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I found my corner on the internet with Substack. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & co never worked for me. But this is a great place! It feels dignified. I like the people with whom I interact on the platform, I like what I read from other authors, it feels like a space for gown up people. And I feel inspired to write here. What more can I ask?

Thanks for this article, it confirms that I’m for once in the right place at the right time.

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Same 🥰 Substack actually feels like a bunch of walled gardens to me, but we can wander in to any we like and find likeminded community within!

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Exactly! I’m so happy that I found all these little communities gathered around writers. They feel meaningful.

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small fires everywhere makes me think of rolling thunder.. .

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Interesting perspective Elle. I think of walled gardens as exclusionary like the blue and green bubbles and reducing rich communication to primitive SMS. This seems intentional, unnecessary and kinda weird. I don't feel the exclusion on Substack.

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I don't mean it in an exclusionary way. I just mean that when you subscribe to one Substack (one walled garden), you are only exposed to everything that happens in that garden, and nothing outside of it. If you subscribe to another, you will also be exposed to everything that happens in that garden.

On Twitter however, if you subscribe to one garden, you get the whole world. There is no protected inner space.

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Oh that makes sense! You are referring to a subscription as the exclusivity. I agree that Substack does a better job of insulating you from noise. They have even tuned Notes to allow you to prune the noise.

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I have an active Facebook group of friends interested in politics more, mostly, than cat pictures; I don't take friend requests unless a friend has both a mutual friend I respect and has posted stuff that makes sense to me. But we are all oldsters, by and large. Many of us pre-Boomer. I've never done Twitter, Tik Tok, Instagram. I tried Quora for a while, but the trolls got me down. And now my retirement days are literally filled with the highly intelligent and literate folks of Substack.

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So beautiful! Substack truly opened the doors to good writing. It’s good to see how many of us were hungry for such a community.

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I've become so disheartened with social media, that I still can't believe Substack doesn't have paid advertising, here's to hoping this shoe will never drop.

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That’s so beautiful! I’m glad we have others here with that thirst for continued education of oneself and others. Nice to greet you all here!

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That is some great writing in that writing of yours, itself! I’m new to spending more time reading here. Although I’ve not written up my own stack, yet- I quickly gleaned that it is in fact better suited for mature audiences. And that doesn’t have to mean NSFW. Now I have to go check out your writing!

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Thank you so much, Adriana! Really appreciate it 💚

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Well articulated 🫶 I feel this is the best resource available for learning and discovering through social interaction and experienced writers. Not needing to interact with everyone, but choosing responses creates a purposeful mindfulness cultivating individuality of self through discovery; I feel.

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Yes. I actually quit watching Netflix and started writing this newsletter partly to keep myself busy with more useful activities. I’ve learned a lot in the past year by reading and writing and discovered wonderful people here.

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All of this conversation fills my passion for sharing and receiving knowledge. It’s truly what we need more of.

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All of this conversation fills my passion for sharing and receiving knowledge. It’s truly what we need more of.

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I feel so energised since I started my Substack. I read more, I talk to people about more interesting stuff (unlike what series I'm watching on Netflix) and I get to reflect on topics dear to my heart through my writing. It's very fulfilling.

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Sep 20, 2023·edited Sep 20, 2023Liked by Erik Hoel

The muck and confusion of SEO practices (which will surely be made even weirder by Bard and Bing's AI) has made discoverability for sites on search engines difficult, too. It's hard to generate organic traffic that way (and it's made so many sites worse--it's now impossible to find a recipe for anything without a 1,000 word intro about how someone's great-great-great grandmother from the Old Country once baked such-and-such thing for the Sultan), and with Twitter's problems it's just as hard on social media. Reddit, likewise, had all those issues with third-party apps this summer. I wonder if we'll see a pendulum swing to more in-person writing connections and more localized self-promotion in bookstores and so on. I have no idea. It's certainly demoralizing.

