Issue 52 — Building Literal with Piet Terheyden

Lee Schneider
3 min readMay 19, 2023


In the newest episode of The FutureX Podcast you’ll meet Piet Terheyden, Co-Founder & CEO of Literal. is a platform I’ve been enjoying to share book recommendations and reviews. Piet and I talk about his strategies for building the platform which includes using influencers in a way different from what you may have considered. We also talk about he and his team have shaped the platform to meet the needs of readers.

Listen Anywhere

Many smart people, like Mike Masnick of Techdirt, have written about content moderation and how difficult it can be. Getting your online audience to feel safe to express themselves while kicking out the bad people can be a full-time job for a platform creator or manager. When websites go bad (like Twitter or Facebook), their design usually starts them down the road to evil. Twitter, for example, rewards arguments. Facebook can amplify untruths.

If you examine the design of something like, Mastodon, or, you will see a design intent that subtly steers users away from arguing with each other or engaging in popularity contests. Bluesky,the new-ish platform from Jack Dorsey, echoes many bad Twitter design choices, and as a result people are trash-posting, dunking on each other, and creating what are called hell threads. For example, Jimmy Fallon recently signed on to Bluesky with a new account, and a comment thread demanding that he pay his writers ran to more than 200 (negative) comments. People don’t want Jimmy Fallon to be a union buster and they had strong opinions about it. I agree with them, but the format of Bluesky made it easy (and fun?) to pile on.

Literal, as Piet explains, benefits from a positive personality trait of readers. As he puts it, people can have strong opinions about movies and music and disagree sharply. Book lovers may have strong opinions, but they tend to like other book lovers no matter what their preferences.

Reading Pixels and Paper

I have a Kindle, Kobo, and a Kindle-loaded iPad. Guess which one I like reading on the most? Answer: None. I like books. I got a load of digital devices to read on to see how books formatted on them. When I’m preparing for a podcast interview and need to do a quick read, I will pick up a glowing device and do it there. When I read for fun, I reach for a paperback or hardcover. If I own the book, I make notes on those few blank pages in the front; it’s something like an index that I can revisit later. If the book is from the library, I use notebooks.

I also notate books digitally. Literal has a way you can photograph a section of a book and it turns it into a section you can post to the site. I often use an app called Readwise that does something similar. You take a picture of the text you want to remember and it makes a note that it will play back to you in your email or on the Readwise website. A big part of reading for me is about note taking.

Thanks for reading and listening, and I’ll see you here next week.


Where to Find the Show

Listen to The FutureX Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, or wherever the finest podcasts are distributed. I post a closed-captioned version of the podcast on YouTube.



Lee Schneider

Writer-producer. Founder of Red Cup Agency. Publisher of 500 Words. Co-founder of FutureX Studio. Co-founder of 3 children. Married to a goddess.