Ex-Gizmodo Editor Founds The Wirecutter, a Whole Earth Catalog for Gadgets

By Alexis C. Madrigal

It is a problem anyone who buys technology faces. There are so many new products in every category that you're paralyzed trying to buy any one thing. Brian Lam, former editor of Gizmodo, has launched a new and admirably restrained site called The Wirecutter. The conceit is to provide a very slowly evolving list of the best gadgets around. Instead of following the micromovements of the gadget world, The Wirecutter will surf only the biggest waves. It's not organized as a blog, in reverse-chronological order. Rather, it's a catalog in which every item is awesome.

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For me, there are obvious parallels between the new site and the Whole Earth Catalog, which Brian cannot help but have picked up by osmosis being both a surfer and a Bay Area guy. The Whole Earth Catalog's stated purpose was to provide access to tools that aid the "power of the individual to conduct his own education, find his own inspiration, shape his own environment, and share his adventure with whoever is interested." This is, essentially, what Brian is doing with The Wirecutter, just with a very modern set of tools and a very practical filter.

A big difference, though, is that the Whole Earth Catalog provided mostly cognitive tools. A big chunk of what the Whole Earth catalog editors highlighted were just ways of thinking about stuff. I can understand why this version of the site is focused squarely on gadgets. But I hope that as the site grows and evolves, Brian starts to add some of those other kinds of tools. The site's tagline is "Tech as Magic." I'd extend a corollary proposition, "Ideas as Tech." Or to finish the thought: Ideas as Magic.


This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/10/ex-gizmodo-editor-founds-the-wirecutter-a-whole-earth-catalog-for-gadgets/246054/