I do think that some current writers will still be read in the future, though. We just likely don't know who they are. The greatest 19th century American novel is Moby-Dick and it was relegated to the dustbin and Melville faded into bitter obscurity for 75 years before it was rediscovered as the classic it is. It's not impossible something like that will happen again (though it won't mean much in terms of salary for whoever gets so resurrected!).

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Agreed - and what's especially sad for Melville was that he was certain he failed because each book was less successful. He was known mainly for Typee, his first novel (a semiautobiographical one where "Melville" gets stranded on an island of, um, nubile cannibals).

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His books got increasingly complex and weird as he went along, too. Typee was fairly straight-forward, but by the end with Pierre or The Confidence-Man critics thought he was actually insane. One newspaper read "Herman Melville Crazy." Hopefully our contemporary incarnation does not have to through the same process; maybe it'll be someone who led an ordinary and normal life like Gene Wolfe.

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I'm very curious to see how the search engines will adapt to AI. Journalism, and the entire ecosystem built on affiliate links is about to be "disrupted"

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I broke out my cookbooks last week in total frustration and retaliation against recipe searching on the internet. I’m happy to see others have noticed how bad some things have gotten.

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Sep 20, 2023Liked by Erik Hoel

I am thankful for this article. Two lines stand out to me: "So, writers shouldn't worry" and ". . .there can be . . . a space for art here." I feel encouraged by any form of optimism and enlightened view points. Thank you , again.

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I wonder what will happen as more and more big name authors start their newsletters. Will they bring in new Substack readers who'll discover lesser-known Substackers? And will the big names participate in the Substack community or just inside their gardens? And, conversely, which relatively unknown Substacker will be the first to have that first Substack-birthed big bestseller in the stores?

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Sep 20, 2023Liked by Erik Hoel

I'm curious to hear more of your take about, "It’s always been over, and it’s been over for hundreds of years." Maybe for a hundred years, but it seems like at least some eighteenth- and nineteenth-century names will continue to be carved in stone. In Germany every library has GOETHE and SCHILLER in the marble canon.

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Yes, there are lots of famous writers in every culture and at every epoch. Even in a country as young as the US (Melville, Fitzgerald.)

Now the question is indeed whether the internet is putting an end to that? Honestly, I don't think we'll be able to know the answer for at least a century or more (so, we'll be dead).

However, the internet won't always be around, but as long as humans are around, literature (and philosophy) will exist in one form or another.

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Sep 20, 2023Liked by Erik Hoel

I have no animosity towards Musk and no love for Twitter, but it seems to me like he's driving away most of it's core users by making so many major changes to site functionality. It will be interesting to see. Facebook also seems to be in a slow death spiral.

As a writer, I've been spending a lot time this year reconsidering what I want out of my art. I've written very little lately, and as I'm soon having a baby, won't be writing more in the foreseeable future either. Instead I've been designing little chapbooks for my literary short stories that I can share with people. I think having a tangible object, especially a charming handmade one, is a nice way to share things I've worked so hard on. I also like teaching writing because it's one of the few areas of my life where I can obtain a flow state. I just teach community education classes, and it pays very little, but I still hope to go back to it once I get through the newborn months. People need to create and challenge themselves by learning a skill, despite the fact that our entertainment is increasingly dominated by a few globalized companies. I often think how before the internet, the students coming to me to learn writing might have instead gotten a freelance job at a local paper, and gotten paid to learn the skill instead of needing to pay. But the internet has changed the writing economy so much.

Anyway, looking forward to seeing your event at Harvard tomorrow!

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Sep 20, 2023Liked by Erik Hoel

What a delicious essay.

It's funny - those who seek the greatest short-term profits end up throttling their long-term profits. Those who seek to brute-force user retention end up losing their users fastest.

We're currently seeing this in video games too: AAA developers are deliberately mis-designing video game features to keep users trapped in meaningless gameplay loops longer. Why? So that the shareholders will see bigger numbers in the annual reports and go "ooh, number go up."

