Hi, I'm Dan Ni, curator of TLDR, Ask Me Anything!

2021-06-07
Hey guys, this is the first AMA we're doing here at TLDR, and the guest is...me! A little bit of background about me: I was the founder/CEO of Scraper API before I started TLDR Newsletter as a side project in August of 2018, and I started working full time on TLDR in March after leaving Scraper API. In the next few months I will be launching more AMAs, The TLDR Podcast, and some Twitter threads with original content (just hired a part time researcher for this!). Happy to answer any questions about trends in science, tech, and programming as well as any meta questions about the future of TLDR!

AMA Rules:
  • This AMA will be open for questions until midnight UTC on 2021-06-07.
  • All plain text links will automatically be turned into hyperlinks.
  • Please keep your questions specific and to the point.
  • Be chill, we're here to have fun!

77 Comments

This AMA has concluded.
CatalinPit   Jun 3
Hello Dan,

1. What are the most challenging things when running a newsletter so big? 2. Did the newsletter help you get more financial freedom or even quit your job? 3. What was the biggest opportunity that came your way thanks to the newsletter? 4. What would you recommend to anyone starting a tech newsletter?

Looking forward to reading your replies.
11♥   
tldrdan ⭐  Jun 3
1. Getting bigger is a huge blessing, the only hard thing is now I run into a lot of corner cases (a certain country is geoblocked from an article, or a certain email client doesn't render my email formatting properly etc.). Still, it's a lot easier being motivated when I know a lot of people are reading it! 2. This is my full time job now. 3. I'm actually going on the Modern CTO podcast today, which has over 100k listeners so that's pretty cool! 4. I recommend anyone already thinking about starting a side project and having a particular niche in mind to at least try out a newsletter, I think with a lot of big players like Substack etc. it's easier than ever to start and grow your own!
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Kdkrjr   Jun 3
Hi Dan, i really enjoy your newsletter, it always has topics that i am interested in and i love how you condense most of the info in two or three sentences! One thing I miss though is to have a discussion about articles. Would it be possible to have a discussiom forum, or maybe a subreddit, in the future?
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tldrdan ⭐  Jun 3
It's definitely something I've considered, the only thing that gives me a bit of hesitation is the moderation bit, which I don't think anyone has figured out that well (moderating big forums is essentially a full time job). I could also put in the AMA comment section I've built here under every newsletter in the archives. I've seen other newsletters run private Slack channels etc. too, it's all stuff I'm considering!
4♥   
Kdkrjr   Jun 3
Nice to hear! A subreddit would offload the moderation part into reddit's hands, and I am sure you would find moderators on a volunteering basis.
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tldrdan ⭐  Jun 3
It was already something I was considering so now that I know people actually want it I'll definitely put more thought into how to do this!
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jenniferforjoy   Jun 3
This subreddit would be the thing to make me finally use Reddit
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Paul   Jun 3
How much Daily effort is it for you?
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tldrdan ⭐  Jun 3
I've hired a writer for the summaries so I am primarily working on coding stuff for the backend (like the AMA site we're using now) and curating the links (which takes about 30 minutes a day now that I have all of my feeds set up fairly well).
4♥   
Paul   Jun 3
Do companies (want to) pay you to link to positive articles without indicating it as advertising?
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tldrdan ⭐  Jun 3
I make it pretty clear to companies that all paid articles will be labeled (Sponsored), they've never had a problem with it!
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Paul   Jun 3
Do you read all the recommended articles? Do you try the recommended software?
6♥   
tldrdan ⭐  Jun 3
I read the articles and try the software that I can (I actually don't program in every language, I'm mostly just NodeJS/Javascript but if they have a demo site I'll play around with that). I also use Vim, so some of the stuff I can't test like VSCode plugins I'll have to read comment sections to make sure they're working fine!
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danielbentes   Jun 3
How do you research and decide what to include in the TLDR Newsletter?
6♥   
tldrdan ⭐  Jun 3
