More substack gripes

Apr 18, 2023 - 2 minute read

A few gripes about substack as posted on my mastodon

I stopped posting regularly on Substack at the end of last year for a few reasons, fatigue was one of them, but there was something about the constant announcements of new features that seemed flakey and nebulous. All of it seemed to be in direct response to the bird site and the rhetoric had that airy venture capitalist quality about it.

Today’s interview with CEO Chris Best via The Verge has done nothing to allay any concerns. It really seems like #enshittification, as coined by @pluralistic is primed and ready to kick in. The new tweet-like Notes feature will be fed to users via an algorithm and moderation will be the responsibility of users and writers. What could possibly go wrong?

There’s a fair bit of commentary over on Substack Notes about moderation that seems to come from the same school of thought: people with clout want to maintain their clout within a less toxic space. They tried Mastodon or other fediverse solutions (but mainly mastodon), found it to be less toxic but accordingly less clouty.

So they move onto another centralised site that tries to emulate the other site that became too toxic (and is slowly dying anyway). Lots of writers and journalists have clout on Substack, mainly because it was a place in which clout could transfer from the other place, so the Notes feature seemed promising but all of the toxic elements cross over too. After a honeymoon period people are discovering that they are the ones that have to hit mute and block buttons with no moderation support from the platform itself.

So they go from being frustrated with lack of clout on a decentralised platform to complaining about toxicity on a centralised one that pushes their posts out to a wider audience and inevitably brings in the trolls.

I don’t want to be too dismissive of this because there are independent writers and journalists who rely on these platforms for their incomes and clout is a necessary evil. If there is a happy solution to this problem then I’m not the person that’s bright enough to see it. I only know that I’m a lot happier after deleting my cloutiest social account but I’d be a lot less happy if doing so destroyed my livelihood.