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Arts & Letters Daily Provides Online Resources for Humanities - 2004-09-12

Arts & Letters Daily is the handiwork of Denis Dutton, an American philosophy professor living in New Zealand. He says he wanted to create a one-stop destination where users could find links to lots of worthwhile online reading. "A lot of material is on the Internet, and it was very hard to find it, to know where to go. So I had the idea that if there was just a single page that had links to the best reading everyday on the Internet, it might be a winner," he says.

Arts and Letters Daily isn't a search engine. It has links to the home pages of leading online publications, broadcasters, columnists and web-based writers known as bloggers. But more interesting are the many, many links directly to specific articles of interest, usually with an intriguing come-on, like this one.

"Only about 10% of voters have a political belief system with defensible arguments. The rest will decide the next election."

The link to the full story is simply labeled more, so you don't know where the article was originally published until you click through. And that, says Mr. Dutton, is deliberate. "Because I want to have left-wingers, who are devoted to their left-wing publications, by mistake clicking on right-wing publications and broadening their horizons. I want to have right-wingers click on the more and find that they're at Dissent or The Nation and reading the left-wing view. I think it's much more interesting to be surprised," he says.

Mr. Dutton started the site, which is now owned by the Chronicle of Higher Education, the weekly newspaper of U.S. university life. He says that on his first day, six years ago this month, he got about 300 visitors. These days, he gets about 300,000 unique visitors a month. And they come, he says, from all over. "Well, it tends to be English speaking, but it's really spread all over the world. You find many readers in Korea, Vietnam, all over India now, and wherever English is spoken and read - in Germany, for example, [we have] quite a faithful following - we find the site does have a currency because at least it's the one place where people can go every day and they'll know there'll be something probably interesting or provocative or maybe something just to make 'em angry," he says.

Mr. Dutton and his U.S.-based colleague, Tran Huu Dung, find many of the stories themselves, but others are contributed by readers. "We get suggestions from readers every day, and often they are things we've overlooked, we haven't known about, and we use them. Readers are really very important in what they suggest because the Internet is so vast, it's not possible for two people to cover it all," he says.

The site is very friendly to those with slow Internet connections - there's a very little bit of advertising, mostly for books, but otherwise it's all text.

So for your daily fix of the provocative that may or may not make you angry - but will probably get you thinking - surf on over to Arts & Letters Daily at