I read articles in my various feeds and aggregators I have set up, and I use the "would I forward this to my friends" test to determine what goes into the newsletter. Sometimes I'll ask my friends "which of these two is the most interesting" if I can't decide.
5♥   
jenniferforjoy   Jun 4
I usually share at least one thing from each day to my friends so that's a solid test! 😁
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RickB   Jun 3
Dan, your newsletter regularly provides articles that can be shared with friends and business colleagues. The diversity of content is awesome. I send out articles and encourage people to sign up. Thank you for creating this service. We are interested to know the event that caused you to get started. Was it a single event? A series of events, over time? Another newsletter you found valuable?
6♥   
tldrdan ⭐  Jun 3
I was actually reading about The Skimm (a daily newsletter for women) a few years ago, and thought to myself that it would be cool to do that for the tech crowd! I was also slogging along on a SaaS company at the time, and wanted a project that I was actually passionate about and enjoyed doing. It's crazy that after 2.5 years I'm finally full time on TLDR!
3♥   
CLB   Jun 3
How long does it take to put an issue of TLDR together?
5♥   
tldrdan ⭐  Jun 3
Roughly 30 minutes, a lot of my day to day recently has been building the backend for AMAs that you see here and setting stuff up for the podcast. I think in the next few months I'll start thinking about how to add more community features!
4♥   
Maddy   Jun 3
What kind of tools do you use to scrape for articles or alerts to stay on top of all the events, conferences, product launches etc. happening around the world everyday that are candidates for including in the newsletter?
5♥   
tldrdan ⭐  Jun 3
I use a combination of RSS feeds and aggregators to stay on top of all of the news, if I find something particularly interesting that doesn't show up in a lot of sources, I will look around to see where else I could have surfaced that article from and subscribe to them as well. Twitter is an underrated place for finding cool timely stuff!
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Paul   Jun 3
Not a question: It would be nice to have a Twitter link below each article item to click and retweet or comment
5♥   
tldrdan ⭐  Jun 3
That's an interesting idea, I need to think about the best way to have a "Discuss" functionality for the articles whether it's a subreddit, Twitter link, Slack group, or native comment section.
2♥   
omnitheorist   Jun 3
Any tips on running a newsletter on a low budget?
5♥   
tldrdan ⭐  Jun 3
Substack is free for free newsletters and https://sendy.co/ is ridiculously cheap!
3♥   
tldrdan ⭐  Jun 3
test post, please ignore
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Eri   Jun 4
Love the newsletter! Keep up the good work :) What technologies are you using? (for your newsletter, aggregators, AMA site, etc)
4♥   
tldrdan ⭐  Jun 7
The website is all custom (NodeJS/Express, jQuery, and Bootstrap), I use EmailOctopus for sending the newsletter.
1♥   
David   Jun 3
What happens to BTC and the blockchain once we reach (legit) quantum supremacy? Say it happens before all the coins are mined. Can the network be retrofitted with a quantum-resistant cryptosystem?
4♥   
tldrdan ⭐  Jun 3
My understanding is that it will be retrofitted to be quantum resistant, but I don't have a good sense of the implementation details of doing so.
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Aida14   Jun 4
I read somewhere , we dont need to fear the quantum hacking , because when it happened , the regular security system is f*cked up too
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LearningforLife   Jun 3
Hi Dan, I love the newsletter!! Would you ever consider adding a "medical developments & innovations" section? Thank you!
4♥   
tldrdan ⭐  Jun 3
This is definitely something I've considered as a "maybe someday" thing, I would definitely have to hire somebody with the proper background to write it. I do own the domain tldr.bio so never say never!
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jenniferforjoy   Jun 3
Hi Dan, I love the newsletter and send bits of it to my friends frequently as I learn. Do you see particular sources come up frequently as your most trusted ones? What are your standards for including content (verifying validity, limiting bias, etc)?
4♥   
tldrdan ⭐  Jun 3
I always try to verify stories from multiple sources, and after that I'll pick the sites with the best details and formatting (sometimes one site with have an interesting detail another site doesn't, and I always try really hard to not have popups, paywalls and autoplay videos). Reuters, The Verge, and Engadget tend to be pretty decent.
3♥   
Greg   Jun 3
Love TLDR