Not a good long-term strategy. Reputation follows with a lag, but it does follow. And then so does revenue, and market share, and everything else.

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Sep 20, 2023Liked by Erik Hoel

but Erik I think you end with a false comparison. Plato never relied on viral loops to make money or achieve fame. He didn't need to. Humanity was young enough that one smart dude could contribute enormously with ideas that came to his mind, and had never been written. Today such folks exist, but they toil in obscurity, and if Plato existed today he likely would be doing the same. But I don't think it a consequence of our social landscape.

you are trying to do something very very different than what he did: make a living from the weight of your words upon the written page.

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Centuries ago, noted artists and thinkers had support from wealthy benefactors. Now we have "brought to you by Pfizer", which seems mundane.

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yeah... on the up side many more people effectively have wealthy benefactors in today's society. but they are not covered as well as the few were in the past.

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Today's benefactors are possibly more capricious.

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We can make art here. When the gatekeepers shut many of us out of expensive movie making, we made video art. We can make art here.

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I'm trying to figure out why my experience of Reddit is so different from so many others. I've heard this claim that Reddit is the new search many times now. To me, Reddit is Yelp: a place full of unfiltered and mostly bad opinions that I occasionally sift through with an extremely jaundiced eye if I want to get a sort of gestalt view of a topic. And on any given topic there is almost always some better article written somewhere that offers proofread, organized information. What am I missing?

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My own use of Reddit is for esoteric normie hobby stuff -- woodworking, building computers, that sort of thing. I would never go there for politics, opinion, or criticism.

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Esoterica. The single best forum for almost any possible hobbyist subject or pursuit is almost certainly its subreddit. Do not go to Reddit to see a better Facebook, or a better Twitter. It’s a very particular kind of thing.

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Twitter, at its best, was a single comment section for the entire internet. Someone would post a link and then the replies and quote tweets would discuss that link.

Occasionally something would originate on twitter, but mostly things oriented elsewhere. But if you wanted to know how people were responding, you needed to be on twitter.

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This is a very helpful post. I’ve found Facebook and Twitter pretty much moribund as far as gaining attention for my writing these days. I used to have blog posts go viral or get shared a couple hundred times. Now I’m lucky if Twitter gets me more than a few dozen views. Meanwhile, I started my newsletter here on Substack a couple years ago; I now have over 3000 subscribers who are excited to engage with my reviews and essays. It’s hugely rewarding. What a difference the right platform can make!

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We used to value as a civilization philosophers, poets, political strategists and astrologers. Today the equivalent might be AI personas and clickbait artists. When attention becomes commoditized, what do you expect the value of words to be? When words on a TikTok video are more valuable on mobile, then that article it took you a week to write.

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I share your optimism about Reddit and Substack. Would the world be worse off without Twitter or Facebook? Almost certainly not. Perhaps it’s just my age bracket but I think Instagram will be stickier, despite being a walled garden.

In terms of literary greats, as someone else said, time is the great arbiter of the pantheon. Almost certainly too soon to call our own age’s greats, though I have a strong belief Cormac McCarthy will make it onto the roster, and hunch that maybe Salman Rushdie will too.

Having said that, you’ve chosen a hard group to compare to with Homer, Virgil, Plato etc!. It’s unlikely anyone will match them but that’s partly their virtue of being so early. Someone should start a substack which just shares the public domain version of all the old classics, now that I think about it

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This is my favorite of Alexander’s illustrations!

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As a reader, not a writer, I do feel like it's harder to come across at good content - written or otherwise. It just feels like wherever you look there are "specialists" of some sort, eager to grasp your attention (likes, follows, subscriptions, and so on). It just feels like noise really, it's a little disheartening. That's why I never really used Twitter, it felt like more noise. At least here I feel like more and more I discover new interesting points of view, or experimental writing, inspired people. Like you. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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