Substack’s manifesto

The founders of Substack have written a clear and careful and thorough defense of PROFIT-BASED OPENNESS.

Key point:

In a frenzy to kill all the monsters, we keep creating more monsters – and then feeding them. All the while, the range of acceptable viewpoints and voices within each group gets ever narrower.

This is the area where we hope to make a contribution with Substack. While the attention economy generates power from exploiting base impulses and moments of attention, a healthy information economy would derive power from the strength and quality of relationships that are built over time. The strength of these relationships would depend on the writers and readers not feeling like they’re being cheated, coddled, or condescended to.

I appreciate the Ockham simplicity of the manifesto. No unnecessary entities. They tacitly acknowledge that ALL INSTITUTIONS are totally busted and corrupted and fucked. Unlike most advocates of open speech, they don’t declare that “courts” or “laws” or “constitutions” or “democracy” or “voting” or “rights” or “personal responsibility” or “manly virtues” or “blockchain” will fix the problem. Most of those entities were cruel hoaxes from the start.

Only trust can fix mistrust. Substack is attempting to create a structure of trust with TWO-WAY OBLIGATIONS, which is another way of saying GOOD BUSINESS.

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Semi-relevant sidenote: My only complaint about Substack is that it’s hard to navigate. Their ‘selection’ menu supposedly includes every newsletter, but I’ve never found anything interesting via the menu. It’s always from a chance mention elsewhere. I didn’t see this manifesto, or the editorial department that contains it, until it was mentioned elsewhere. Normally a newspaper or magazine places this type of content in an easily identifiable masthead. Substack’s masthead is completely inaccessible from the main reader menu.

It would also help if Substack had a keyword search, so you could find newsletters that deal with (eg) old cars or analog tech or grammar. There’s no search function at all; you just have to look under a dozen broad categories, which don’t always fit the specific topic.

[Later, I realized that Substack is mainly aimed at the needs of writers, not readers. So the UI/UX is designed to help writers make more money. This is a good thing, even if it’s annoying for readers.]