What do I get with Eight by Seven?

This newsletter started as seven columns every eight days, by a long-time blogger who is also a professor of history at Swarthmore College. (The name also happens to be how old I was in 2021 when this started, so I marked this transition into a new platform that way.) It’s not quite as regular now, but Eight by Seven sticks as a title anyway.

Monday: Gastrodome (Cooking, whether with cookbooks or otherwise)
Tuesday: The Photo
Wednesday: The News
Thursday: Academia
Friday: The Read, The Re-Read, The Play, The Watch

Want to find out what I cooked recently? Read over my shoulder in the latest book I’m working through? See me puzzle through an old comic-book or engage the latest in academic controversies? Get my take on the news, at a distance from the news cycle?

Subscribe and you’ll get it all, straight to you.

Subscribers get all the material and access to the comments. I try to keep a lot of the content public, but there will be subscriber-only columns, perhaps with more frequency in the future. You’ll be helping me to sustain and extend the range of the material I provide here. If you were a long-time reader of Easily Distracted, it’s a way to keep reading what I offered there with some new twists.

Why not just continue Easily Distracted?

When I first started Easily Distracted, it was easy to write as I pleased, when I pleased, about whatever I felt like writing about. Blogs were new and few. As with every other transition in online culture, a lot of the baggage and difficulties of previous platforms from bulletin boards, pay services like GEnie, Usenet, LiveJournal and so on were briefly sloughed off and new conversations opened up. Early blogging was mostly unmonetized, which seemed like a positive feature until online writing began to seriously undercut the willingness of audiences to pay for news, analysis and commentary in existing or possible publications, online or in print.

The title of Easily Distracted was always as much a confession as a description, and I’ve arrived at a point where I need to make structure for myself and stick to a schedule rather than compose my online and long-form writing on impulse.

It’s more than that, however. Writing on impulse in 2005, you could still have original or otherwise unexpressed thoughts on the events of the moment. In 2023, social media is crammed with participants who are operating on platforms that funnel their thoughts into echo chambers and battlegrounds while their data is harvested. It’s a much more frightening space for any active online writer, while at the same time social media feels more indispensable than ever to being part of public culture, being connected to friends and allies. More importantly for me, it feels almost impossible to think reflectively, to process the news and culture of this moment without being driven into repeating or repudiating hot takes that bubble up out of a 24/7 economy of attention. Writing about anything as the impulse strikes me now feels like an act of surrender to the impulses of algorithmically-mediated crowds.

So I’ve built a structure here at Eight by Seven. You get one take on the news a week, usually on the same day. It might be about something that’s just happened, it might be about news that Twitter boiled over about six days ago and has long since forgotten. You get all the things I’m interested in, but not (mostly) as dictated by the controversies of the last fifteen minutes. That’s good for me as a writer, and I hope that what’s good for me will be good for my readers.

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Organized distractedness: regular doses of history, politics, photography, cooking, academia and geek culture.


Professor of History at Swarthmore College