Wednesday, June 19, 2024

The evolution of the blogosphere into Substack

On the HBO show Silicon Valley, there's a pivotal moment when VC funder Monica confesses to the protagonist, Richard, that, to her enduring shame, she "passed on Slack," costing her company potential billions.

"I mean, what is it? Is it email? Is it IM? I just don't get it."

"Turns out what it is is a $3 billion dollar company, and I passed on it."

That puzzled image of Monica? That's me with Substack.

  I've mentioned substacks a few times here, but what are your thoughts on them?

What I've learned so far: A substack is an email newsletter that you subscribe to. 

It's like a blog, in that it has a website and you can comment. 

It's not like a blog in that you have to pay for it, usually $60 a year and up, mostly.  Some are supposedly free, although most that I've tried to read has the familiar "subscribe to read more" sticker about a paragraph in. 

It's free to create and write a substack, and Substack provides the platform and an app. Remember the olden days of RSS and bloglines and Google Reader? It's like that.

Remember listservs? It's sort of like those, too.  Like Monica, I'm grasping for analogies.

Substack's had its own problems with content moderation and catering to--let's call them unsavory movements, so many people apparently left the platform.

I've subscribed to one (an academic acquaintance's) and have read several others & the comments. It's a nice community, no question, but it's still a bit puzzling.

Are the posts thoughtful and interesting and well-written? Yes.

Are they more thoughtful and interesting than most blogs, especially at the height of the blogosphere (around 10 years ago)? Not really, because there was (and is, for you stalwart bloggers) always interesting and fresh content to be had in the blogosphere. 

Maybe it's just the natural progression--Cory Doctorow calls it the "enshittification"--of monetizing what was once free on the internet so that someone could make a buck. Case in point: every single link here (except to this blog) will flash you a "subscribe now!" panel after a paragraph.

It seems unduly harsh to say that about the lovely Substackers I've seen, though.

So I'm having a Monica moment here: I don't get it. Your thoughts? 

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Random bullets of June

  • Still plugging away and making good progress on the long-term project that must get done this summer. 
  • Still not going to fabulous places and conferences because to do so would seriously impede getting this work done. 
  • It's easier to concentrate because I can skip most of The New York Times and The Washington Post, since they are working overtime to trash the current president and re-elect The Former Guy, which is baffling to me on so many levels. Are they willing to destroy democracy just to have a fascistic clown prince that's good for clicks? 
  •  Also, it's all becoming news-lite, like an issue of Parade magazine, with features on what influencers on TikTok think. I do not care what the influencers think. If they keep going, they'll be a slightly more grammatical version of The Daily Mail. If it weren't for Jennifer Rubin (WaPo) and Paul Krugman (NYTimes), I'd cancel both subscriptions.
  • Social media: Twitter is kind of a wasteland, with half the people I used to interact with there gone and the rest of the space taken up with ads. It's kind of sad that there's no conversation there any more, at least in my tiny corner of it. Bluesky is 95% political outrage and 5% Neil Gaiman and John Scalzi; I read it for the 5% and don't post, since no one there ever engages with any posts I do make (ditto Mastodon).
  • Magazines: so I'm still subscribing to The New Yorker, The Economist, The Atlantic (I know, I know), TLS, New York, and (guilty pleasure) Vanity Fair. Except for The Economist, which actually has international news despite its secret motto of "Hot News Promoting the God of Capitalism," everything seems--hashed over? Uncreative? Apocalyptic? Boring? 
  • But the sun is beautiful, and so is the morning air, and so are the beds of thyme and other herbs, blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries that have replaced so much of our grass. 
Hope your summer is going well so far!