much of what we do in life).

My dissertation is about stories and struggles of common web users and hackers who try to take back control of internet technologies from big web companies and governments, and who lovingly (and with heartbreaking dedication, given the disparity of powers at play) hack on stuff that adds humanity back into technology. Although this is largely based on my own ethnographic fieldwork, I have drawn incredible inspiration from many of the stories found in my collection of Offscreen magazines – one of the most cherished sections of our bookshelves at home.

I’m now very close to submitting my dissertation – just one month left for final polishing and endless, clenching doubts about how it will be judged by my examiners. But whatever happens, even in the gloomiest scenario of a fail, I’m delighted and proud of what I accomplished this past year, having seen a whole book come to life page by page, day after day from what wasn’t much more than a bunch of random notes and disconnected thoughts just over one year ago. And throughout this journey I felt so much love for the stories of dedication I came across through my own interviews, through the stories in Offscreen, and the many blog posts and inspirational talks by hackers and web folks who increasingly speak out about what makes this work so important for a democratic and open internet.

Your blog posts about the behind-the-scenes of Offscreen and sharing your own fears and doubts have also been important both for my research (some of your thoughts on gender imbalance are cited in my dissertation!) and for my efforts to grow a tiny web agency I started with a dear friend of mine.

Thanks, Kai!


Magically these appreciation bombs drop into my inbox whenever I need to hear something positive. There is nothing more I love about my job. Thank you, Andrea!

Letter to the editor

Posted on Dec 08 2015 in Letters

Hi Kai,
hope you had a great weekend and an awesome day so far! I wanted to drop you a message to say one thing. Thank you!

Lately I have been struggling a lot with anxiety and depression. The everyday life in running a company is not always easy and the temptation of giving up is, sometimes, really strong. The last couple of weeks have been awful. Even just waking up, coming out of bed and drag myself to the office. This is not what I wanted from life. This is not what the people I look up to do.

During these pretty bad weeks a thing kept me afloat. Reading Offscreen.

Your magazine has been one of my favourite readings since I discovered it a couple of years ago. This week it was my safety net. A window to a world to look up to and get inspired from. Your articles and interviews boosted my morale and gave me the motivation to pick up the pieces and start taking care of myself again.

The stories of success you tell are always realistic, they show the struggle to get there, they show that a mindset oriented to excellence pays off. This was super important for me. Calmed down my anxiety and gave me the strength to get back to my fights.

I just wanted to thank you. To tell you that you are making a difference in my life. A positive one. A massively positive one.

I am gonna buy the issue 13 today (I am catching up, sorry). Can’t wait for it.

I can imagine it’s hard work to run the magazine, but please do keep it up! You have something amazing in your hands. You are showing a good example to a lot of readers like me. Hopefully, some of us will be talented enough to make a difference in this world and it will be because of you.

Sorry for the super long mail. I never write this kind of fan boy emails, but this time it was important to me.

If you’ll ever need a hand with something, with the magazine or other projects, feel free to get in touch. I’ll always owe you a big one.

Have a great rest of the day,

This. This is why I do what I do. All the best to you, Simone! And thanks for sharing this heartfelt message with me/us.