How do you source all your news articles and information? How do you find out about them?
4♥   
tldrdan ⭐  Jun 3
I've gotten pretty good over the years at putting together the right set of feeds and aggregators. If I see a story that is interesting that didn't pop up in my normal set of news feeds that I scan, I'll check to see how I could have found it and add that into my routine. Usually after I find an article I'll find the best formatted version of the story with hopefully no autoplay videos, popups, or paywalls.
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Greg   Jun 3
Thank you!
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NorbuTLama   Jun 5
Hi Dan, No question here just sending you love for the awesome newsletter which is super concise and fun to read and keep up with. Thanks!
3♥   
tldrdan ⭐  Jun 7
Thanks for the kind words!
1♥   
Huzbi   Jun 4
Hey Dan! I wanted to ask, how long do you think this scarcity for graphics cards and other stuff is gonna last?
3♥   
tldrdan ⭐  Jun 7
Probably for the foreseeable future since crypto prices are so high! I'm kind of hoping some of the cloud GPU style gaming platforms end up being good to solve this issue for gamers.
2♥   
Huzbi   Jun 7
Wait something like cloud GPU is possible?! I mean, graphics do get better consistently and something physical can handle it as far as I know. But if that's the case, I guess cloud GPU might be cheaper
2♥   
tldrdan ⭐  Jun 7
Yeah, stuff like this: https://www.nvidia.com/en-us/geforce-now/
2♥   
xii   Jun 4
Thanks for the tech news Dan. Always excited to wake up to how the world is drastically changing. Question: What are your favorite movies? And which tech/hacker/AI films can you recommend? Cheers
3♥   
tldrdan ⭐  Jun 7
I'm glad you like the newsletter! As far as sci-fi/tech movies go my favorites are Interstellar and Edge of Tomorrow, Mr. Robot is great too!
1♥   
IkDaniel   Jun 3
Hi, Dan! You've got such a cool newsletters. 1.How would you suggest I learn the math required for Deep Learning. 2.How do I not get depressed about something I'm working on not working out. 3.What programming language did you write your newsletter service in. Thanks!
3♥   
tldrdan ⭐  Jun 3
1. I don't personally have a good enough Deep Learning background to say, but I think the libraries for deep learning in PyTorch etc. don't actually require perfect understanding of the underlying math. 2. Most things you do won't work out, but a few will and in the long term it only matters how many successes you have, not how many failures. Most successful people you see today have many failures in their past. Keep taking shots on goal and eventually something will work out! 3. I write my backend stuff in NodeJS and my front end stuff is just Bootstrap and jQuery.
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IkDaniel   Jun 3
Thanks so much, Dan 1. I know about PyTorch, but I am trying to go into research and I feel the math's really important. I'm 13 btw. 2. That's really true. 3. Cool. I don't really have experience in NodeJS, but I use Flask. Thanks for the reply!
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Joaco   Jun 3
Hi, dan! are you interested in getting your newsletter to other languages?
3♥   
tldrdan ⭐  Jun 3
This is a great idea, would need to find someone I trust to do the translations though. Have also considered putting the newsletter on WhatsApp and Telegram for a more international audience but I haven't had time yet!
1♥   
magmatic   Jun 3
Dan, do you pick stories based on what you personally find interesting, or on what you think your readers will like?
3♥   
tldrdan ⭐  Jun 3
I started out with stuff I found interesting so now I have readers who like the same stuff as me! I do check the click rates on various articles as a guide to see what people are interested in, so it's a bit of both.
3♥   
Pepperfly   Jun 3
How do you decide what to curate? Are you thinking about adding any other topics? I'd like to see something in the realm of humor, like weird and whacky, when life gives you lemons, fails, or something else unique and original that's worth a chuckle. Thanks for giving us a great shortlist of important reads to start our day off with!
3♥   
tldrdan ⭐  Jun 3
Over time I think most of the stories I found interesting ended up falling into the four buckets (big tech, science & futuristic technology, programming, and miscellaneous). I am not personally great at finding super funny stuff on command, but I love Reddit's /r/programmerhumor and @iamdevloper on Twitter, probably my two top sources of memes!
3♥   
xii   Jun 7
Thanks for doing this AMA. I'm REALLY looking forward to ep.1 of TLDR Podcast

