I had a Substack where I would occasionally post some things on AI. The vision was to build a following, but I couldn’t execute it. There may be some “blaming the equipment, not the player” here, but from what I have learned, my writing flow feels so much better now:

First of all, I think Substack is great. Its mission is clear, and overall, they do a great job executing it (much better than Medium, imo). But there is a problem. It is a problem not unique to Substack but true for any SaaS. When anyone writes content on Substack, and clicks save, the content belongs to Substack. I am not talking about legally Substack owning the rights to content; I am talking about the words, characters, and bytes of what has been written ending up under Substack’s control. “control” can have a negative connotation so to clarify, Substack is doing an immense favor to the writer. Their content is instantly available to anyone on the Internet, they automatically send emails to subscribers, and analytics about post engagement are collected, all for free. “control” is only meant to draw attention to where the writer’s data is and who truly has access to it. For most people, I don’t think anyone cares; Substack works, and people like it, but as a programmer who wants to make cool things, it just isn’t it.

Substack’s editor is just lame. I am sorry, maybe people like it but there are so many features/tools I would like to have at my disposal when I am writing content that Substack doesn’t have. If I am straight-up writing text, it is OK, but most of the time I spend in the writing process is researching, looking at notes, talking with people, asking ChatGPT questions, and reading books. There is so much more to writing than just typing into a box. Substack isn’t alone; pretty much every platform is built to address the bare minimum of what someone might want when writing. Where are the tools to make writing more engaging? How can I channel my perception of the world more effortlessly into what I reference while writing? There is Notion, but again, you don’t own the data. Notion owns it.

A bit of an aside: I am a non-linear thinker. Ideas come and go at light speed at incredible depth and breadth. Trying to just write about AI was hell for me. Maybe it was a self-inflicted wound, but the tooling is not conducive to divergent thinking. Speaking of which, I will spare you from my mind. Please continue:

“If you care so much about owning your data, why don’t you self-host a CRM like WordPress or Ghost.” I could. You aren’t wrong. Call me a stubborn engineer, but those tools are also not it. I want to extend a CRM’s capabilities and know that they will continue to work over time. Sure, WordPress has plugins, but I don’t want to write PHP (god help you if a plugin you depend on breaks). Ghost is written in Javascript. Touching someone else’s Javascript is not a pleasant experience. I also don’t think things built in Javascript last a long time. I have been playing with tools that have existed in this space for many years, and the outcome has always been the same: I move to the next one. All of them had felt good at the moment, but as soon as I crested over the Dunning-Kruger wave, I wanted something else.

So, here we are. The best tools are OK. You write, publish, see numbers, build a following, and increase numbers, and it’s great you have money. I want more. I want to own my data. I want you to own your data. I want to get the fuck out of your way to build the coolest thing you can think of on the Internet. Have you spent a second looking at what people are building with shaders? Insane. Would Substack let you embed one of these guys in there? No chance. And what about code examples? I want a full-on IDE experience in my browser so someone can teach me how to code in a blog post. I want art galleries on the Internet. I want to reach through the screen and experience something on the other side. Sites like this exist. They are the most memorable, like Bloomberg’s What is Code? or Google’s Experiments. A well-funded company can keep these works around for a while; what about your mom’s baking blog? I wonder if the provider they host it with is still around in 10 years? Maybe archive.org saved the page, but some important assets aren’t loading. Tough luck.

Well, this turned into more of a rant about liberating the Internet than I intended to, but it is where my heart lies, and hopefully, I can convince you to care about this. I am moving from Substack to just my site, https://breadchris.com, where I can control where the content comes from and goes. This site is built from the tool I have been writing, LunaBrain, which will soon be renamed JustShare because I want to just share my thoughts. If you want to follow me, subscribe to the new newsletter here: https://buttondown.email/breadchris.

Hope you have a great day, and remember to fight for what you believe in.