Thursday, October 14 2021

Dive In


In an instant you go, ‘Whoa, that’s death.’ That’s what I saw.

That’s how 90-year old William Shatner—best known as Star Trek Captain James T Kirk—described the experience of going from the blue sky to the utter blackness of space. Shatner hopped on a ten-minute flight in Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin spacecraft—becoming the oldest person in space. He also told Bezos: “What you have given me is the most profound experience. I hope I never recover from this. I hope that I can maintain what I feel now. I don’t want to lose it.”


Stuff to check out: The latest episode of the splainer podcast ‘Press Decode’ offers a lively discussion of all kinds of conflicts—between tigers and humans, and the Chinese and their dancing grannies. Be sure to head over to the IVM website, Spotify or Apple Podcasts to listen to it.

A big reminder: We will be taking Friday off for Dussehra/Navratri—and will see you again Monday morning!

Big Story

A Navratri special: From splainer to you

The TLDR: Since there isn’t a big headline today, we are taking the opportunity to have a brief conversation with you—which includes unveiling our festival specials, introducing ourselves and our new features, and answering your most frequently asked questions. 


Before we start: Be sure to take the splainer survey. It helps us better understand who you are—no personal information required—how you read us, and what’s working and what is not. It is a 10-minute exercise almost entirely made up of multiple choice and checkbox questions. Taking that 10 minutes to fill it out is a huge help to us! Please fill it out here


First, the goodies!

A free month of splainer: We have long offered free one-month subscriptions to our founding members—which they send as gifts to friends & family—as our ‘thank you’ to them. From now through Diwali (November 7), we are giving every splainer subscriber the unlimited power to give a free month to anyone you like. Hey, you can even share it on WhatsApp groups, social media or anywhere else. All you have to do is share your unique referral link which you can find at the bottom of your email or on your account page:


A very big discount: Until November 7, we are also lopping off Rs 500 off our annual subscription—and offering it at the low, low price of Rs 1000. But that discount is available, again, only to the splainer extended fam. 


  • You can offer that big discount to your near and dear ones by sharing your unique referral link.
  • You can gift a yearly sub to your near and dear ones at that discounted rate of Rs 1000. Just head over to the ‘subscribe’ page.
  • Coming next week: You will be able to add 12 months to your own subscription at that discounted rate. Why should you be left out, right?


Want a bulk/family discount? If you plan to gift splainer to eight or more people, be sure to email us at talktous@splainer.in.


A gift for splainer: If you’re feeling a lot of love for splainer this festival season, please become a founding member. It helps us grow faster, support our tech development—and above all, stay independent so we don’t have to hustle for partnerships or investors who don’t match our values. 


Now a little bit about us....

Why we exist: Splainer is born of a simple insight: The news environment is overcrowded and noisy—and filled with clickbait and misinformation. Our word for this problem: news pollution. It’s hard work these days just to stay well-informed. We do the work of sifting through the rubbish and noise to bring you the most credible, important and interesting news—so you don’t have to. And we do our best to ensure that consuming the news is an effortless, enjoyable and healthy experience—every day.


The big vision: Our goal is to build splainer into a truly global product that serves 40 million Indians everywhere. Our dreams are big and also very achievable!:)


What are our values: We strongly believe in a set of core democratic values—including equality, equity, inclusiveness and personal freedom. These values shape our editorial judgement and our mission. We also believe that democracies cannot thrive when citizens do not have good information. We are therefore deeply committed to bringing you the best available facts—not opinions or ideological tirades. 


Point to note: Splainer is not in the business of telling you what to think. We have far too much respect for your intelligence and judgement. And we have no loyalty toward or preference for any politician or party—anywhere in the world. But we do believe that anyone in power must be held accountable for how they govern all of us. Again, that’s a core democratic value.


Who funds us: This is always a good thing to know about any news product you use. Our first twelve months were entirely revenue-funded—i.e. supported by our founding members and your subscriptions. We recently raised a small angel round consisting of three investors—all of them subscribers who really believe in splainer. These funds paid for a recent slew of tech features—including the app. We are in the middle of raising more. If you’re interested in being part of the splainer story, please email our founder, lakshmi@splainer.in.