A. How many more years until the last human is dead, in your opinion? In other words, how long can humans survive? B. Will teleportation be invented? Even for small objects. C. If most of America's wearhouses (e.g., Amazon, WalMart, ,...) become 90%+ automated, will that be a benefit to our economy?
2♥   
tldrdan ⭐  Jun 7
A. I think flesh and bone humans are going to be gone within a few hundred years, I think we'll be augmented/digitized beyond recognition. B. Seems unlikely! C. Automating work that's very labor intensive is great in the long run, but can be painful in the short run since it puts people out of jobs.
1♥   
sigmaleaf   Jun 6
Hi Dan, I was wondering about the effort you team puts in to verifying the legitimacy of your sponsors. What is your process of curating these sponsorships (as I find most of them very interesting, but obviously don't want to get scammed haha)? And has there been an occasion where you have regretted sponsoring a company after you had done so, either because of a change in the company's reputation or products?
2♥   
tldrdan ⭐  Jun 7
I say no to a lot of sponsors that either feel scammy or don't fit the newsletter well (last week I had a sponsor reach out about selling potato chips 🙄). Most companies that sponsor the newsletter are either publicly traded or have raised a good amount of funding from reputable VCs, so most times I will be familiar with the company even before they sponsor.
1♥   
ExpatJim   Jun 6
Hi Dan, My son will pursue becoming a software engineer upon entering college next year. What are some excellent online training resources and tools (free & paid)... that you've discovered and can recommend?

Thanks for this Q&A and your wonderful contribution via TLDR newsletter - Cheers!
2♥   
tldrdan ⭐  Jun 7
I always recommend https://www.freecodecamp.org/, it's an amazing resource and completely free!
1♥   
Damiano   Jun 6
Hey Dan! Thanks for this newsletter, probably the only one I am reading every day with interest. My question is mostly related to the "science & futuristic technology" category. Sometimes there we can find articles about apparently significant breakthroughs in some critical fields (e.g. cures for severe diseases), however before such innovations see the real world light (if ever), a lot of time can pass. Do you think it would be feasible to follow-up on some specific news after some time, updating the readers on the next steps made? Or would you simply recommend to keep track of the research we are interested in ourselves?
2♥   
tldrdan ⭐  Jun 7
If there are additional breakthroughs I would definitely try to report on them, I do a lot of sifting through clickbait articles to try to figure out what's real and what's just hype. As I get AMAs and a podcast going, I can bring on real subject experts to get a breakdown of developments in specific areas of research!
1♥   
Holger   Jun 5
Hi Dan! Love the newsletter, it's super interesting, mixes things up and ages well even if I didn't catch up for a few days.

Q1: Do you analyze clicks and does that guide your selection of articles? Q2: Is there any way to suggest articles?
2♥   
tldrdan ⭐  Jun 7
1. Yes, but only loosely, some articles you get all the value just from the summary, while others (like articles with videos or images as the primary subject) many more people with click on, so # of clicks isn't the end all be all. 2. Email me at [email protected]!
1♥   
AudioClutch   Jun 4
Are you familiar with Nikola Danaylov, of https://www.singularityweblog.com/ ? It seems you two could do a fun collaboration!
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tldrdan ⭐  Jun 7
I'm not, but poking around the site it does look really cool!
1♥   
abhikb2005   Jun 4
How did you get your first 10, 100, and 1000 subscribers? If you had to start TLDR today and grow it, what would your top idea be to grow it?
2♥   
tldrdan ⭐  Jun 7
First few were people I knew, then mostly word of mouth from there. I think if I were to start TLDR today I would be much more active on Twitter and try to grow a following that way, it seems to be the way most successful Substack writers are approaching it!
1♥   
abhikb2005   Jun 7
Thank you, that's helpful. 👍
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RFA   Jun 4
Any chance of a weekly version in the future for the people who want updates but less frequently than once a day?
2♥   
tldrdan ⭐  Jun 7
I am considering doing a weekly recap podcast to fit this need!
3♥   
Bino   Jun 4
Dan, you are an absolute legend. TLDR is by far my favourite newsletter, and I regularly share your recommendations with friends or on Slack at work: they always spark great conversations, some of them also inspired Hackathon projects! Have you ever thought about featuring in a TED Talk about the power of sharing knowledge and its positive impact on people? I'm sure that many of your readers would be happy to respond to a survey. Keep on rocking buddy!
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tldrdan ⭐  Jun 7
I appreciate the shares! I'm not much of a public speaker to be honest, but maybe I'll get better after I start podcasting regularly!
1♥   
IkDaniel   Jun 3
Hi Dan, How do you make money with TLDR?
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tldrdan ⭐  Jun 3
Sponsorships! https://tldr.tech/sponsor
2♥   

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