Make writing easier ✍— Wonder Tools

A surprisingly useful robotic 🤖 writing aid, read newsletters free on Kindle, and 3 notable podcasts

Welcome! 👋 I’m Jeremy👨‍💻 and you’re reading Wonder Tools, a weekly newsletter about useful sites & services that make life a tiny bit better. Reply to this post to reach my inbox if I can be helpful with something. - Jeremy

This week’s post includes:

  • 🦾 a surprising new artificial intelligence writing aid

  • 📊; two eye-opening data sites

  • 🔖 a free service for reading newsletters on your Kindle

  • 🎧 three recommended podcast episodes

Copy.ai: A robot to help you write

Generate automated text. A bunch of new services use advanced artificial intelligence to create quick text. Many use a new system called GPT-3 that can create much more readable sentences than past language generators. The field has exploded lately, as noted in a recent Techcrunch piece.

New players include Copysmith.ai, which promises “endless ideas at the click of a button. Create high-converting ads, product descriptions, emails, and more in seconds - never start from a blank page again.”

Conversion.ai, a competitor, pledges to “end writer's block forever.” Otherside AI applies similar AI tactics to writing your emails for you.

Intrigued by these grandiose promises, I’ve begun exploring these tools to see how well they actually work.

I’ve been testing Copy.ai. If you take pride in your writing, a robotic service like this one may seem odd. I was expecting it to generate robotic-sounding, stiff sentences. I was surprised to find that the text it spit out was useful.

One of the benefits is that you can quickly generate lots of relevant text. That makes it easy to then select just the bits that are most useful and edit them to your liking.

Copy.ai lets you generate headlines, blog intros, or product descriptions, among other things. Use it for things you don’t enjoy penning: marketing copy, internal messaging, or whatever else leads you to procrastinate.

After you sign up, Copy.ai has three steps. First, tell it what kind of thing you want it to write (headlines or blog post intro, for example). Then give it the name of your organization and write a sentence or two about it. It then immediately spits back multiple versions of whatever you’ve requested.

You can edit and use the text wherever you want— to create catchy email subject lines, a YouTube video description, or a mission statement.

Or use it to simplify sentences or to make them more active.

I was surprised by the quality of the automated text copy.ai produced in my initial tests. Here’s an example of some text it generated. If you’re curious about what artificial intelligence can do these days, try it for a week for free. Annual plans start at $35/month.


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📊 Data Sites

Test your misconceptions about the world

Gapminder has a neat project that aims to “Upgrade your worldview.” The site poses multiple choice questions and predicts what you will be wrong about. I was wrong about the percentage of the world’s population now living on under $2 a day. The site notes: “We have asked thousands of important fact-questions to lots of people and identified the most common misconceptions.” 

Explore data on big global problems

The tagline for Our World in Data is “Research and data to make progress against the world’s largest problems.” The site is free to use and you can even republish its data and articles. I like the simple summary data and the elegantly-designed graphics. 

📖 Read Newsletters on your Kindle

After staring at a screen all day, I enjoy reading books on paper. 📚 (I’ve been enjoying Kazuo Ishiguro’s books lately: Remains of the Day, Never Let Me Go, and now Klara and the Sun. Read his great Paris Review author interview here).

Sometimes, though, it’s nice to catch up on some of the 150+ newsletters I subscribe to — and to do so without a laptop or phone. Readbetter helps with this by enabling you to read newsletters on your Kindle device, which feels a bit more like reading on paper. For now, it only works with Substack newsletters— more services to come. It’s simple to use and free — you just forward the newsletters you want to read on Kindle to a special private email address Readbetter provides when you sign up.

🎧 Recommended Podcast Episodes

Rumble Strip
Episode: Knots and Pandemics

Rumble Strip is a terrific podcast from Erica Heilman focused not on famous people, influencers, business giants or anything trending on Twitter. It’s just beautifully-rendered interviews with ordinary people who speak with extraordinary resonance. This episode is about Clare, a thoughtful nurse who, while coping with COVID-19, also runs the Museum of Everyday Life, “a heroic, slow-motion cataloguing of the quotidian–a detailed, theatrical expression of gratitude and love for the minuscule and unglamorous experience of daily life in all its forms.” The two-minute section of the podcast at 5:15 and onward is an eloquent statement on nursing. This is typical of a show The Atlantic put at the top of its list of the 50 best podcasts of 2020.

The Happiness Lab
Episode: Happiness Lessons of The Ancients: Lao Tzu

The Happiness Lab is a delightful exploration of practical ideas on how to live a meaningful, fulfilling life. The host, Dr. Laurie Santos, who teaches Yale’s famous happiness course, somehow remains a humble interviewer.

The most recent season explored ancient wisdom on happiness with a wonderful array of experts. This week’s episode renewed my interest in Lao Tzu — I love the notion discussed in this episode of avoiding burnout by giving 80% to our work, not 110%.

Feel Better, Live More
Episode: Why You Should Change Your Lifestyle with the Seasons

I was skeptical when I first listened to this podcast, because it’s so popular and because its title sounds self-helpy. But I’ve found Dr. Rangan Chatterjee to be a likable host whose guests make physical and mental health topics accessible and actionable. Some episodes are an hour or more; I prefer the bitesize episodes — 15 minutes or shorter. At 1.5 or 1.7x speed, these highlight shows = 10 minutes.

In this episode, guest Dallas Hartwig makes a persuasive case for adapting our behaviors, diet, and exercise to the seasons, not aiming for static year-round routines.


Pick another recent post to read:

🌠 Improve your slides
🌞 Tools for a great morning
✍️ Resources for writing

🔑 … Full back catalog here

Thanks for reading. Have a fruitful day🍇. - Jeremy