About your questions…

Over the past months, we’ve received many questions from our subscribers—and a lot more issues were raised in recent survey results. Here’s what people want to know:


What’s with the app? People have been puzzled why we need an app for a single daily news edition. Here’s why we created one for you—and why you should shift to it:


  • A one click experience so you don’t have to navigate to the website via a link.
  • No need to search for the latest edition in your inbox or WhatsApp.
  • No more issues with browser cookies that force you to log into the website each time.
  • You don’t have to worry that your email server has put the latest edition in spam.
  • Say goodbye to the long scroll. The sections have been divided up to let you effortlessly hop between them using our trusty dog Khabri or the forward button.
  • Your request for a swipe feature for navigation and is on our list for future development.
  • All splainer content is at your fingertips—including all the good stuff we hope to roll out in the future.
  • OTOH, we don’t have offline viewing because it messes up the YouTube content in the edition—which simply doesn’t load even when you’re on WiFi.


Very important point to note: Our app is not built to spy on you. We do not collect personal data—except the aggregated kind that tells us how many read us, how often etc. We also do not sell your personal information to any third party. And we send only one daily notification when the edition drops.


Where is my iOS app? It was held up for a few weeks due to a glitch on the Apple side. We will definitely roll it out before Diwali. 


Why can’t I just get it in an email? A number of people just want splainer as an email newsletter. To which we always say: We are a paid product and have to enforce some kind of paywall. It’s quite astonishing the lengths people will go to avoid paying a modest subscription fee. 


Why is there so much content? This was one of the big triggers for our survey (which you please must take). Turns out the vast majority are very happy with what and how much we offer. So we’re afraid you are part of a very tiny minority—so far.


Where’s my weekend edition? Our team is made up of three full-time employees and two trainees—who typically spend two months with us. We work six days a week: Saturdays are off, and we check back in on Sunday for the Monday edition. So until we raise a big chunk of money to expand our team so we can work in shifts, a news-driven weekend edition is simply impossible. But we are working on a different kind of weekend special which we hope to roll out in the coming months.


Why isn’t there a man on your team? Lol! Well, we started out as an all-woman team, and have stayed that way. We likely will add men to our fam as we expand the team in the future. 


The bottomline: is that we are proud of the personal relationship we have built with our subscribers—which is based on trust and communication. And that relationship will always be our lodestar as we move toward a bright future. It will always be you who makes us bigger and better.


Headlines that matter

The mystery of wisdom teeth solved!

Scientists have finally figured out why we grow these highly inconvenient teeth only as adults. The reason: Our jaws grow very slowly because we live longer than most animals. But we also have shorter faces:


“And that means your jaw needs to be developmentally ready to have teeth all the way at the back of our mouths nearest the joint. If wisdom teeth emerged earlier, the molars could actually damage the jaw they’re growing out of.”

Of course, this doesn’t tell us why we need to grow wisdom teeth—unless it is to finance the field of dentistry. (Popular Science)


Lego’s move towards gender neutrality

Lego is making a big move toward gender neutrality—and will stop labelling its toys as “for girls” or “for boys.” It is a response to results of a global survey conducted by the company—which found that both parents and children are still clinging to gender stereotypes: “Let the kids decide what they want to play, how they want to play with it and how they want to express themselves.”  (Washington Post)


Deciphering the ‘slut’ in Steinbeck

The word ‘slut’ is scrawled at the end of the manuscript for John Steinbeck’s epic novel The Grapes of Wrath. It was a big mystery for experts who wondered if someone had defaced the document. But Swedish scholars have finally cracked the mystery: “It is the Swedish expression for ‘the end’, used on the last page of all kinds of books, especially children’s books.” As you can see below, it is a rather large and impressive slut lol! (The Guardian)



In today’s edition

Sanity Break

  • A stunning—though highly controversial MF Husain painting that shows Hanuman and Ravana, with Sita sitting on his thigh.


Weekend Advisory

  • Good stuff to watch this weekend
  • A long list of good reads

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